Live Life Before You Write

The thing that’s been niggling me lately has been a simple wooing, an invitation to messy myself in the affairs of others, to live in the nitty gritty relational mess that’s also a joy. I’ve noticed in my writing career that God takes me through those kinds of experiences with people where I leave my comfort zone, risk, and then get hurt, only to then (later) give me permission to process that on the page.

And then there are seasons where life feels hunky dory, roses and puppies. Like right now. I have a bit of smooth sailing. My relationships are good. I’ve lived in the same house for the longest I’ve ever lived in my life. I have a great church. I’m in between writing projects. And what God seems to be saying to me again is this: It’s time to risk.

I can’t write unless I live.

It’s the same with some writers I meet, although they try to bypass this truth. Their longing to be profound or teacher-y trumps their experience. Sometimes, in those instances, their words ring hollow because they haven’t lived the words they’re writing about.

You might think I’m talking exclusively about nonfiction here. But I’m not. I’m talking about all forms of writing, including fiction. All of my fiction has birthed from living life dangerously (at times). I’m not saying I’m awesome and always risk. But the times I learn the most and experience the gamut of human emotions is when I’m on the margins of life, trusting Jesus for hard things. It’s then that I can create believable characters. It’s then that I can conjure up plots. Life is one giant plot, isn’t it?

What story are you living today? Is it daring? Is it connected to others? Is it write-worthy? If someone were to follow you with pen and paper in hand, would your plot have risk? What adventure have you turned your back on simply because of fear?

Live boldly. Only then can you write boldly with confidence, voice, and verve. Your future stories (and mine) depend on it.

Mary DeMuth
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