Why Writers Must Enter the Stories They Tell
“And then, I stabbed him. I killed the man that raped my baby girl.”
The words tumbled out of her mouth as tear drops grew thick in her dark brown eyes, matching the teardrop tattooed to her face symbolizing the life she had taken.
I wiped my own tears, filled with grief of the painful story this woman had endured her entire life.
I was visiting a recovery home a few years back. The women there were fresh off the streets, many of them involved in lives of drug addiction, prostitution, and violence.
Sadie and I immediately connected. She was old enough to be my mother, and despite her horrific past, she had fallen into a deep peace that you could sense.
We began talking, and three hours later, we were still going.
“This is the first time I have shown anyone this.” She looked me in the eyes and gave me her life story, scrawled on a yellow notepad.
“I wrote this from prison.”
I took the ragged notebook in my hands, and was filled with a great sense of honor and humility, that this incredible woman would choose me.
Entering into someone’s story is a gift and privilege
There is something that happens, something beyond this time and place when we get to enter into someone else’s story. Something sacred.
Something that trumps the sense of pride or journalistic excitement when I meet someone I can’t wait to write about.
It goes beyond having something good to blog about or hoping that it will one day be a bestseller.
This is a way of sharing in each other’s suffering
Artists are generally hyper-emotional people.
I embody this stereotype to the max. Sometimes I feel so much for my part that it feels like an overwhelming burden to feel something for someone else.
As a writer, I have a choice to approach the lives of people objectively or subjectively. My conscience says: Don’t get your emotions intertwined. It is a safer approach; it is easier to not involve yourself. It is easier to half-heartedly breathe a sigh of relief that that is not my life.
But when I choose this path, I miss out on something extremely valuable in the human experience.
We also get to share in their redemption
It wasn’t over for Sadie.
After she was released from prison, she found herself wandering the streets yet again. Only this time, she ended up at the back door of a pastor’s house.
His wife let her in. And she showed her an unconditional love she never knew was possible.
Sadie enrolled in a recover program and began to heal and grow. Now, she is reaching out to her children, reconnecting after years that had been stolen. She is happy and alive for the very first time.
Now she is ready to tell her story.
Redemption must have a voice
The life of Sadie may never be best selling books. But now because you have read this, one more person has entered into it.
As any good story, it spreads and multiplies one person at a time, a whisper in an ear, a chat over coffee, a shout from the rooftop.
Light enters into dark corners, truth beats deception, what was unknown is suddenly known.
Storytelling is much more then an ancient art around a campfire, or a group of kids in a circle at the library.
It is much more then building your platform as a writer or fame and glory. It is eternally important.
The daring act of speaking truth or putting it on paper is courageous. It is lighting a candle where there was only darkness before. In doing this, we bring a little bit of heaven to earth.
Further Reading: The Ethics of Storytelling
How have you entered into someone else’s story? Share in the comments.