by Edie Melson @EdieMelson
We all want what we write to matter—to touch hearts, change lives, challenge the status quo.
To that end we search high and low for the words that connect us to our readers.
But what if the gems we’re searching for aren’t hidden in distant places, but instead are buried deep within our own experiences?
Today I’m going to give you the clues to finding those precious nuggets hidden in plain sight. If you’ll bear with me, I’d like to follow this mining metaphor to its ultimate end and show you how to mine your own experiences to make your writing richer.
Tools of the Mining Trade
Miners of old wielded heavy pick axes and bulky shovels. They built sluice boxes and patiently plied the gold pans looking for nuggets. This was necessary because the treasure was often buried under hard rock and hidden in amongst worthless mud.
We face many of the same obstacles when we mine our own experiences. We must dig, not under tons of rock, but beneath rock-hard walls we’ve erected between us and the things in our past that have been painful. We also find that those gems closer to the surface aren’t obvious, but hidden in plain sight beside everyday occurrences. They’re camouflaged to look worthless but are gems of inspiration.
Work Clothes of a Miner
Miners—then and now—are often easy to spot because of their attire. From the metal hard hats, with attached lights, to the tips of their steel-toed boots, everything about them is geared to plying their trade.
We too, often need a hard hat of sorts. Our minds often shrink away from remembering past experiences like a miner needs protection from a rain of stones. Our feet must be shod in a foundation of who we are, protected while we go mucking about the dangerous mine shafts of yesterday. Even the good memories can be dangerous, deceiving us and seducing us into what-might-have-been.
The light we need is the focus of what we’re searching for—the point of our writing. No matter whether we’re looking to expose truth, share hope or something else entirely, we must stay true to our path. It can mean death to wander into a side-tunnel and get lost forever.
Digging out the Treasure
Now that we’re equipped, let’s start the search. Join me in examining our circumstances. Each of us is in a unique place. It’s a convergence of time and space, but even more it’s comprised of people and experiences. Don’t waste what God has put inside you or where He has placed you. Illustrate the things you write with what colors your life.
Many of you already do this. How have your own experiences led you to valuable insights you’re able to share through your writing? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Edie Melson—author, blogger, speaker—has written numerous books, including her most recent fiction – Alone, and nonfiction – While My Child is Away. She’s also the military family blogger at Guideposts.org. Her popular blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month and has just been named as one of the 2017 Writer’s Digest Top 101 Websites for Writers. She’s the director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and the Vice President of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, as well as the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine.