Saturday, November 1, 2008

Writing about difficult things

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Yesterday I got a note from a friend in a church I pastored. She talked about speaking with a black friend of hers who was saying how much she appreciated our church's connection with the local black church. That started during the time I was pastor there.

Oddly enough, I didn't think anything about it. I grew up in a small Southern-leaning town, but I also grew up with people others left out. I was raised by a family who included people others often left out. It just seemed natural to me for our churches to have that relationship.

In part at least, my upbringing made me what I am today.

Because of The Body in the Record Room, I've become aware that the subject of mental illness is not an easy one. Most people would prefer to ignore the struggles of the mentally ill. They would also like to ignore the way mentally ill people have been neglected or mistreated over, at least, most of my lifetime and probably long before.

When it comes to entertainment, most people don't read books about mental institutions. But some are willing to, and I thank God for that.

I like to write about hard subjects. I believe character becomes clear as we deal with difficult things. I know the subject of mental institutions is an emotional one. People have strong feelings about it. The same with homosexuality. So what do I do? Combine the two in one story.

And I did that knowing that not everyone would like it. Not everyone would agree with the points of view of the characters in the story. Not everyone would see mental institutions in the way I portrayed the one I wrote about.

I suspect I will always write about uncomfortable things. And that might limit the people who have interest in my writing. But after all, I'm an old man now. If I don't write about the kinds of difficult things that bring out the best in good people now, I will never have the chance to do that writing.

So I am grateful for those who have read or will read The Body in the Record Room. I'm also grateful for St. Martin's Minotaur and my editor Ruth Cavin. They were willing to help the book see the light of day. To all of you, but most of all to those who have read or will read the book--Thanks!



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