My Bad Side

SamI keep thinking about the concepts of good and bad. For years and years, I was obsessed with looking good. I wanted everyone to see me as the girl with excellent grades, plenty of friends, beautiful clothes, etc, etc. This appearance of good was my god in a lot of ways, and I sacrificed all sorts of time and energy on its altar.

Of course, I didn’t feel all that good. But my did I want to, and so I refused to look at my weaknesses, hurts, anything else that would challenge my overall “goodness. ” To see a flaw was to invite an assault on my carefully constructed house of cards, and so I kept my eyes closed to anything that might threaten the house.

But that way of life only lasted for so long. Eventually big waves of pain came and the house came tumbling down. My eyes flew open, and I could no longer live in denial. I had flaws. Lots of them. And, strangely, the more I accepted my lack of perfection, the more I grew.

I’m reading a book by Donal Mass called Writing 21st Century Fiction, and it’s spectacular. Mr. Mass is challenging me to look at my flaws as a writer. He has a whole chapter dedicated to knowing your writerly personality, and the innate weaknesses that go along with it.

For example, Mr. Mass explains that you are either a warm writer or a cold one. Warm writers tend to pile on the emotion, while cold writers employ great restraint in that department. Warm writers, then, might overwhelm their readers with too much interior description, while cold writers might create characters that can feel distant.

I am a warm writer, which means you’ll find places in my writing where I need to tone down the inner descriptors and employ some restraint. But I never, ever would have realized that about my art if I hadn’t been willing to look at my flaws as an artist.

I still sort of hate this idea. I would rather say, God, your grace is sufficient. Please just fill in the gaps and let me keep writing as you created me alone to write. There is some truth nestled into that philosophy. God’s grace is most definitely sufficient; he certainly fills in the gaps; and he did make all of us unique co-creators. But God is not opposed to learning.

Teach me, oh God.

And in that plea to learn is the very recognition of my limitations. If I cease to learn as an artist, what does that say about the lifebeat of my created works? I want to create richly and deeply. And I have found that, both in life and in art,  depth means open eyes and open ears to the good and the bad, the broken and the whole.

Teach me, oh God. How to live, how to write. Teach me.

What are you learning?




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