“Scars remind us where we’ve been. They don’t have to dictate where we’re going.”

This quotation is from the senior behavioral analyst on the TV show, Criminal Minds. It’s a series I love because it delves so deeply into some intense stories, relationships, feelings, and motivations. The people profiled are some of the most disturbed and pathological figures ever created – and, I’ll admit it, in the way that some people love horror movies, I am fascinated and horrified by the extreme personalities and characters on the series.

I’ve never had nightmares after watching the show (and that’s even after watching four back-to-back episodes when I was home sick earlier this week) and I’ve sometimes wondered why that is. I’ve come to realize it’s because just as the show repels me because of the pain and violence these catastrophic figures inflict on their victims, the show also confirms and upholds a deep sense of hopefulness, a sense of right to combat the wrong, a reminder that kindness and human connection does exist to counter wickedness and alienation.

As a publisher, editor and reader, I’ve always held to the belief that the best books—the books that speak deeply to me-- explore by what means a main character finds their light out of the dark. As teenagers, as adults, as people – we are all at one time or another on a journey to find clarity through chaos, peace through turmoil, calm through storm, safety through fear and doubt. The path on which we traverse is not easy. We don’t generally give up, though. We keep going. And, why? Because the promise of good over evil, of happiness over sadness, of healing over illness, is too great to ignore. It is the light we’re all of us trying to reach in whatever way we can. And as we make our way through the ills, the doubts, the hindrances, the barriers, the pain, the ugliness, we become stronger. We survive. We grow. We share our stories so others don’t feel so alone, so we don’t feel so alone.

The scars of living a life can be enormous, overwhelming, desperate. I hold to the notion that it’s these same scars that, if handled gently and allowed to heal properly, can become our personal roadmaps to finding ourselves to be braver, stronger, better prepared than we ever thought imaginable. Better prepared to be mentors, parents, healers, lovers, storytellers – in a position to share our lives with others in order to secure for our world the sense of hopefulness, of right, of kindness and human connection that is so essential to our future.

(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks llc


  1. That is a quote to live by and write by. Excellent post. Thank you.

  2. I was just thinking about this very subject. So well put Emma and I love the tone of hope that prevails through your voice in this great article on road-maps. Thanks for this!

  3. Anonymous5/06/2010

    What a wonderful and perfect quote, (and post) Emma. And I agree that "the books that speak deeply to me-- explore by what means a main character finds their light out of the dark."

    As one who rarely writes happy stories I am going to try to remember this more, that scars can become our personal roadmaps to become better people and live better lives.

    Thank you.

  4. Thanks for this post. It resonates so deeply. Long ago when I learned that the approach to body image could be gentler, rather than self-hating, my mentor spoke of scars, stretch-marks, and other body changes as roadmaps - even treasure maps - of our lives. The reminders of all the experiences that make us human. Sharing the stories does help us become whole, together.

  5. I love the tone of hope that prevails through your voice in this great article on road-maps
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