Have you ever heard these words of advice: write from the scar, not the wound? For me, writing has always been a primary tool for healing, so the advice to wait to write about pain doesn’t make sense. Writers do ask me, though, how they’ll know when they’re ready to write their story about grief – and on that topic, I do have some thoughts!
Today I want to talk about recognizing your own readiness when writing into raw, vulnerable material.
Watch The Video Here
In ‘How To Know If You’re Ready To Write About Grief + Loss’, You’ll learn:
- Questions writers ask about preparing to write about grief and loss + answers
- The one thing I’ve learned by trying to write into a difficult story before I was ready.
- How to make your audience feel something.
- The two signs of readiness when writers have a vulnerable story to tell.
- A few suggestions for you before you start a hard story.
- Having a place to process the process.
- Self-care tips while writing about grief and loss.
- The MOST IMPORTANT thing to remember when writing about grief + loss.
- The Heart Does Break: Canadian Writers on Grief and Mourning edited by George Bowering and Jean Baird
Your key takeaways from ‘‘How To Know If You’re Ready To Write About Grief + Loss’’.
Today I want to talk about recognizing your own readiness when writing into raw, vulnerable material. Have you ever wondered about the right time to write about loss?
Let me know in the comments if this question has held you back from writing your stories.
Writers sometimes ask me:
How much temporal distance do I need to write my story?
How much time should pass so I can avoid re-triggering grief?
Although these questions suggest there’s a right answer for everyone – just like the advice that suggests you should only write once you’ve healed – I think the answers really depend on a writer’s own sense of readiness.
Often writers I work with are carrying stories they’ve wanted to tell for years – even decades. They both want and don’t want to write their story. They aren’t sure where or how to begin, or they feel overwhelmed by the idea of re-living their story.
For many, their experience of loss is so profound and such an important part of their life story, they fear any attempt to shape it on the page will fall short.
If you’ve felt this way, too, let me know by typing an all caps YES in the comments.
Here’s one thing I’ve learned by trying to write into a difficult story before I was ready.
If you want your audience to feel something, you have to be prepared to feel something too. It may not be possible to avoid triggering emotions when writing into vulnerable material. But taking care of yourself, and ensuring you have support to deal with big feelings that surface in the writing, is within your control.
I think there are two signs of readiness when writers have a vulnerable story to tell.
The first is feeling a persistent nudge to write about an event or experience. If you have a story you can’t seem to shake, that’s the first clue.
The second sign of readiness is the self-care piece – emotional preparation for what may come up in the writing.
From experience, I know it may not be possible to avoid re-triggering emotions when writing into vulnerable material. That’s why I’m a strong believer in self-care, and encourage writers to make sure they have the support they need before setting out to write about trauma.
Here are a few suggestions for you before you start a hard story:
The first is to let your loved ones know what you’re up to so you have people in your life who can check in on you and ask you how it’s going, they know what you’re working on and they can support you.
The second is to check in with a grief professional. I think this is always a good idea when you are bringing yourself back into a difficult period of your life, remembering events that were disturbing or a source of pain and struggle at the time. Take the time to find a professional that you can have a conversation with and who can be a resource for you while you’re in the writing process just in case you need extra support.
Another idea is keeping a processing journal. This is the place where you write about your writing apart from the story draft itself. It’s a special place where you can write about the thoughts, emotions, feelings, insights, questions that come up while you’re in the writing process completely apart from the story you’re drafting. This is your place to process the process.
Remember to take breaks and be gentle with yourself.
- Do something nice for yourself after a hard writing session.
- Make a plan for how you’re going to treat yourself after you’re going to get through a writing session.
I think this might be the most important one: remember that if the cost of writing the story is too high you don’t have to do it right now or ever if it’s too hard for you. Be kind to yourself. Take care of yourself.
I hope that these tips help, and thank you so much for joining me in this video. I hope I’ll see you in another video soon.