Following the reports of the approach, landfall, and aftermath of Hurricane Sally made me ponder the storms of life and how they affect me and other writers.
Everyone faces them. They sometimes come one every now and then. They sometimes come in sequence, one after the other. And they sometimes seem to come all at once in one huge, cataclysmic onslaught. But they always leave behind destruction and pain that sometimes last for years, maybe even generations.
Consider the biblical example of Job.
People react in different ways to such storms when they hit. Some people fall apart, succumbing to the despair that comes of looking only at the present moment without seeing any hope of a future filled with anything different than that moment.
Other people mourn the losses for a time but then quickly set to work cleaning up the mess, repairing the damages, and rebuilding because they see the future and what can be better if they but persevere.
Still other people not only clean up the mess in their own backyard but also go out of their way to help others with the messes that neighbors, or even total strangers, have.
Job's response, after he had lost all and had left only his own life and an unsympathetic wife, was to fall down on his face and worship God, saying, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither; the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:10-21). The biblical account of his response has encouraged millions of people to get through myriad troubles.
The same reactions occur among writers when they've encountered the storm of having their work rejected by a publisher (or several of them!) or the gale of negative reviews of a published work on which they labored for years or the hurricane of lagging sales.
Some writers collapse under such hits. They are unable to get beyond that present storm. They mope, feel sorry for themselves, even rail in anger at the undiscerning acquisitions editors, ignorant reviewers, or ineffective marketing departments. Their writing sputters, and the fire goes out of them. They quit.
Other writers might mourn their personal tragedies for a while, but, because they are professionals, they go back to writing, doing what they were called to do. They file the storms in their folder of experiences and move on. The sun comes out even after the most destructive storm. Such writers pull themselves out from under the debris, jetsam, and flotsam; wipe the mud of despair from their feet; and get back to writing. And many persevering writers have thereby been able to help others who are going through their own storms.
From the damage, pain, and scars of life's storms have come some of the world's best writing. Consider, as examples, John Bunyan and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Study their lives, the storms and difficulties they faced. And yet, consider the masterpieces they produced.
The same could be said of many hymnists whose best work often followed their
worst life experiences. Fanny Crosby, who was blinded as a child by a quack medical technique. Horatio Spafford, who lost a fortune in the Great Chicago Fire and then shortly thereafter lost his four daughters when the ship in which they were sailing to Europe, the S.S. Ville de Havre, sank. Ron Hamilton, who lost his eye to cancer. And many, many others.
These were all people who refused to let the storm damage be their burial sites. Rather, they got back up and made positive contributions that not only helped themselves heal but also encouraged and empowered untold millions of others weather their own personal storms.
Fanny Crosby went on to write lyrics for an estimated 5,500 to 9,000 hymns. (That number is probably low because she wrote not only under her own name but also used as many as 200 pen names.)
The value of Seymour's "It Is Well With My Soul" in helping others is incalculable.
Hamilton bounced from his hospital bed with a new persona and a new mission as Patch the Pirate. He has since ministered in person and through numerous media to millions of children (and their parents!).
If they could do it, so can you and I!
What's holding you back from writing? Don't be defeated by mere temporal setbacks or discouragement. Bounce back! Keep writing. Take the debris of the storm and recreate your own masterpiece from it. Doing so will not only heal your own hurts but also help others overcome theirs.
Let your example be an encouragement to others.