Pushing Back the Darkness with Stephen King

I have recently been captivated by the writing of Stephen King. Now, I do not do horror in any form or fashion. And to be honest the picture on the back of his books scares me, but I started his “Dark Tower” series and fell in love with how he writes. King not only captured me in his writing, but has a book about writing that is also intriguing.

I am trying to read more about writing. Since I am new to the discipline, I am trying to get some sage advice from the people whose writing I respect the most. As I read more about writing and the creative process, the more I am connected with some of the themes from my posts on Turkle’s talks a few weeks ago. (If you haven’t read them, go here and here).

King’s most recent Dark Tower book, The Wind in the Keyhole, had a few lines that I can’t get out of my head. There is a scene where a particular character had suffered a horrific attack and was being questioned about what happened. Reluctant to share her story because of the pain of reliving those moments, she was prompted to share her story with these words: “Horror’s a worm that needs to be coughed out before it breeds.”

This is not only a stunning image but it reflects King’s philosophy on writing. His advice to writers is not to be an expert on observing every detail of life. He says our expertise should come from remembering each of our scars. The way to true art and creativity is through exploring your own hurts and struggles.

In fact, almost everything that I have read about the creative process points back here. We need not only to explore our pain, but we need to share it. To be set free of our pain, we need margins to explore it and grieve it. When we then turn that pain into something beautiful, it has the potential to set others free.

But we live in a world where we are reluctant to share our pain. In Dan Allender’s brilliant book, he talks about how one of the more damaging ways of interacting in a family is to pretend like everything is great and hide all problems, and expect everyone to appear happy. Any movement towards depth in these families is quickly shut down.

The result of this is a family where no one listens or even bothers to ask about things that are real. The children walk through life on the surface but crave action, depth and meaning.

So making sense of our lives leads to good art. Good art takes pain and makes something beautiful. That beauty is then able to help others understand and make sense of their pain. It reminds them they are not alone. As Ian Morgan Cron puts it, it pushes back the darkness until Jesus comes to finish the job.

When has art helped you understand your pain?

As Christians, how can we do a better job of being people who redeem pain?

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