Surrender To The Writing

This morning I am doing some writing for a course, a book I’m working on, and a military writing workshop. I came across something I wrote a couple months ago that seems very appropriate for a blog post this morning. It is a train of thought writing that I have incorporated into several projects but it also offers food for thought. As you consider writing your military stories, or writing at all, think about the following. It has certainly been on my mind since I did the rewrites for The Tiger’s Widow in June when I feel like my soul was ripped in two as I wrote. The story completely changed and in the end……it was BETTER.


Writing is a very personal activity. Through writing we immerse ourselves in the depths of life, love, and loss. We explore issues and problems that seem insurmountable. We open ourselves up to vulnerability and criticism. It can be SCARY!

Pick up any writing guide and it will tell you writing is hard work. Perhaps, but I don’t view it that way. I see it as an outlet through which expressions of hope, fear, desire, and love flow. There are days the words flow like a raging waterfall and other days they stagnate like a smelly, slime covered green pond. You just have to be vulnerable and go with the flow of it all and do the best you can.

What does becoming vulnerable have to do with writing military stories? War is hell and those (mostly) young men who went off to fight were scared, vulnerable, homesick, and full of hope, desire, fear, and love. When we open ourselves up to these realizations we become better writers. We tell the stories of those who went to war more compassionately. With more truth and honor than if we stayed closed off.

Can we just give the facts and leave it at that? Yes, but who will really want to read that story all the way through or even more than once? When we better understand what was was like and what our soldiers experienced, we can try to (but never fully) stand in their shoes to relay their experiences.

People talk about genealogy serendipity, the occurrence where the right person or record is put in our path. Some researchers and family members even feel guided by their ancestors. It is as if someone is whispering in your ear. This whispering happens to me all the time. Maybe it is a thought that crosses my mind or an email with information. Sometimes as I write, the words just flow and when I am finished I wonder where they came from.

So when you next sit down to write, let it flow. Let go of all your reservations and see what happens to your military or family stories. What gold nuggets will you uncover as you write? What story will flow out that you never expected?

© 2014, Jennifer Holik, Woodridge, IL

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