Today I wrote a scene that made me cry.
A simple statement, one that might not mean much to those of you who have been writing for far longer than I. But for me, today, this was something new. I've dabbled in joy, in fear, in quiet happiness, in hilarity and humor. I've written sad bits before. I've written words that hurt part of me with each keystroke... words that were true, that dealt with a sorrow or loss in real life. But until today, I'd never created someone else's pain. I'd never written something truly gut-wrenching, something that would tear out the heart of another person and take away something she loved.
I'd never before cried for the sake of someone I'd made.
In a way, it made me feel almost guilty. Ashamed that I'd been so cruel to a fictional character, to a girl who exists solely in my imagination and is mine to do with as I will. I am solely responsible for her, and today I broke her heart.
The worst of it is that something in me almost enjoyed doing it, knowing that what I'd written had touched me deeply and might someday (far down the road) touch someone else. There was a certain sense of satisfaction as I laid down my pen, stretched my cramped fingers and surveyed the tear-dimpled pages of my rather battered notebook. Winston Churchill's words ran through my head-- "Before you can inspire emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must first yourself believe."
As I wrote this scene, I believed. I was Margot, curled in the corner of a humid and stuffy tent, watching a mother comfort her baby and all the time struggling with a lurching sense of dread. I felt everything she felt, and her tears became my tears. I forgot to be concerned with sentimentality or over-the-top slogginess-- instead, I just forgot my surroundings and wrote everything Margot felt and saw, because it was what I was feeling and seeing.
"There is a sacredness in tears," wrote Washington Irving nearly two centuries ago. "They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief... and unspeakable love."
My own tears flowed in the writing of this scene. And that satisfied me. Ironically enough, it made me happy. Sure, the scene isn't perfect-- in fact, it's very far from that. It needs work and revision. It needs a firmer hand. But for now, for the first draft, it's making me happy. It's a drippy, sad kind of happy, but I'm happy nonetheless. Happy with what I've written.
That's a big deal, you know.
And as I was writing it, I found myself doing something totally new. I was writing a scene of pain and heartbreak, a scene that gripped me and gave my tear ducts a workout, an emotionally draining scene. My very first. And as I wrote it, I didn't waste time worrying if it was good enough. I didn't fret over whether it might sound stupid or cliched. I didn't brood over the possibility of it making someone (oh horrors!) laugh someday. I didn't bother myself with any of that, because I was being swamped with the emotion of this piece, and it ended up being just what I wanted it to be.
Grief and love are so tightly intertwined in this story that I can't write about one without the other. And they're hard to write about. I don't mean that putting the words together is necessarily a difficult task. I mean that making these bad things happen is hard. At first I wasn't even sure I wanted to write this part.
But I did it. I couldn't avoid it. It had to be done, and I will have to do it again, for one tragic scene isn't enough for this book. There's more to come, more that may be even worse. And for some odd reason, I'm almost looking forward to that part yet to come. It will be hard to write. It will be hard to read, to change, to edit.
Yet there's a hope behind it all, the overarching presence of the One who is going to give this story a happy ending. (Because hello. I do not write stories without happy endings.) Even through the tragedy and pain that socks the middle of this book, the grace of God is constant, and there is a theme that never dies.
I can't wait to explore it further.