Spinning straw into gold: thoughts on writing.


For the last few days, I’ve sat in a dark room giving memories their proper burials.

I can imagine the way the funeral director wrings her hands beneath the hot water faucet as she preps to make settings of “goodbye” for so many. It feels a lot like that; writing a book is like finally saying goodbye to memories and finally having the courage to let go for good as you script just enough to tell your friend over a cup of coffee, “I’ve used up all the words. It’s over now.”

I didn’t imagine writing a book would feel this way. I’m one month into writing a book and I didn’t imagine it would be like this. I’m certain now that I will write a book about writing a book just so I can write the line, “It was the most hauntingly beautiful process I’ve ever experienced, to sit in a room and play with ghosts of what used to be all day.” You feel like you’re living six lifetimes in a single day. It’s like God is asking you to stare at all the moments when you should have been a nobler character and then learn to give grace to yourself somehow. I’m sitting on the floor, thinking of how crazy it is that I’ve worshipped a God who cakes the mountaintops with grace for me, but this is the first time I’m finally gaining enough courage to not withhold it from myself.

And I’ve never felt more human in this moment as God tells me not to stop the heartbreak, not to resolve the heartbreak, but simply to wade out into the middle of it and scream out how deep it really is. We’ve never needed one another to resolve the heartbreak for us, so much as we have needed to know that others have felt the depths of it too.


I thought it would be different than this.

I thought I’d sit square in the middle of a room with the sunlight on my face and the clacking of keys in my ears as the coffee neglected to grow stale and birds that I borrowed from Snow White gathered my hair up into a sock bun. Instead, it’s like somehow braiding flower crowns out of verbs & adjectives & nouns to hush out the ashes of the words you cussed on the day you discovered he didn’t love you like that any longer. Writing is just another form of polishing and prettying up the broken-open moments of this lifetime so that they can go on display for other people to interpret. Writing is just the right eulogy for all the memories we haven’t let go of yet. Enough to coax them out of our hands and onto a page.

I find myself wrapped up in a camo jacket nearly every morning. The coffee grows stale quickly. I forget to eat. I am too busy sifting and sorting words for the day. And there is something so freeing about being unbelievably imperfect on the page within a world where all I’ve ever tried to be for other people is perfect. I’ve breathed in enough gritty stories to say, at last, “screw perfection.” Perfection would mean we never let one another go. And honestly? Now I know it meant everything to unclench my fists and let it happen. Perfection would mean that the pieces always fit. And honestly? It was in the mess of broken pieces that we both learned grace. Perfection would mean it never hurt like hell with a chainsaw in its hand to see you drive away and not come back for me. And honestly? I needed to get the life socked out of me to understand how much courage it takes to get back up on your own two feet.

When I finish this book, I’ll stay there was an anthem sitting behind every word I wrangled and sweet-talked into staying on the page. It’s two single lines from a Jason Mraz song that I cannot help but listen to every single night before the world falls asleep:

And what a beautiful mess this is/ it’s like picking up trash in dresses.

Every morning, I am sitting beside piles of other people’s memories. I’m sifting through the things you’ve called garbage for far too long. It isn’t garbage and you & I both know that those feelings have never been so disposable as you made them seem. You got hurt. You didn’t win. You regretted it. You let her down. You think you cannot possibly be redeemed. And you’re no different from me.

What happened is not everything. What happened isn’t the end to our little stories. It matters more what we do with it all. The memories. The broken middles. The wrecking ball moments. What matters is if we let them keep wrecking us or we spin them into gold.

Step one is realizing that the story never owned you. It never has the power to victimize you if you change the words from the beginning. Step two is realizing that your story is a symphony. Maybe it will be a poem for someone else. A cup of hot chocolate in a styrofoam mug in the heart of October. A light on and a mother standing out on front porch saying, Child, please come home. 

You won’t know what your story will be to someone else until you actually let someone touch it and find their humanity somewhere deep inside of it. You cannot wait to know everything to finally sit down beside the page and sift through the trash of it. You just need to be willing to make piles of the things you’ve never fully understood and, from some of those piles, make sand castles.

You’ll never know what your story could be for someone else until you make that first sandcastle. Until you say to the water, “You won’t wash away these words of mine.”

That is the goal of a writer, maybe. Maybe that is the goal. Maybe this it: If I can somehow make a single sandcastle–just a single one–out of something you’ve never understood but have always felt in the deep of you, then I’ll be a writer. Maybe I’ll be a writer then.

76 thoughts on “Spinning straw into gold: thoughts on writing.

  1. This is this first time I have had the courage to comment on one of your posts after finishing my reading binge of your blog. Of all the things I thought of to say, I have decided on this: whenever I read one of your posts out loud to myself, I feel my heart clench. Every word you pen is mouthed by my heart that you have made into your very own puppet.
    I hope that made sense because it’s the only way I know how to put it.
    You are an incredibly lyrical writer & I can’t wait to snatch up your book.

  2. My heart was touched and reading your words I cried, I feel the same when I write or paint, the part where you acknowledge God’s part in your life and writing is a powerful thing. Thanks for creating this blog, I’ll be keeping up with all the words.

  3. UMMM! WOW! You have no idea how much this post speaks to me. The entire week of the P31 Conference, THIS is what was on my mind… Telling my story. I know that it is meant to be shared. I know that God intends to use my story for His glory. Yet somehow… probably because my father always forbid me from telling anyone… somehow I still get choked up every time I try to utter the words. I gave all of that up last week and find myself on a journey to find the right platform. Every time I feel like I am sure of what I should do, I end up talking myself out of it. FEAR! Fear of being vulnerable. Fear of rejection. Fear of facing giants!

    Thank you Hannah! I wish I could help you understand what a breath of fresh air you are for me.

  4. I just want you to know that I have never been more inspired as a writer than I am each time I read your words.

    Hannah Brencher, this is more than a passion.
    Hannah Brencher, this is more than a God-given gift.

    You are an angel. Your pen is your harp and the music you play into this world will echo into eternity.

    I know your mom is your biggest fan. But I promise you, there’s a long line of us cheering you on right behind her.

  5. There’s a verse somewhere that says that forgiveness comes from God but healing comes from sharing with one another. Writing is like that, whether you’re sharing it with the page or eventually getting over the nerves to share the parts that make you look bad, healing is there.
    I’m terribly excited for you and this!

  6. You write about the emotions so many of us feel but can not adequately put into words. Your beautiful words lull us away from the ledges and pull us into the fold. Thank you.

  7. “If I can somehow make a single sandcastle–just a single one–out of something you’ve never understood but have always felt in the deep of you, then I’ll be a writer. Maybe I’ll be a writer then”

    Yes Hannah, you my dear, are a writer. God bless you and your ability to express so openly to the world. You are my daily inspiration.

  8. Beautifully written. Spot on. Touching. Relatable. Simply fantastic that you so eloquently put down the words I too feel when I write. Glad I’m not alone sifting through “trash” xx

  9. Hannah,
    I stumbled across your blog one day and this post somehow contained the gut-wrenching, hauntingly beautiful truth of what it is to write. As a fellow writer, this post spoke to me because you managed to put a very abstract experience into words. Thank you.

  10. You must know that each time, I read your writing I am even more impressed. You have the most beautiful gift with words, even though I may not personally know you, I feel as though I can see your heart spilled out all over every word you write. You’ve inspired me as a writer more than you know. Thankyou for continuing to write 🙂


  11. this is why i write.
    spinning the brokenness into gold.
    love this.
    can’t wait for that stellar book of yours to come out.

  12. Dear readers,
    Hannah does such a wonderful job of inspiring all of us, doesn’t she? Thank you for your witness and expressing how we are thank you notes, not apologies. Well done!
    I want to encourage everyone to read in Ephesians 6:10-20 about the armor of God. It tells us about being warriors in the spiritual part of our lives. How practical and everlasting. Let me know your thoughts!

  13. Not to throw another monkey wrench into the works, but:
    When you’ve written your novel, and even as you’re writing it, the experiences of your fictional characters (which were already somewhat autobiographical) often become real in your mind and intertwine with your own actual experiences.

  14. This is a beautiful post. I love the first line: For the last few days… If your book comes out as well as this post, then let me know when you have finished it. Writing is a beautful process. I am a full-time, professional, independent musician and I am currently recording an album to be released in Jan 2014; the time I spend writing music, is the best part of my day. Thanks a lot for the words. If you are interested in what I’m doing, you can check it out here:
    Keep it coming. (but drink your coffee;-)

  15. Wow!! I am so impressed with your writing and all the comments. As many have said it inspired me and I wanted to read more. You have a way with words and I always wanted to be a writer but my fear keeps it hidden.
    I look forward to reading more of your work.

  16. WOW. I never had such a clear exposure of what my writing is and can be. I’m now going to finish writing my 1st book which I’ve been putting off and present it to the world. Thanks so much.

  17. Seriously this left me stunned. Absolutely exquisite! Like you got in my mind and pulled out all the words I’ve never been able to find to describe what it’s like to write. Thank you!

  18. You made a lot of sharp points, that pierced my heart and prodded me to keep writing. Most of all, I like the what you said about God’s merciful, bountiful grace, and FINALLY realizing that you’ve been withholding it from yourself. That’s huge! At the end, the image I was left with is a phoenix, rising from the ashes. We can heal, and rise again, AND we can share and put it all into words and someone else can read it, and become motivated to be a phoenix too! That is a cup that overflows with grace for others 🙂

  19. Im inlove with your blog!

    I too started writing a few months ago only! I had this revelation about the gifts God gives us how it is in-fact our duty to develop what He has given us! I discovered some of the ”Valor within” when I began writing 🙂

    May the Lord bless your gift HB! Your writing is out-of-this-world!

  20. ~ Lovely words you have! Thanks for your inspiring post. Btw, I like your byline esp. the last few words ‘broken hearts.’ Congrats on being FP, HB! All the lurve for you and the best! 😉 – Bliss, The Lurker’s List

  21. I have had a heartbreaking year. Heartbreaking as in: I didn’t know how it was still beating at all, every breath hurt. And just as painful as the heartbreak was how nobody understood. nobody. I drowned alone in my misery. People who I thought should have been there for me weren’t – I see now they didn’t understand (bless them, they’ve never experienced such agony, let it always be so).

    But you understand. You know such suffocating pain. Thank you for your empathy. It was all I needed.

  22. Amazing! Thank you, straight from my heart. These same thoughts have been swirling in my head & it lead to this avenue of release. Bonus…straight to your blog. Can’t wait to read your book.

  23. I was intrigued by this line from your post: “And there is something so freeing about being unbelievably imperfect on the page within a world where all I’ve ever tried to be for other people is perfect.”
    I think the reason it captivated me is because I have only recently allowed myself to be imperfect on the page. This came after realizing that no one thought I was perfect in real life even though I tried to portray that image. Writing is freedom of expression. The thing I love about it the most is that I can go back and tickle my words until I believe I’ve said exactly what I mean.
    The same cannot be said for what we speak with our mouths.
    Beautiful writing. A true pleasure to read.

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