Writers are encouraged to write what they know. Write from life experiences. But some experiences need to ruminate for years in the subconscious mind before they see the printed page. Others never become a subject of an article or the character in a novel. Those parts of life are too painful.
Right now I am in that season of watching my parents decline. My father’s Alzheimer’s is taking him away from his family by degrees every day. I can’t even journal my feelings. It is too hard to think about. My sister and I are working toward placing my dad in assisted living. The stress of all this drama has brought lots of confusion, anxiety and anger into my mother’s life. Another burden for us to bear. More heartbreak.
These emotions color some of the characters in my latest novel, but even that is but a shadow of the full blown emotional ride I’m experiencing this time in my life. Balancing time for grandchildren, work and writing is challenging enough. For me, focusing my writing on my present struggles would push me right over the insanity hill into depression. Writing about imaginary characters struggling with different issues is a relief. Writing movie or book reviews, devotions and these blog posts are therapeutic. It takes my mind to a different place. When I return to my real life I am more able to cope.
Someday I will probably chronicle my journey as an elder caregiver. Someday I’ll have words of wisdom to dispense that will help my readers cope. I might even create a heroine who walks through these same experiences. Or a hero who is losing his reality. But not today, not this week, this month, this year.
When I’ve absorbed all the pain and gained the knowledge God has for me through this trial, then I will have a complete message to share. A story with believable details. Something that can heal hearts others can relate to. Until then, I harbor no guilt sheltering my feelings.
Timing is key
I write this post to encourage other writers. It’s ok if you don’t write about everything going on in your life. The hard things can remain private. You are not a reality show participant that needs to embarrass yourself to build a platform for readership. As you grow your fan base and share your life with your readers, it’s like any other friendship—you reveal more to some people than others. Fans and readers fall in that acquaintance category, and until and unless God directs you to write about any particular trial, you can keep it to yourself.
I know of writers who are going through divorces, lost loved ones, loss of their homes and horrendous health issues. Yet they write about everything else and save their immediate trials for their close circle of friends.
Raw emotions injure
Raw emotions are never good fuel for writers. They’re like green wood in a fireplace. They spark and pop while burning, causing injury to those nearest the fire. It creates too much smoke and preserves the pain longer. If you must write while it’s raw, get it all out on paper. Every awful thing you are thinking and feeling. Then DO NOT publish it. File it away to look at when you are in a better frame of mind. I’ve heard of writers destroying their careers by spewing raw feelings in a blog. Wait until enough time has passed so objectivity can rule your opinion. Then shift through your words for those gems of truth. Trash the rest of it. If you are honest, there may not be any gems, only condemning stones.
Writers control their world
Your writer’s life is your own. So, when someone says “You should write a book about that.” Put on your non-committal expression and change the subject. Only you will know when the time is right. Then your words will accomplish exactly what you intended.
What do you do with all the trials going on in your world as you pursue writing? When do you know its time to write about it for publication.
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