Today’s guest post comes from Christopher Schmitz, a blogger and author of both fiction and non-fiction, mostly in the Christian realm, about his journey with writing and what it has revealed to him:
Writing has always been a part of who I am. I know. That sounds trite. But for people who are writers it’s a fundamental truth.
As I neared completion on my first fiction novel (The Kakos Realm: Grinden Proselyte, a Christian fantasy novel much like an evangelical version of Game of Thrones… soon to be republished this fall,) back in 2005 I found myself fired from a church I pastored when a mini-coup formed as I was on vacation. It was the darkest period of my life: for the first time since my angsty teen years my mind had turned dark enough to consider killing myself. It was seriously bad. I learned in that time that the emotional trauma of the sort I went through (primary male worker/bread-winner) was similar to a woman having a late-term miscarriage. That explained the emotional distress… but an explanation does not necessarily bring healing.
While I worked towards finding healing and bringing balance to my life with some ministerial volunteer work and a secular job I felt as if I operated in a haze of life. This period lasted for a long time as I struggled to rediscover exactly who I was and find my own self-worth. As an author, I began to write. I began to understand who I was—what I had gone through—and how I still had so much to contribute. Writing reconnected me to my soul.
Years later I accepted a position at one of the top ten largest churches in North Dakota (I don’t want to share beyond that and contribute any negativity to them—I just want to reinforce that discovering myself led me to a fairly prominent place.) Despite successful ministry, I endured another church coup—this time against my mentor/boss/ministry-partner/senior-pastor. A minority within the church board, through some shady moves, expelled my pastor. It was all very traumatic.
Because of what I had endured previously, I quite honestly laughed when that group turned its attention to me, next. I knew how low I could be brought and what I could endure. It didn’t make it less painful, but the sense of darkness and the loss of my identity didn’t happen to me. I knew myself.
While I had previously been an author of fiction, with a few essays as exceptions, I still needed to vent the stress. I needed catharsis, and so I picked up my pen and wrote a scathing essay about the corporate sin we’d just engaged in and sent it to a huge swath of people—those in church and ministry officials across the state. I was largely condemned and publicly chastised by a denominational executives the following Sunday. Those scolding me in front of the coup leaders turned aside and gave me an atta-boy behind their backs, knowing that some things need saying, but can only be said by martyrs.
What followed my departure was a ravenous descent into data and research. I started writing. As I inserted my personal experience, as told through story, the walls between fiction and nonfiction began to break down. Because I had internalized so much of the research in the hunt for answers to all the questions the situation had raised, it flowed as easy as the fiction I’d crafted for years.
The earliest draft, which was written over the shortest interval I’ve ever completed a book over, was very angry: this was raw catharsis, after all. It was a long process as I expelled the anger and vitriol and got to the heart of the matter and rediscovered ME through the methodology. Editing (much less enjoyable) allowed me to grapple with it all, refine it, and cope with and release the anger. In essence: writing helps me be me again.
The resulting book was titled Why Your Pastor Left. The whole process resulted in the desire to write both nonfiction AND fiction.