Writing the Pain

by Marcia Lee Laycock

Anne Rice wrote – “When I’m writing, the darkness is always there. I go where the pain is.”

But why do it? Why go to places in our lives that are painful. Why put it on the page?

I recently attended the First Nations Christian Writers’ Conference in Winnipeg Manitoba. The first of its kind in Canada, it was attended by aboriginal people from all over the country. The First Nations Christian Writers’ Anthology was launched and several of the authors published in it were there to read.

There was a lot of pain in their stories. A young man wrote about the abuse he suffered in a foster home. A woman wept as she described finding her sister hanging by an electrical cord in a bathroom. Yes, there was a lot to make one shudder. But there was also hope in those stories because they did not stop with the pain, they went beyond it.

Several years ago I heard Eli Wiesel tell the story about the catalyst that made him write about his experience during the Holocaust. After WW2, he had gone to Paris to try and find surviving members of his family. He got a job as a journalist and on one occasion had to interview Francois Mauriac, the famous Christian writer.

When Mauriac spoke about Jesus Wiesel exploded and told him to stop. He said that not far from where they were sitting atrocious things had happened to his people. “And we have to words,” he said. “We have no words.”

Mauriac was deeply moved and responded – “You must find the words. You must write this story.” Wiesel began to write and the result was some of the most powerful writing produced about the horrors of that era. Wiesel won the Nobel Prize for that work.

Francois Mauriac was right. We must find the words to express those things that are ugly and evil in order that they do not defeat us. We must get to the other side of them. This is the writer’s acknowledgement of stewardship – the stewardship of his/her gift and talent. 1Corinthians 4:2 says – “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” I believe we have been given a trust as writers and we must be faithful to it. To make our lives of use to others we must be willing to touch those parts of ourselves that are universal – the pain and the joy of being human.

Madeleine L’Engle once said – “It is not that what is, is not enough, for it is; it is that what is has been disarranged, and is crying out to be put in place.”

We do not write about the ugliness, the darkness, the things of despair, in order to glorify them, but in order to put them in their place and to recognize that there is redemption of all that is ugly and evil in this world, because of what happened on a cross at the base of a hill in a tiny country then called Palestine.

Bruce Cockburn, the Canadian song writer and poet said it well: “you’ve got to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight.” 

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central
Alberta Canada where she is a pastor’s wife and mother of three adult
daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award
for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was short listed
in The Word Awards. Marcia also has three devotional books in print and has
contributed to several anthologies, including the Hot Apple Cider books. Her
work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark

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