Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pain and Writing

"Pain is good for art." --Richard, Caroline in the City

There was a really lame television show in the 90's which I happened to like called Caroline in the City. Richard was a pessimistic struggling artist, who, whenever something bad inevitably happened to him, would repeat "Pain is good for art." That's pretty much the only thing I remember from the show.

It's a true statement, I suppose. I know there's definitely times when I'm struggling with something, and part of my coping involves writing a poem or short story. There are characters in some of my novels that have only developed as well as they have because I have experienced enough pain in my own life to understand their pain. Pain can be very good for writing, and I find myself grateful to know pain so that I can be a better writer.

At the same time, I have also found myself praying, asking God if there might be a better way. Pain is a great inspiration, but so is happiness. I can be inspired by the sunshine as well as I can be inspired by the rain. But life isn't just happiness, and life isn't just pain. It's the combination of both that make up this wonderful, ridiculous, amazing life.

And stories have to have elements of both pain and happiness, as well. No one wants to read a happy story that doesn't have any conflict in it. Well, maybe some people do, but I am not one of them. A good story, in my opinion, involves realistic characters that experience situations in realistic ways (even if the story is a fantasy). That involves conflict, and conflict involves pain. So when I write, I put my characters through a good deal of torment.

Now, I'm not one of these weird writers who leaves endings unhappy. A story with unresolved conflict is just as wrong as a story with no conflict at all, in my opinion. I like to tie things up neatly, but I like to take my time getting there. A couple of my characters probably hate me for making them go through all that they have to do (yes, I know they aren't real, but they're real to me). If they could speak to me, they'd probably ask me why I keep making them struggle and suffer.

All I can say is that I know how the story ends, and when it does, they will be happier than they've ever been before.

Part of me understands a little of what it must be like to be God. He knows the ending, too. He's revealed to us that it will be a happy, joyful ending, no matter what we're going through. Sometimes that sounds trite when we're in the middle of our struggles, but He always gives us the opportunity to trust Him in whatever's going on.

So whether I have to experience pain because God wants to use it to help me be a better writer, or whether He wants me to experience pain so that I can be a better Christian (there's certainly much in the Bible to support that idea!!), or whether pain is just one of the many experiences everyone has to face in this strange, beautiful story--I have the choice to trust Him.

So, God, I trust You.

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