One thing you quickly find out when you set out to teach is that you will always come away from the experience with the feeling that were in fact, a student.

I would go so far as to say this is especially true at higher elevations.

I just spent five days on the faculty of the Colorado Christian Writers Conference, a wonderfully-organized event located in spectacularly beautiful Estes Park. I made many new friendships, rekindled old ones, laughed a lot, challenged my flatlander lungs, and re-energized my soul with why I love to write.

Here is one of my big nuggets from the trip, mined from the curious standpoint as learner wearing a “faculty” name tag.

Novelists are intimately acquainted with pain.

Every talented novelist throws a perfectly likeable character into a situation where they are wounded, will be wounded or greatly risk being wounded. That’s what Story demands and that’s what Reader expects. Even your basic comedy puts a character in a pickle that – with enough clever lines – makes us laugh even as he or she writhes in frustration and disappointment.
It’s interesting to me that novelists are tuned in to the problem of pain. We don’t have to know it on intimate terms – thank you, Jesus – but we are dialed into it. We keenly observe it. We ponder it. We wrench stories from it. Dare I say we look for it.

Someone asked me this weekend what pain have I known that has allowed me to write what I have written.

Truth be told, I am a poser, I guess.


I’ve been spared every ugly thing I’ve made my characters slog through. But I must have been paying particular and acute attention to those whose woes I have borrowed for my storylines, even if they do exist only in my imagination. Does that count for anything good? I hope so. I don’t want to start thinking of myself as a heartless spectator. I can imagine the anguish of tremendous personal loss even if I haven’t lived it.

That does make me sympathetic, right?

And that’s a good thing.

I like the sound of that.

Writers are highly sympathetic.

That almost sounds admirable.

Author: Susan

This post has 1 Comment

  1. Christina Berry on May 19, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    Good! We writers need more positive attributes to counteract the craziness we usually present.

    🙂

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