When I was a little girl, my mom would take me to the library in our small California town. Every summer they would have special reading times in a large open room with tall windows. All the children crowded around the storyteller and listened eagerly. I always loved summertime for that reason—visions of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree and adventures of Ann M. Martin’s The Babysitter’s Club.
I was a very shy child and my childhood was very difficult, so books became my escape and my friends. When I read Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys mysteries, I felt like I was smart enough and strong enough to conquer anything—and that good would always outsmart bad. The Babysitter’s Club gave me ideas to start my own business as a kid, and at the age of nine when I decided I wanted to be a writer, I wrote a letter to Ann M. Martin asking her what I should do to be an author. She kindly responded by giving me the following advice, “Journal every day.”
I took her advice to heart, and I wrote in a journal every day. (I still journal today but in the form of blogging.)
During my teenage years, my love for books and writing became thwarted by my new-found religious extremism. When I was 15, my home life became very unsafe and I found shelter in a very strict religious group. Soon after, I was recruited into a youth discipleship program whose purpose was to create “soldiers for Christ” to proselytize around the world. Sadly, during these seven years, I was given a very narrow “approved” reading list and any other book outside that small list was banned.
Nearly any book I’d read as a child or young adult was forbidden and replaced with carefully chosen books that would serve as instructions on how to carry out our mission. Imaginative books like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter were demonized and strictly forbidden. Even chick-lit was banned. I would come home for holidays and spend time throwing away books, movies and magazines that I was forbidden to read or watch and many times my discipleship program would have group bonfires to rid ourselves of “hindrances.”
I wish my story wasn’t so dark because it would be a lot easier to tell. When I was a kid, I dreamed of writing novels like Ann M. Martin wrote and even sent off my first novel to a publisher at ten years old. As a child, I never would have imagined that my first book would be based on the most traumatic times in my life, but here I am. They say truth is stranger than fiction and that is definitely the case with my story. Strange and a bit traumatic, but one I feel compelled to write. Writers always give this advice: Write the story you feel compelled to write—the one you think about day and night. This is why I’m writing the truth.
Once I decided to write the story I closed up emotionally and was over taken with fear. I felt like all the courage I had dried up and my childhood dreams were vanishing. I contemplated ditching my talents and ideas and running as far away as I possibly could. At that point, I would do anything to keep me from facing my fears. Instead of running, I took a few months off and recommitted when I had the strength to continue.
What I learned during the drafting process is that a writer must be brave enough to tell her story, whether it’s truth or fiction. It takes great courage to sit down and plod away at an idea that runs around in your mind constantly, or in my case, traumatic life events. The idea, the story, may look strange to others. We know this. We’ve been wrestling with this idea monster in our head for years, wishing it would go away instead of fighting us to get out on paper. We know once it comes out, the world will judge us for being a bit too odd, or too disturbed or too flawed.
But the monster needs a home to live in, outside of our head and it needs friends to play with. We have to create a world for it—it compels us to do it and if we don’t, it tells us it will drive us crazy—crazier than the fear we have.
So in many cases, the bravest thing a writer can do is to pick up her pen or open her laptop and let the monster come out to play. Don’t beat him up and don’t bully him into submission. Let him breathe and grow into his own skin. Let him unpack his clothes and invite his friends over for tea. You see, just because you are afraid of judgment or of the monster inside you, it doesn’t mean you aren’t strong or you aren’t brave. It means you have the chance to become the heroine in your own life and show everyone how brave you actually are. As Stephen King said in On Writing, “You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.”
About the author:
Lisa Kerr blogs at My Cult Life about her experience with the Master’s Commission International Network. When visiting, please start with the FAQs in that link.