A writing student sent a question to my inbox that I thought you may be interested in:
So exciting to see you “ in the arena”. Fighting the good fight!.
I have something I need a little help/ push with. I’ve noticed how deeply sad all my stories are at their core. I know I can’t deny them but I worry I’ll never come out to the balanced end. It seems the more I write the more I uncover that was painful that I never acknowledged or understood before. I can’t pretend these things were easy or ok. I also could not use these stories as they are written today. Do you believe that, in time, I can infuse them with enough of something else so they will be readable? And I guess I wonder why all these stories keep being so sad, any prompt tends to take me to a very hard time in my life, and I am not depressed today, this sadness is of the past, for the past.
I think this is why I admire you. I can feel the struggle you experienced and I see the light and energy you have created from it. No small feat!
Here’s how I responded:
You ask such great questions!
Here are my thoughts –
Let your stories be what they are. You are not depressed today but you carry deeply sad experiences; this is a version of holding two opposing truths in one hand that I talk about a lot. These seeming contradictions within us often hold those universal truths that connect us with others. Honor the truth of the stories as they come out.
Sad stories are readable and balance can be overrated. In my own writing journey, I spent several years writing about death and heartbreak because they seemed to be what was wanting to be told. I don’t think of myself as a morbid or negative person and yet those times are part of me, and a part that I hadn’t let be evident. Writing about them let me put my arms around my own life that I hadn’t let myself do prior to that.
The hard times of your life may be what wants to be told. Tell it all and decide what to do with it later. I’d encourage you to let them be as they are without trying to make them what you think of as readable or light-filled. Perhaps write them, put them away for a short time, revisit them, and if you want to share them, start first with someone you trust for feedback. The feedback from trusted readers may helpful.
The magic of writing is that is can illuminate things within us that we didn’t even know were there. I think it leads to a more authentic life to know the recesses within us that we don’t often have contact with. It can help us be kinder to ourselves and others, and isn’t that the kind of energy we want to have?
Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a writer, there are so many benefits to writing. Do you journal for yourself or have other writing habits?
PS – I was recently interviewed about my memoir Float On on KCUR’s Central Standard. I’ve admired this show for a long time and I was honored to be asked such thoughtful questions from the host Gina Kaufmann. Listen to the replay here. (I start at 32:57)