Monday, March 16, 2015

Words That Changed the World

I almost never skip ahead when I'm working on a manuscript. I like to plot everything out and write sequentially, one scene after another in exact order. I even like to edit sequentially.

But today, I skipped ahead. I was channeling one particular character, and I had to get everything down. NOW.

The character is man dealing with his past sexual abuse. I woke up with a clear scene of him struggling and finding a small resolution clearly printed in my head. So I sat down for 4 hours and wrote 4000 words of him working past a particular emotional block.

As a survivor of abuse myself, you'd think I'd have an advantage in writing such a difficult topic. But these scenes take a lot of work for me. Sexual abuse and PTSD are already extremely difficult to talk about, even more difficult to weave into a story without being too crass, violent, depressing, positive, or unrealistic. It's hard to write realistically without being too detailed, balance hope and despair, and weave it all into a coherent story with characters you love and a plot that moves along.

And I'm doing it with a male character. I'm writing about some really deep, emotional issues inside a man's head: a place I've never been.

I want to stay true to the experience of dealing with emotional scars, and also I want to stay true to how a guy would perceive, express, and deal with that trauma. Writing him has been one of the hardest things I've ever done. It has also been one of the most rewarding.

He is why I write. I want to write books that people will pick up and put down again and become someone different in the process. I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think that my words could change the world.

Words are powerful. I, more than anyone, could tell you that. While I'm authentic about my past, I'm very closed about my present, hiding my struggles from everyone, even sometimes my spouse. When I'm not talking about what's going on, nobody can speak into the situation to help me--except for books.

My bookshelves are packed full of my friends and mentors, tomes that have picked me up, guided me, and taught me how to live. Volumes that challenged me, or put a seed in my head that grew over the years until, a decade later, it bloomed into relevance.

There's Sex God, The Hiding Place, The Shack, Let Justice Roll DownA Million Miles in a Thousand YearsLeap Over a WallFor Women Only, and Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. On the fiction side sit The Last Battle, The Lord of the RingsThe Sparrow, Sister of My HeartThe Name of the Wind, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Edgar Rublo Rodilla.

Each of these spoke to me in a time and way that I needed. I learned that justice by necessity requires mercy (wow, John Perkins), and that art is an expression of beauty and truth that is vital to human existence (thank you, Madeleine L'Engle). I discovered that I am not alone in my sexuality (what a relief, David Levithan), and that heaven and hell are probably not what anyone thinks they are (kick ass, C. S. Lewis).

I am writing to be one of them.

I'm writing to the people who survived sexual abuse: not a how-to guide to getting better, but a story about trying and failing and learning how to love and trust again. I'm writing to their brothers, sisters, parents, and friends to say that we, the survivors, exist and this is what we go through. I'm writing to the world to show that sexual abuse is something men experience too, and that it's demoralizing, it strips your power away, and that it can nevertheless be something we live through and find peace again somewhere on the other side. I'm writing about sex, to break down the walls we erect around this topic so that we can start to heal and solve all the problems that our secrecy has caused.

I'm writing so that a reader out there finds comfort, and relief, and honesty. Heart-wrenching self-discovery, wisdom, hope, and an impetus to throw all of one's effort into saving the world in whatever way one is skilled and passionate to do so.

Because this is what I'm skilled and passionate about.

Word count: 750.