Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Freedom Writers

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn wrote his story, "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" and published it in 1962. He had lived the life of Ivan in the Gulag, a Soviet labor camp system. I read it in high school because he was a Nobel Prize winner, but it was the story of the writer, not so much the story he wrote, which affected me. (He was also born on December 11th like me, only in different years.)

His mother was a widow by the time he was born. His dad was killed shortly after she became pregnant, and she and her sister raised Aleksandr in meager circumstances. Aleksandr's father had been in the Imperial Army, so she kept that fact a secret for reasons of safety. She also did something not looked upon with favor--she raised him in her faith of Russian Orthodoxy. She was educated and she encouraged his literary leanings. We all have someone encouraging at some point on our road to literary life. Who was your encourager?

Anyway, he was sent to hard labor in the Gulag because of something he wrote. He paid for that writing with harsh imprisonment, but he never stopped "writing" even though he didn't have ideal conditions in which to write (it stayed in his head at this point.) When he was finally released, he had to write in the dark of the night, and bury his writing each and every day.

He said, "during all the years until 1961, not only was I convinced I should never see a single line of mine in print in my lifetime, but, also, I scarcely dared allow any of my close acquaintances to read anything I had written because I feared this would become known." (From his speech when he accepted the Nobel Prize.)

Whether you are writing a 600-word article, an 150-word book review, a 400 page novel, a letter to the editor, a blog entry, it IS scary to write, though most of us do not have threat of death or imprisonment when we write. Writing requires you to reveal something about yourself. You are at risk somehow. In light of Aleksandr's road to being published, your own fears can now go away, can't they? (Well, maybe...)

I love to read and I have put off my own writing at times to read a writer's writing or to help him in his writing. Now I am struck that my own time to write is growing shorter and it is time for me to unbury my writing to send out.

My advice today is to keep writing, even if you're scared. Think of Solzhenitsyn and be brave by writing in the dark of night, even if it looks as if you will never publish or that the only persons to read it will be your critique partners and that first reader. Have hope. And encourage someone else in his or her writing, too. You are out of the Gulag so the time has come. Join me in the revolution! The first step to freedom is to write it.

Who can you encourage in her/his writing today? And who are your encouragers?


Crystal Laine Miller


  1. Thanks for the post! It was interesting, encouraging, and informative.

    You are among my encouragers:) Trusting the Lord to be an encouragement to others through my blog and other avenues.

    Blessings to you, your gang, and your readers:)

  2. I feel so lucky to be involved in an industry where so many people are willing to encourage one another. There are literally too many to name!
    I think my most discouraging time comes when I'm writing that first draft. It is always terrible. I begin to think that I'm like one of those folks from American Idol who can't sing but try anyway.
    Then I move on to the second draft and feel a little better.
    Thanks for the encouragement Crystal.

  3. Great post, Crystal. I feel blessed to consider you one of my encouragers.

    And thank you for the reminder to be an encourager to others. :)

  4. Karen, I'm honored! :)Thanks so much for coming by.

    Lisa, you are so right about the first draft-second draft feeling! I think all writers feel that way. You can't fix it until you get it down, though, so you push through the doubt and pain--writing with faith.

    Sabrina, you're definitely an encourager. (You may need some boots to kick some of your friends into gear.)

  5. Wonderful post, Crystal. I wish you well as you delve into that writing of yours. You gotta do it. My encourager? My husband, Nelson. Everytime I say something like, "It's not worth it," or "I have nothing to show for all my time," he calms that guilt trip and nudges me to keep going. Love him.