When he knocked on the door, a tall man opened it. Says, "Why, Jack, come on in. We'uns is a-havin' a frolic. Got beans with striped meat and cornbread what'll be done direc'ly. We're takin' turns entertainin'. Ye play the fiddle?"
"Naw, sir. Cain't play no fiddle."
"Dance a jig?"
"Cain't dance, neither."
"Well, tell a story, then, Jack."
"Ain't got no story."
The tall man shook his head sorrowfully. "I'm sorry, Jack, but you'uns need to go out and get yourself a story afore your worth your beans."
To make a long tale short, Jack went down by the creek, where he got plucked up by a whirlwind and blown away to a place that was nothing but trouble and heartache. First one thing happened and then another, till at last the boy 'bout got stuffed into a coffin he had built and dropped into a six-foot-deep grave hole he had dug. Have mercy! If it hadn't been for that whirlwind that happened back by in time to whisk the lad out of that precarious situation--well, let's not even think about what could o' been.
Anyhow, that big blow dropped him smack-dab in the same spot, beside the creek that ran before the cabin. He stood up, brushed hisself off, and went up to the door. The tall man opened it again.
"Jack, ye got a story for us?"
Jack pert nigh split his face with a grin. "Have I got a story for you'uns!"
* * *
Hard times. We've all had our share. They're not pleasant. Many of my writing colleagues are facing challenges right now. One man is in a job that has become a burden. Because he works on commission and the economy is lean, he is barely able to sustain a household. Some in my critique group are dealing with health issues, either their own or those of a close family member or friend. Others have lost someone whom they cherish. Then there are the moms and dads who balance careers and families while trying to squeeze out of each day a few minutes to write.
The story I opened with is from a cycle called "The Jack Tales." They're from the Appalachian oral tradition. In most of the stories, Jack and his mama are having hard times. You've heard about when things got so bad that Jack had to sell their last milk cow? As a storyteller, I often tell my audience, "Them hard times we go through give us strength. The Good Lord brings us to 'em and through 'em." Jack had to suffer some trials in order to get his story and be worth his beans.
Like you, like Jack, I've survived some of life's dark valleys: deaths in the family, money troubles, illness, even a divorce that caught me by surprise. For a Christian, those can be times of great spiritual growth because we have to lean so completely on Jesus, our Good Shepherd.
We may think of our hard times as hindrances to our writing. Certainly, we may have to set aside the pen for awhile as we deal with the situation. The writer who journals as such times, however, may experience the cathartic effect of such exercise while developing a valuable resource for her writing. Having suffered herself, she can empathize with her suffering characters. Robert Frost said, "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader."
So are you worth your beans? What has happened in your life that you can now apply--or have applied--to your writing? We'd love to read your comments.