The main character in a novel I’m working on goes through a lot of the same stuff I went through as a kid and young adult.
I never considered how I would feel, doing this. I had a story I wanted to tell, and abuse, depression, isolation and alcoholism were going to be supporting characters. But it’s obvious now why, after every time I sat down to write, I would feel exhausted, cry easily, want to crawl into my apartment and hide.
It wasn’t clear at first, but I realized that if I was going to continue, I would need to do something to help take care of my brain. If I didn’t, I’d probably continue feeling so bad that writing would become associated with pain, and eventually I’d quit.
A few weeks into working on the book, I came across a blog post by Erin Pavlina on how to create a new story about your life. It seemed (and was) perfect as a tactic to use after I had written a tough chapter or scene. I was having a hard time emotionally telling this story, so of course storytelling would be the answer (a little sarcasm with a smile).
Reading that post by Erin also helped me figure out the stories I already had playing in my mind.
If I was telling myself things like: “That could happen again,” “I’ll never get past it,” or “I’ve been through so much I can’t do it anymore,” of course a tough scene would be hard to write, and not just because it would trigger memories. It would trigger those same thoughts.
Giving myself a moment to breathe and come back to the present has become kind of a short form of storytelling. It started to become clear in my mind that I was writing a story. That ‘I’m writing a story’ then became part of the story I was / am telling myself, and it’s helped me frame those painful experiences.
For a while though, I was very interested in different techniques to change the stories we tell ourselves:
Then there are things that have nothing to do with writing, like practicing dance move the young kids are doing or belting out Adele, that can help change the energy.
If you’re also using painful experiences for your writing, do you feel exhausted after getting it all down? How do you deal?