January 20th, 2012

ppbk cover

"How the Light Gets In"

Have you ever read Rachel Remen's Kitchen Table Wisdom? It's a beautiful and inspiring book. In it she talks about a patient who came to her to deal with the emotional issues that came with having cancer. She asks him to draw an image that is representative of himself, and he draws a cracked vase. He feels damaged. At their last therapy session, she hands him his drawing and asks if there is anything he would change about it. He stares at it for a while, smiles, picks up a yellow crayon and draws light streaming out of the crack.

Similarly, Leonard Cohen sings,
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

This is what has been on my mind lately. How we try to seem a certain way for so long until we crack. And that's when the light streams through.

In writing, isn't this what happens in one way or another to most of our characters? Characters have to grow or change in some profound way to make a book worth reading. It's not the mundane that interests readers, it's the cracking open. What does it take to crack your character open wide -- to help her move from being who she thinks she is supposed to be to being the person she really is? What will it take to crack each of us open -- to bring us to write our truths or be our whole selves? And once we're cracked open, how long will the effects last -- is it forever -- or will we seal ourselves up with glue and go back to the way things were?

This is what's on my mind today. What's on yours?