I've often thought, in my prideful daydreams, that if someone asked me why it is that I write about the things I write about, I'd have a great response.
'I write for you,' I'd say. 'I write for anyone that feels alone, so they can know their experiences aren't the only ones and that others are hurting too.'
Or maybe even better: 'I write for my future kids. I write because I refuse to live in a world any more where people associate mental illness with lack of faith, because I demand to raise my future kids in a world where asking for help is seen not as a weakness but as a strength. I write so my children can grow up in a world where it's the slightest bit easier to be healthy and whole.'
And these things are true, to some extent. But the real truth is that if those were the main driving factors, I would be publishing new posts several times a week, instead of a few times a month.
When it comes down to it, when my best laid plans and ambitions are stripped away, a lot of the times I write for me.
I write because I need to, because there are moments and times where I need to create, need to get something inside of me out before it consumes me. I'm almost certain this will sound like extreme exaggeration to many, but I believe that creating is some form of exorcism, a way of releasing the demons inside us so the pain has somewhere to go. (Tweet) So often I find the only way to bring light to dark places is to bring our darkness to light.
"You write because there's fire in your bones," says Eugene Peterson, "You've got to do this whether anybody ever reads it or not." So honestly put: I publish what I write for you, for my future kids, for anyone in pain to relate to. But the initial act of creation cannot be honestly labeled as anything other than a necessary purging of individual pain, an act of processing.
I don't consider it a coincidence that the most read thing I've ever written (by a pretty big margin) was both the most honest and the most painful one to write.
Maybe this is why so much of music and art is so deeply personal, and so much of it is crafted almost entirely around emotion. Sure, sometimes we create for others to enjoy, but is it any wonder that we resonate so much more with songs that are vulnerable and genuine than ones that are intentionally crafted with a good hook and a great beat?
In a conversation with Sarah Schuster from The Mighty a few weeks ago, she asked what I would say to anyone having a hard time making it through their darkest nights. I can't remember my exact answer (which I'm sure was mostly fumbling around with what I was trying to say), but the benefit of writing is I can edit until what I really want to say comes out:
If you are hurting, if you find yourself at a loss for how to make it through until the sun rises, if you need something to cling to: find a way to express it.
Write something, sing something, play something, make something, draw something, do something.
Find a way to scream into the universe, 'this is my story and my pain and I can name it and expose it and that makes me bigger than it and stronger than it.' Because you are bigger and stronger then it, even when it doesn't feel that way. (Tweet)
There are days where the act of creating is less 'beautiful sonnet' and more 'punch to the wall.' This is less a measure of your worthiness and more a simple fact of reality: you need a place to put your hurt, and it's better to be outside of you than inside of you.
If you have a safe group of people to share it with, do so. If you haven't found that yet, don't feel pressured to share it with anyone. It's your creation, your pain poured into pen and paper.
Eventually, you'll find a place where you feel safe enough to share. To display your raw, vulnerable self to the people who have earned the right to be entrusted with it. The people who you know to have tender hands with which to hold your offering. This is community. This is love.
So often our response to pain is to grip tightly with both hands and try to control it. But it is only through holding our pain with loose hands that we find healing. (Tweet)