Ugly

courtesy of wikimedia commons
Vase with Tulips Andries Daniels and Frans Francken the Younger

“Only he with the hobbled foot knows the beauty of running. Only he with the severed ear can appreciate what the sweetest music must sound like. Our ailments complete us. That we in our sinful souls can ever imagine charity- ‘She can’t go on for a moment. ‘We may not always be able to practice charity, but that in this world we can even imagine it at all! That act of daring requires the greatest challenge,”
Gregory Maguire, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

“…perhaps charity is the kind of beauty that we comprehend the best because we miss it the most.”
Gregory Maguire, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

Do you know what it is like to be beautiful? 

Iris, the heroine of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, does not. And yet she sees beauty, and learns to translate it for others to see as well. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is a complex book, and I highly recommend it for multiple reasons, but right now I wish to speak specifically of the advice it offers to all creators.

Often in beginning writer classes, budding authors are told to ‘write what they know.’ For this reason there is an over-abundance–in my personal opinion–of high school dramas and paperback romances. To a certain extent, it is not necessarily bad advice–after all, writing what you don’t know is a recipe for disaster (if not impossible altogether.) The world of literature, however, does not exist so that we can live comfortably in the world we know. It exists to pull us out of ourselves.

I propose we replace “write what you know” with “write what you lack.” Do you dislike children? Mimic C.S. Lewis and write a series about and for them. Do you live in fear? Write courage. Are you despairing? Write hope. Are you ugly? Write beauty. Are you hateful? Write charity.

Fill the holes in your life with beauty, charity, and wisdom. Write better than you know–write what you dream. The worst that will happen is more beauty in the world–the best is that you will grow to match your dreams.

Others are lacking as well. Write for them.

 

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