Writing has helped me through many dark times, and so it does again now. I do write this with trepidation though, not because of what I want to say, but because I’m unsure how to say it in the most appropriate way. Just words on the screen, I tell myself, but it’s more than that, isn’t it? Words add themselves together until they mean something, and meaning has the power to heal as well as hurt. Knowing this means that I don’t write this post lightly.
I haven’t written anything in nearly a month because a tragic event put everything on hold, personally and professionally. The most important people in that time (and still now) are my family, but just today, in this moment, the emotions are a little less raw so I’m starting to reflect in a more personal way.
Over the past few years I’ve gone through several life changing events, and as a writer this often comes with conflicting emotions. On the one hand there is a needle prodding my brain telling me I’m using myself and other people as material, I’m feeding on their pain or the events in their lives for something as frivolous as making up stories. This needle is crippling and destructive, bringing with it guilt and deeply unattractive defensiveness, and it’s invasive enough to stop the creative process at the first hurdle.
But the other feeling is actually to do with understanding myself. My true self. I’ve come to recognise that I am a writer because it is my way of making sense of what I’m feeling and what I’m thinking, as well as what the people around me are experiencing. Making up stories is a way of exploring lives, not just the good things that happen to people, but the tragedies too, and in this way I can understand why or how something can happen, and I hope that my readers can too.
This recognition is what moves reading stories from a frivolous activity to something that has the power to change opinion, heal a wound or give strength in dark times. It’s why people are compelled to write, whether they are published or unpublished, and it is why people read novels or watch TV drama or listen to radio plays. In understanding another person’s experience, maybe we can come to understand our own.
I still need to take the time to reflect and think through what has happened, and it will be a long and difficult process. Throughout I will have to tell myself not to be afraid, that my writing will be effected by what has happened and this is okay, because only then can I write in a meaningful way, creating characters and stories that can make a difference, even if it’s just in a small way.
I hope to be back to posting more regularly now, but for anyone who has lost someone they love, I recommend A Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion, who asks ‘Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought?’.