Monday, November 10, 2008

When Writing Gets Personal

Linda W. Rooks is the author of Broken Heart on Hold, Surviving Separation (Cook 2006). For more information, please visit

In the midst of a painful marital separation several years ago, I longed to cut through my deep pain to see if God was still there. I didn’t understand what was happening. Being a writer, I took my questions to God with pen in hand, and He graciously gave me answers, one at a time. When my husband and I reconciled three years later, these writings became the basis of my book Broken Heart on Hold, a book intended to be a friend to a woman struggling through a crisis in her marriage.

I wanted to help my reader find emotional and spiritual healing by drawing her into the deeper truths of God. It was important to meet her where she was in her crisis. To connect to her pain, I needed to reveal some of my own. With such personal writing, turning intimate reflections into a book required a delicate balance of vulnerability, tastefulness, and respect for relationships. Being authentic meant remembering not only with my mind, but also my emotions, and these emotions needed context and story.

Gradually, I developed three basic guidelines in deciding what stories to tell and how much to reveal of a personal nature. First, I refused to do anything that might exploit or slam my husband. Secondly, I shared only from my own experiences or from those who gave me permission. Thirdly, I was intentional by limiting myself to choosing only those portions of my story that sharpened a specific point. I wanted to put flesh on the bare bones of my message without becoming mired in unnecessary, titillating details.

Being vulnerable in my writing not only required me to relive some of the pain of my past, but also challenged me to slice through the core of my experience to give the reader enough, but not too much. For when we as writers dig deep into the vulnerable parts of our lives to share them with our readers, our goal is not to write about ourselves, but to use pieces of our story to lift our readers to a bigger truth.


Gina Holmes said...

I'd imagine it was a very tough decision to put in enough to make it relevant and heart felt, but leave out what would hurt your marriage or someone's feelings. This is always a challenge. I think your book will help some hurting people. Thanks for writing it.

Eva Marie Everson said...

Thank you Linda for sharing your story with the readers of Novel Journey! What a blessing you are!

Eva Marie