Can I ask you a question? Since I can’t really hear you, I’m going to, anyway: Why do you write?
To inspire? To critique, teach, or motivate? To remember (or forget)? For self-expression? Because you have a fire burning in your bones, and you simply must?
Out of all the perfectly legitimate reasons that you could write, I imagine you don't do it to merely entertain. No, you want to touch your readers, move them in some way. Even cause them to cry.
Shattering the frozen sea
Frank Kafka once said, “A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us.”
Be honest. You dream about your writing having that affect on someone, don't you? Because words have had that affect on you.
The frozen sea inside of you has been shattered by stories, truths, ideas, and turns of phrase so astounding that you had no words to respond or even tell someone what it meant to you. Isn't that why you want to write?
So, how do you write words that will move people, and potentially even play a part in breaking the frozen sea inside of them? It's actually quite simple:
You write what moves you.
Except that part is not always easy. Because in order to write what moves you, you will have to visit your pain. Your fear. Your weaknesses. Your nightmares and demons. The skeletons in your closet and the horrific possibility of self-disclosure, even if veiled in stories and themes.
Because, as you well know, that's where the frozen sea inside of you is. If you are ever going to crack the ice of another person's soul, you have to be brave enough to go first. To be a witness. A testimony. An example.
You have to go first
If you love your reader, you will go first. You have to lead them on this journey. To show them how and why it's important.
There is enough fluffy, meaningless drivel on paper to fill the Marianas Trench. So don't add to it. Write something that matters. And write it with conviction:
- Write about the truths and ideas that are so astonishing you can hardly believe them.
- Write the story that keeps you awake, tossing and turning at night because it echoes the ache in your soul.
- Write that memoir, and include the parts that you are terrified of putting on paper, because it will remind you they are real. (Some may no doubt need the support of a friend, therapist, or pastor for this.)
Whatever it is, write about those things that punch you in the throat and stir your insides.
Because if it moves you — if it raises a lump in your throat as you type, it will move someone else.
It might just give them the hope that you've been given by other writers, with their words and stories that have inspired and reminded you that you are not alone. Aren't you glad they went first?
As I was writing my first novel, there were many times where tissues had to guard my keyboard from falling tears. The story I was writing moved me and, thankfully, it has gone on to move others.
Such is the inexplicable magic of words, and I am in awe of the weight they can carry.
This is not just for the reader
Oh, and one more thing: Don’t believe that going first is only a gift to your reader.
It is first a gift for you — and a very meaningful one at that.
We all need to go to our frozen sea, because seas were not meant to be frozen. They are meant to thrash about with life.
So, what are you waiting for? Go find your ax. And get to work.
What books have helped break the frozen sea inside of you? Share in the comments.
Be sure to check out Brandon's book while it's free on Amazon this week. This offer expires July 29, 2012. Get it here.
*Photo credit: Creative Donkey (Creative Commons)