and again in August, 2015, on the author’s blog, Stories for the Journey at Wordpress:
It is making its third appearance here on this site, slightly edited and amended from the original.
Let me tell you a brief story. Seven years ago I wrote an inspirational essay about my mother. For those many years, it languished in a desk drawer. Why? Because it was deeply personal. By sending it out into the world, I knew I would be revealing my heart. I would be vulnerable and I would risk appearing maudlin, too serious—or, at worst, foolish.
Still, something within me whispered, “Share it. It might touch others.” At the last minute, I sent it in to the annual Writer’s Digest competition, and it placed in the top 100 of the inspirational category.
What’s my point in telling you this? I believe as writers we are challenged to “write from the heart”. Terrifying? You bet. But plumbing such depths is also what I believe to be our calling. When we have the courage to be authentic—when we dare visit and share those deep, hidden places with their fears, sorrows and memories—then our writing in some mysterious way also touches a universal chord.
In her book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott writes:
“So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Don’t worry about appearing sentimental. Worry about being unavailable; worry about being absent or fraudulent. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this.”
Reflect for a minute on the books that touched you most. What heroines or heroes made you cry, laugh, or breathe a sigh of hope because they spoke, loved and struggled from the heart? Was it Lily in The Secret Life of Bees? Or Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre? Or Mariam and Laila in A Thousand Brilliant Suns? In protagonists such as these we discover our humanity, our common journey. We discover our own hearts.
How do we write from the heart? I have no definitive answers. I do believe, however, we must make room to hear what our hearts are telling us. For some, listening may be achieved via meditation, prayer, gardening or a walk in the woods. Ultimately, it’s allowing ourselves a receptive space where we can get out of our heads and into the sacred place where our own truth resides. And then, we must have the courage to put ourselves on paper for others to see.
It’s a lofty challenge, but, according to Roger Rosenblatt, the only one of worth. In his book, Unless it Moves the Human Heart: The Art and Craft of Writing he states, “Nothing you write will matter unless it moves the human heart… and the heart you must move is corrupt, depraved and desperate for your love… you must write as if your reader needed you desperately, because he does.”
The final words in the book are even more compelling: “For all its frailty and bitterness, the human heart is worthy of your love. Love it. Have faith in it. Both you and the human heart are full of sorrow. But only one of you can speak for that sorrow and ease its burdens and make it sing—word after word after word.”
So be yourself. Trust yourself. Dig deep. You owe it to your readers to share your heart. It may sting a bit. But when you write from an authentic space, you also touch a universal chord that heals and blesses you, as well as others. And isn’t that worth the effort involved?
Copyright © Marielena Zuniga, December 7, 2011. All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be used or produced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information, email the author: firstname.lastname@example.org