Let It Rain!

An author and I were talking about her new novel, which at the time was very much a work in progress. She was upset because she wasn’t as far along in the writing of the book as she thought she’d be by the time we met. Further, the story seemed to be taking some turns that she hadn’t expected and she was feeling challenged, forced to rethink characters, scenes, and the end of the story. I was quiet, letting her tell me about what was going on with her characters…and before long, she was sharing much of what was going on in her life.

Life was delivering some pretty rough blows just then—family illness, disappointments in loved ones, financial upset. Life was taking her on a twisting and turning journey, throwing up surprises, road blocks, and forcing her onto new and frightening paths. She wanted the characters in her book to be clear and level, she wanted her book to be her soothing solace, her nurturing escape from the roughness of what was going on in her life. But instead, just the opposite seemed to be happening. Her characters were revealing themselves to be complicated, multi-faceted, surprising, not always likable, but always human. Her story was becoming more complex, less easily resolved, messy. And so, in talking about her characters, we ended up talking about our own selves. We shared life stories; we railed against illness and death, we recalled our childhoods, we laughed about misguided relationships, we wondered about love, we talked about faith. We recognized that the very best stories—in books and in life—are those in which the characters make it through whatever happens, coming out the other side soiled or bruised or worse, but all the more strong and wise. And we promised each other that we’d take the same attitude towards our own lives…and if it rains, let it rain.

I've never forgotten that conversation and I think often of what it means to let it rain. It means allowing our stories and ourselves to learn and to grow from the changing weather. Allowing our stories and ourselves to ask for help if we seem at risk of drowning from the deluge. Allowing our stories and ourselves to rage and roar, then—when the calm comes (for there will always be a calm)—transform those storms into new landscapes with new horizons. Allowing our stories and ourselves to be flexible and limber while remaining confident in the roots we’ve got beneath and in the goals we’ve got ahead.

An author and I were talking her new novel, a work in progress. An author and I were talking about life, a work in progress. It was the very same conversation. Let it rain!

(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks llc


  1. Wonderful! You weren't talking about me but you might just have well have been, and I'm sure there'll be tons of other writers out there who will feel just the same way on reading this post.

    You make such a very good point, for all those who hate doing bad things to their protagonist, who want everything to turn out well. They CAN turn out well, if that's what serves your story best, but they should get well and truly rained on first. That's the secret of all the best, most satisfying endings. Thanks for the reminder! I'm putting it by my monitor. Let it rain.

  2. Anonymous2/16/2010

    Let it rain Emma!!!
    Your blogs will help the blind man and woman see!!!

  3. I'll bet that author's book turned out better than it might have if her characters hadn't rebelled against becoming her soothing solace. You know you're doing it right when your charcters take up arms and force you to tell their story the way they need it told and you surrender to it. It's so wise to let the rain in your own life pound through your story.

  4. Anonymous2/16/2010

    Thank you. Today you are an angel unaware. I'm going through the same thing as your author, but I don't have the lifeboat that is Emma Dryden to keep me from flailing about as the waters in my story and my life keep rising over my head. My feet are not on solid ground and I'm
    weary from treading water so long. Your words are a life line. I'm going to grab on.

  5. I am honored that my words are touching people. Thank you for your responses, which are inspiring to me. All of us who write need such feedback and support, particularly during the stormiest times when the writing comes so hard.

  6. Oh, Emma, beautifully said and true.

  7. Anonymous2/16/2010

    Nicely put, Emma. Sometimes we all need a little faith -- in ourselves, our abilities, and our characters -- and sometimes that faith is hard to hold onto. Thank you for the reminder.

  8. It will always rain, sometimes it rains on others, sometimes it rains on us....it's always raining, somewhere, sometime on someone. Sometimes we want to run in and avoid the rain, other times, it does us good to fully embrace it, get a good soaking.... feel the pain, remember it and move back into the sunlight.

  9. Thank you for this perspective on a topsy-turvy day!

  10. Your post really struck a chord with me, as I am struggling with continuing my writing (mg and ya) during a particularly hard time in my life. I wrote about this in my blog at www.nicolemarieschreiber.com as well and chose a poem from Lord Byron for Poetry Friday on the topic.

    This comes from Lord Byron’s masterpiece, DON JUAN, and, according to www.poets.org, “features numerous references to the formal and emotional aspects of composition.”

    An in-door life is less poetical;
    And out of door hath showers, and mists,
    and sleet,
    With which I could not brew a pastoral.
    But be it as it may, a bard must meet
    All difficulties, whether great or small,
    To spoil his undertaking or complete,
    And work away like spirit upon matter,
    Embarrass'd somewhat both with fire and water.

    During life’s harder moments, as a “bard” I must remember to “meet all difficulties, whether great or small” and “work away like spirit upon the matter.” I have already posted this piece up on my wall where I can read it everyday, as I will with yours.

    Thank you again.

  11. So lovely, Emma. Here's to the ability to even sing in the rain.

  12. Thank you. I could be that author you talked to, in the middle of a bruised and bruising story. Life is a work in progress too.