Based on what I have read and heard of John's remarks on The Fault in Our Stars, it originated from his experience as a chaplain working in a children's hospital. The novel's main character, a teenager named Hazel Grace who lives with a terminal cancer diagnosis, was born of his grief over a young friend's death. During his speech John described how his grief and writing connected to become Hazel Grace's story:
"Amid the reality of human horror, I realized that children have always died. That the death of children is as natural as it is unjust. The notion of a plan was revolting to me. The universe, I felt, either is completely disinterested in people or else it acts precisely as if it were. Way down deep in what Robert Warren called the darkness which is you, that cheap hope of encouragements offered me no comfort. What we need are better encouragements. Ones that aren't bullshit. Ones that stand up to scrutiny, and this, I think, is why we tell stories and read them--to light the way down deep darkness which is you."And this is exactly why I write--because I have to in order to make my way through the bullshit to a place where what I feel is real and where I know I am living my truth. If I weren't writing through my grief, I don't think I would be fully able to participate in life. I would still be as paralyzed as I was in the beginning my life as the mom to a dead baby. In his speech, John called this "That feeling when you need to write. When it feels like it's the only thing that can save you from some sort of physical or psychic pain."
In my first post on this blog, I wrote that I don't know what I think until I write. Every word I have written since Alaska's death has been my truth. Sometimes one part of me is trying to convince another part to believe--that it's ok to be ok; that it's ok to be angry; that it's ok to grieve in the way that is right for me; that it's ok to not be ok; that it's ok to love myself. I have written every day since Alaska died. Some of my writing is shared but some is private. Most of it is clunky. All of it gives me life.