Emotional Honesty in Art
I have faced lots and lots of rejection from prospective agents, editors, etc. I think of my Bermuda Triangle story. An agent worked with me, back and forth, for nearly a year before finally passing on the story. She said my characters lacked emotional depth.
Ouch. That’s a hard one to hear. I read and re-read books on the craft of writing, trying to fix this. I attended writers groups and read masterful stories, hoping that the genius on the pages would rub off on me somehow. I did all sorts of writerly things, hoping to correct this writerly weakness.
But the problem wasn’t in my writing. It was in my living.
I lacked emotional depth. I didn’t know how to feel deeply, or really, how to live all that deeply. I feared that it would hurt too much. And so I coasted along the surface of life, smiling and laughing and trying to get by. Then some hard things came a few years back that shocked me out of denial.
I began to feel again. It hurt so much. I didn’t know if I could handle it, quite frankly, after years of stuffing the grief and fear. But God saw me through. He showed me that He made me to live abundantly, and that included my emotional life. Because, although I was finally grieving and facing long-dormant fears, I was also waking to joy. Deep-down-gurgling joy.
In his book, Writing 21st Century Fiction, Donald Mass speaks to this. He says, “To create a novel’s emotional landscape you must first open yourself to your own. That’s hard to do.” Thank you, Donald, for acknowledging the challenge. Because OH MY WORD it can be really, insanely challenging. But also so glorious, so beautiful.
My friend Rosie said this, “The goal of sharing our struggles is never to get a fix, because that doesn’t work. The goal is always God. It’s the presence of God that heals and makes us feel better. The “with us” of God is what heals. If we will bring our struggles to the light, His presence is there.”
Emotionally honest art is the bringing of our struggles to the light, where God is. It’s an invitation too, for someone else to connect, to find the “with us” that heals. Ahhhhhhh. I love that.
So what do you think? How do you strive to live emotionally honest? How do you reflect this in your art?
Also, I wrote a book. This book.