On Monday morning at 9am I sat down to write a short story. I had set myself the challenge of writing four or five first drafts for some short story competitions I had found online. The story I wrote on Monday was about my mother’s experience with cancer.
The Cancer Council had set up an award for a story about cancer and strength; I sat down and banged out a narrative, in a fictionalised version my mother’s voice, about the start of her treatment. It didn’t take long to set down, about 45min; I read it over and it seemed ok so I sent it to my friend for her thoughts.
I didn’t preface the email with ‘this is autobiographical’ because I honestly thought it was irrelevant. Her response was that it was pretty dark and that if I wanted to win I should probably try to do something uplifting. Then I told her it was true and that was probably it’s a bit sad.
I spent all of Monday and Tuesday feeling just a bit off colour, I couldn’t put my finger on it and just put it down to a bad day. It wasn’t until my appointment with my psychologist yesterday evening that I realised just how triggering that story had been.
I’m a person who has grown up believing I need to be strong, that I am tough and that things don’t upset me. I have always thought it was true. What I’m discovering on this journey is that there are a lot of things that are small, fragile and sensitive inside me that I have crushed, brushed aside, ignored or been so loudly displaying my toughness that I haven’t heard the tiny voice calling out.
I have heard about how difficult writing can be emotionally, about how it opens up all sorts of things inside you and how cathartic and therapeutic it can be and until yesterday I didn’t get it. It’s quite scary knowing that you’re vulnerable to that sort of pain just through your art, but it’s also kind of liberating; like somehow I’m a legitimate tortured artist now.
When you try to uproot and change everything about yourself that you don’t like in one fell swoop it’s bound to be a bumpy road and in retrospect I think it’s those bumps that give colour to our lives, that give us the light and dark, the yin and yang that make both extremes mean something.
Now that I’ve found this fragile sensitive soul inside the hard exterior I have to nurture it, makes sure I listen out for it, and give myself a break when it is having a bad time and listen to what it likes and give it more of that. But even with all this stuff coming up I wouldn’t change my life for the world.
WordPress ate my comment, gaaaah.
The thrust of it was this: I still feel like a dick, I should have realised it was about your mum. I’m sorry. 😦
Secondly, I find writing about my own painful experiences is really helpful, but it’s a long process. You can get the raw emotion out on page, but then you can’t turn it into a story until you’ve had some time to distance yourself from it. So I suggest putting your story in a drawer for some time (at least a month) and then coming back to it with fresh eyes.
Writing works for me (I nearly called my last blog ‘cheaper than therapy’) but it can also bring up a lot of dark stuff in the process. Look after yourself, love. x
I love this post, I’m no writer but do find that when I have a concern, worry, grief or a problem, I find myself writing poetry, not good poetry but rhymes…it really helps me. I find that my photography has the same effect as your writing, I’m finding out things about myself that I had hidden for many years, I find it sometimes disturbing and sometimes refreshing. I’m just entering my 50’s and am learning new things about myself on an almost daily basis. Thanks for your post…it’s got me thinking!!
Louise: Don’t feel like a dick, honestly I didn’t expect you to know and I am not upset about it. I think it will all come out in the wash, and yes I might focus on some other stuff for a while and come back to it.
Taking snaps: Thanks for that, it’s good to know that I can express something that really resonates with other people.