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Thursday, March 08, 2012

Live Life Before You Write

The thing that's been niggling me lately has been a simple wooing, an invitation to messy myself in the affairs of others, to live in the nitty gritty relational mess that's also a joy. I've noticed in my writing career that God takes me through those kinds of experiences with people where I leave my comfort zone, risk, and then get hurt, only to then (later) give me permission to process that on the page.

And then there are seasons where life feels hunky dory, roses and puppies. Like right now. I have a bit of smooth sailing. My relationships are good. I've lived in the same house for the longest I've ever lived in my life. I have a great church. I'm in between writing projects. And what God seems to be saying to me again is this: It's time to risk.

I can't write unless I live.

It's the same with some writers I meet, although they try to bypass this truth. Their longing to be profound or teacher-y trumps their experience. Sometimes, in those instances, their words ring hollow because they haven't lived the words they're writing about.

You might think I'm talking exclusively about nonfiction here. But I'm not. I'm talking about all forms of writing, including fiction. All of my fiction has birthed from living life dangerously (at times). I'm not saying I'm awesome and always risk. But the times I learn the most and experience the gamut of human emotions is when I'm on the margins of life, trusting Jesus for hard things. It's then that I can create believable characters. It's then that I can conjure up plots. Life is one giant plot, isn't it?

What story are you living today? Is it daring? Is it connected to others? Is it write-worthy? If someone were to follow you with pen and paper in hand, would your plot have risk? What adventure have you turned your back on simply because of fear?

Live boldly. Only then can you write boldly with confidence, voice, and verve. Your future stories (and mine) depend on it.

Mary DeMuth
Write Uncaged: Find Help in Getting Published


  1. Living boldly before the face of God is something I strive to do every day. It's true that living dangerously (as in risking everything by telling the truth about who you are and WHO GOD IS) is essential to writing genuinely.

    Fear has muzzled me for too long, Mary. I have a story to tell, and God is leading me to tell it. It may be that nobody will ever read it in my lifetime, and that's okay. I'll wait on the Lord, and see.

    Blessings to you.

  2. Janet, that's a beautiful statement, living boldly before the face of God.

  3. "I can't write unless I live." Hope you don't mind, but I'm going to steal that quote for a Facebook status. THAT is the truth. So much for the writer tucked away in a turret or the solitary writing life.

    As for risks, in the past month I have sat, sometimes trembling, often praying, in two different courtrooms in two different states, with two different friends. I was there to testify for one and to support the other. Their stories blow my mind. Surely the nuances will bleed into my writing one of these days.

  4. Sorry Ane, I deleted your comment because there was some bizarrical scroll box with the entire site somehow embedded in it and it was messing with the other comments (blogger....sigh).

    Great post Mary.

  5. Feel free to steal, WritingDiane. All our opportunities are used by God!

  6. Thanks for keeping the blog spammy free, Gina.

  7. Thank you for this encouragement, Mary. And hooray for growing older. There's more to tell.

  8. I was taught once that many of the things we go through in life are never intended for us personally but are to make us 'broken bread' for others. Thank you for the reminder. x

  9. Debra, yes! That'll preach.

    Di, I love that picture of the broken bread.

  10. "Their longing to be profound or teacher-y trumps their experience. Sometimes, in those instances, their words ring hollow because they haven't lived the words they're writing about."

    THAT was very profound and teacher-y!

  11. Wonderful article! I love two particular aspects: the need to live what we write and the need to keep it real instead of "teacher-y". You tell it like it is! When I live what I write, it comes from the heart. If I pray before I write, God helps me find the words to write what He would have me say!

  12. Yesterday, I advised someone that she needed to LIVE more of her story first before attempting to share it (in book form, anyway). Thanks for corroborating my point. :)

    Funny thing, though--I spend much of my time telling others's stories. But do you know what most prepared me to tell them? Having the courage to live a surrendered-but-bold life.

    Having read your work, I know the same is true for you. Thanks for an insightful post.


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