Writing when it’s Painful

I wrote my first book when I was six years old.  No lie.  I scribbled down some words, drew a few pictures in crayon, and stapled the pages together in a jagged line.  I was so proud to present my masterpiece to my mother.  Nevermind the fact that the story was basically a knock off of “The Care Bears” and “My Little Pony,” the two cartoons I was addicted to at the time.  That moment stands out in my mind because it was the moment I knew I wanted to be a writer.

No, let me be more specific–it was the moment I knew I wanted to be a fiction writer.

This is an important distinction, as anyone who’s tried their hand at writing knows.  At first I thought I didn’t want to write nonfiction because it was boring.  Or at least, my life was boring, and I couldn’t imagine what other nonfiction themes I’d be writing about aside from things that happened in my life.  Maybe if I discovered I had a super power (as I’d always dreamed I would), I’d have something nonfiction worth writing about.  But that never happened.  Correction: it has not happened yet.  I’m still hoping that it will.

In any case, I’ve done just fine over the years nurturing my secret hobby of writing science fiction and fantasy stories and steering clear of anything that might be close to reality.  There’s a very logical reason for this, of course.  One that goes beyond the simple belief that reality is too boring to write about.

One that acknowledges that writing from another character’s point of view allows you to avoid writing about yourself.

Even as I write that, I know it’s not entirely true.  Take, for instance, my novel.  As much as I tried to cover her in the layers of another cultural perspective, another time period, and a completely different environment, my main character took on so many of my traits.  So very many.  I think, in a way, that I wanted it to be like that.  It’s risky, putting so much of yourself into a character.  But it can be very freeing, too.  It allowed me to explore dark and difficult themes in my own life by projecting them onto her.  The entire process was really quite beautiful.  But still, I found myself able to hold her out an arm’s length and distance myself, at least a little bit, from who I really was and what was actually going on in my life.

That all changed this past week.  It changed the moment I realized I needed to write about something that had happened very uniquely and very specifically to me.

The urge to write about this particular experience nudged me in a way I couldn’t ignore.  I told myself it wasn’t worth spending time on, that it wasn’t getting me any closer to my goal of becoming a fiction author.  And what’s more, it wasn’t something I even wanted to write about.  It was about a painful experience, one that forced me to expose a truly ugly part of my heart that I didn’t exactly want to share.

But ultimately, I gave in.  I wrote the narrative, I relived the painful experience.  I forced myself to look at my reflection in the writing, grotesque and disfigured, and to gaze at it anyway.  It was awful and terrifying all at once.

But it was good.

And that, unfortunately, is the curse of someone like me who doesn’t always process things in her life until they appear in front of her on a piece of paper.  There is something about engaging in the very act of writing that is healing in and of itself.  And if you can relate to that feeling, even the tiniest bit, I would urge you to do the same.  I encourage you to write, even when it’s raw, even when it’s scary, even when it’s painful.

That’s really the only stuff worth reading about anyway.