How to Write the Hard Stuff - Elisabeth Klein
From a blog reader: “It would be great if you could write about how you started writing so honestly about difficult issues that lie at the heart and soul of so many people. Was it difficult? Did you ever face the fear of being judged negatively by people? If so, how did you overcome it and write anyway?”
For many years – the majority of my writing life actually – I wrote from the heart on every issue except my marriage. The irony was that my marriage was the largest part of my life and my biggest concern and heartache.  

I kept the pain to myself (other than friends) for a few reasons, I think. 

I was embarrassed. I had made my bed, knowingly, and felt I should lie in it. I was ashamed at how far things had gone and that I was unable to fix them. 

I was afraid. I remember being terrified that if anyone at church found out how bad my marriage really was, they would ask me step down from women’s ministry. So I kept the mask on as tightly as I could for as long as I could. (Selfish, I know.) 

I didn’t see the point in writing about it. I felt that all it would do would serve to lessen people’s respect of me and that I might tarnish any writing reputation I was attempting to build. I was a Christian mother and ministry director and I wrote about Jesus and parenting and serving others and that, in my mind, could not coincide with also living in the confines of a failing marriage. 

So, yes, to answer one of the reader’s questions: it was very difficult to flip that switch in my mind. And yes, I was (and still am) afraid of being judge negatively by people. This one is quite valid because I actually am judged negatively by people and people tell me what they think of me and my writing.  

So how did I overcome it and push through anyway? How do I still, seeing as the judgment continues? 

The first part was purely circumstantial. It’s pretty easy to hide a hard marriage. It’s not so easy to hide that your spouse no longer lives with you. When my husband moved out, I felt I needed to let people know — people like my speaker contacts and my next tier of friends and church family and those I write for. I needed them to know that I understood that I was now controversial and they could decide on their own whether to continue working with me (or being my friend). Some cancelled speaking engagements, some probably stopped running my monthly column, some friends stopped checking in with me. This hurt but was not unexpected. So basically my circumstances gave me a shove that I might not have taken on my own. 

But then there’s the now. Because I could’ve easily stopped after the first announcement on my blog or that first email I sent out to my contacts. But I felt a pull and tug to keep talking. I had this sense that there was a conversation I was supposed to join, or maybe even start. I had the feeling that I was not alone in my circumstances (being a Christian woman leaving a difficult Christian marriage and possibly heading into a difficult Christian divorce). So I just started. I began to tell my story in bits and pieces. I would write something, post it and sort of hold my breath. I would pour over an article and submit it and close my eyes not wanting to see the comments. Would people hate me? Would people judge me? Why was I telling my secrets of what a horrible wife I was and how I had been sad for the past fifteen plus years?  

But the strangest thing happened.  Turns out, there are a ton of women just like me.  A ridiculous number.  Though yes, I’ve gotten comments that have questioned my faith, that have been beyond hurtful and judgmental (something I still think so odd when they don’t know the full story, when they don’t even know me), the voices that are louder are the ones from the women who are hurting and feel alone and voiceless.  Now I keep writing because I know people are reading and because I know people need to know that God will still love them (no matter what) and that they are not alone and that they will get through this and that good always comes from bad if we let it and that there is healing and joy not only on the other side but in the middle of the yuck and horrible.  It also totally helps to remember that I’m accountable to God and God alone.  No one else’s opinion matters (and that’s Scriptural…look up what Paul said in I Corinthians 4:3-4…it’s pretty cool.)
Yes, it was hard to be so honest…it is every time I sit down to write. But if I weren’t being honest, really, what would be the point? I’d just be adding to the noise with no purpose or redemption, and I have no desire or intention of doing that with my words. Ever.

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