For any writer interested in truly connecting with their reading audience, you’re going to start pouring a lot of emotion into everything you write. The stories become a part of you. A display of the person you really are inside. And as time goes on and you become more comfortable with expressing those emotions…there may be times when you’re forced to deal with some rather touchy, maybe even painful, pieces of your life. Past events that you may not be really ready to deal with, much less put in a spotlight for the rest of the world to see and comment on. I speak from experience when I say that it’s not always an easy thing to do. And I don’t suggest you get into those personal parts of your psyche unless you’re truly comfortable with it. It may seem like it’s just ‘typing out a story’, but when you dig really deep…it can become an emotionally draining exercise. Sometimes, it can be downright depressing. So it’s not something to be treated lightly.
The painful memories that we keep hidden within us can be a very powerful force when it comes to creating a fictionalized account of what really happened. It takes some time to prepare for it. I say this, because even though we may have an idea of how a certain scene is supposed to play out, even if we have notes and outlines ready, even if we know that it’s just a story and not the real thing…when you’re in the midst of writing it out for the first time…there is a lot of improvised thought going on. You end up putting yourself back into that particular frame of mind and essentially ‘living’ through that part of your life all over again. And during that creative process…you end up digging into some old wounds that may catch you by surprise. And not always in a good way.
I can remember writing a few stories where I was caught off guard by what I was saying in them. I wasn’t ready for it. If I had a nickel for every unexpected set of tears that have come to me while writing some of these stories, I’d be a rich man. Believe me. “My Only Escape” is definitely the hardest story to write. It takes me back to a very dark time in my life, so it can be difficult to really work on certain parts of it for any length of time. Because even when I turn the computer off, the emotions linger for a long time afterward. I can remember, not so long ago, that I was recounting something that actually really happened between my father and me. Where I was basically kicked out of the house in the pouring rain one afternoon. No jacket, no shoes. Just sock feet. And I can remember how cold it was. I remember having to go to a close friend’s house and try to bear the shame of trying to find an excuse as to why I was out there like that and why I couldn’t go home. I didn’t think it would affect me so much when I decided to put it into the story, but once I actually began writing in the details and thinking back to the actual experience…it hurt. It really did. And I wasn’t prepared for that. I don’t think I’ll ever really be prepared ahead of time for some of the things I write, even though I know what’s coming. So, I always tell people to write out their true feelings and get the ‘demons out’…but I do warn authors that they can weigh heavy on your heart sometimes. So be aware of that.
Abuse is obviously something that is difficult for me to deal with in my stories. I tried a bit in “New Kid In School”, but was quick to write that out of the series because I don’t think I was really ready for that yet. Not back then. Other stories like “Never Again” or “Save Or Sacrifice” were born out of some rather nasty heartbreaks that I had to suffer through some years ago. In “Billy Chase”, I tried to describe and put out some of my strong feelings about suicide, which was also because of the loss of a very close friend in 2001. There are pieces of my heart in these stories that were devastating at the time, and thus, extremely hard to deal with. Even in fiction.
With all of that said, warnings aside…if you DO have something in your past or in your heart that you want to express or that you haven’t sufficiently dealt with…I suggest that you do exactly that. Do it. Go for it. And when you’re ready, dig deep and put those emotions into as many heartfelt words as you can. And I’m not going to lie…some of it is going to hurt. But writing it out is extremely therapeutic. Putting it into words and being able to be vulnerable enough to not hold back…it’s a feeling that is simply indescribable. Little by little, it gets easier. And by being the ‘divine author’ of your own story…you get the benefit of having a bit of control this time around. Which, I think, makes you feel even better about putting that part of your life behind you, once and for all. I would advise trying to just write your feelings out in private first. Whatever it is that you have in your past that was difficult for you to get through…try talking about it through your fiction. Whether it’s physical or sexual abuse, or a particularly painful heartbreak, maybe a betrayal by a friend of family member, bullying in school, or the loss of a loved one…use it. Channel that pain and misery into something positive. Some of your strongest writing can come from the parts of your life that you’d rather not think about.
All in all, writing about those dark blotches on your life record may bring some distress here and there, and I want you guys to know that going in…but it can truly be an emotional sigh of relief once you get that poison out of your system. And to other readers who may have been through something similar…they’ll understand and really connect with the story that you’re trying to tell. Some of the most touching feedback that I’ve ever gotten has come from survivors of suicide and parental abuse. And there’s a true sense of salvation in that, believe it or not. Just knowing that someone hears me…it made the tears worthwhile.
So give it a shot. Dig deep. And be prepared for whatever feelings may come with it. Just know that it’s worth it. Every time.
This has been Comsie Talks. Take care. And I’ll seezya soon!