OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
Christmas is a time of happiness for many, but can also be a time of misery and loneliness for others. New Year can also be such a dichotomy. It is also a time of reflection when it is important to face last year's pain and next year's hope.
I'm sure many readers have had some rough patches this year. Many suffered in the global financial crisis. Others would have relationship issues, or problems with family, perhaps death and disease. We all face pain and difficulty in our lives, but how can we use this in our writing? Or should these feelings never see the light of day?
Write for therapy.
Yes, you should write your pain.
I firmly believe that writing is a form of therapy and that investing in a pile of blank notebooks can be a better way than expensive sessions with a professional. It is certainly better than drugs or alcohol, so at least try it first. I got divorced a few years ago and filled 6 notebooks with my pain. Everything I wrote at the time centered around those feelings. After 6 months of writing in bursts of emotional agony, I was better. Seriously, writing healed me. I read those notebooks now and I don't even recognise that person. I wrote it out of my system. (I am now happily married for the second time!)
So I urge you to write whatever it is that is hurting you right now. Just blurt it out. Share it with the blank page.
To publish or not to publish.
You definitely should write your pain, but then the question is whether any one else should read about it. Here are some questions you should probably think about before sharing your painful writing:
- Will this writing help anyone else, or is it really your private suffering?
- Is the writing actually any good, or is it written for your eyes only?
- Will you hurt anyone by publishing it?
- How will you feel if you share it and then you are rejected?
I recently read ‘The Year of Magical Thinking' by Joan Didion about her year of mourning after the sudden death of her husband. I wanted to read the book as a way of appreciating where I am now. This book touched a lot of people and was incredibly well written. It was not raw screaming emotion, but told as a story. I compare that to my own ranting, raving notebooks in the throes of divorce. They are not written as a story, not as a series of therapeutic outbursts. They are not to be published!
From another perspective, you might be interested in this audio interview with Lauren Roche who wrote a book about her journey from prostitute to physician. She is very honest about her journey and discusses the use of people's names and how her family was impacted by her tell-all book.
So write your pain but then be honest with yourself. Is your writing to be shared?
What do you think? Please share your comments.