Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How To Be A Writer.4

Writing Through the Pain

Everyone has experienced pain and heartbreak. Knowing this doesn’t help when it’s happening to you, of course, since we’re not part of a collective. We’re each sort of on our own here, and unfortunately we can’t ease another’s pain just because we’ve been through it. If we could, we would, but everyone has to go through their own pain. This part of being a person really sort of sucks.

I’ve heard people say it makes you stronger, pain and heartbreak, but I don’t know about that. Maybe we were that strong all along and just didn’t know it. People also say that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, and that I will disagree with. I don’t know if there is a God, and if there is a God, handing out just as much pain as you can handle and no more, why are so many people having more pain than they can handle?

Perhaps that last sentence isn’t entirely clear, but I’ve seen many people with more pain than they can handle all the time. Suicides are up, depression and anxiety are up, people are having a hard time coping.

It’s the world right now, and as it ever was. And as it will be.

So how are we supposed to write when the pain is so present that it controls our mind? When we can only think of what we’ve lost, or how everything sucks so bad that there doesn’t seem to be any point to writing anything at all? When we’re so busy asking ourselves why we should continue, how we can write past that to keep going?

For some of us, writing is our passion. It’s what we do. It’s how we define ourselves. (When I’m not defining myself by the size of my jeans, or how much money I made this year, anyway.) We aren’t what we write, but we write because we have to. And sometimes what we need to write isn’t what we choose to write, nor is it anything we want to put our name on.

I have had to write obituaries after watching a body carted out of the house, after watching the loved one die. Stew and my mom both left me behind, dying right in front of me, and then I had to sit down and write the obits. One might think I could have done that before they died; it wasn’t as if their deaths were unexpected, and it’s not as if we couldn’t see it coming, but I couldn’t set it down on paper, or computer, before then. I just couldn’t.

So I sat in front of my laptop and I looked at the blank screen, still not wanting to believe that they had died, and hoping the whole thing was a nightmare.

I’d type out the name and the date. I’d put down key words. I’d think of who they had been, and the joy they’d given while they had been alive. Every word that came out was strained, and every word that made it onto paper was insufficient. But sometimes, if you can get those words out, no matter how insufficient and difficult, you then have something to work with, something you can rewrite and refine. You can have others read it, and comment. And when it’s done you’ll feel like you’ve scaled a mountain. Most likely because you have.

There is no easy way. Not that I’ve found, but if I do find one, I’ll let you know.

It’s not always death; there are many ways for us to be immersed in pain, so many ways for chaos to make itself an omnipotent presence in our lives. And still we have our stories to tell, still we need to force those words out of us and onto paper, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Sometimes it helps if we just write down what we’re feeling, why the chaos is there, and tell yourself, if no one else, about the pain.

This doesn’t mean you’re writing a masterpiece. It may mean you’re writing something you’ll discard later, or you may save it so you can remember, next time, what it was like. It does mean you’re giving voice to the chaos in your mind, whether it’s whispering or screaming (mine likes to talk in a high falsetto, as if it’s mocking me, which it is). For writers, this is a first step in letting it go. Or if not letting it go, because does it ever go all the way away? at least giving it less power over you. That’s what chaos seeks: power. And when it’s inside of you, mixed in with the pain, it has enormous power, and this power is being used for evil instead of good. When you put the words on paper, little bits of evil fall out with the words, and you can brush these little bits onto the floor and then sweep them up and throw them away.

Or have your housekeeper do it.

Keep writing out the pain until you can’t find any more words for it, or until you fall asleep, or until you get hungry, or until you get so sick of it you just want to move on and do something else. You may still have pain, but it will get better.

You may not be able to write past the pain, so you may have to write through it. Don’t let it get the best of you, because we want that part, and chaos has no use for it. Save the best for us, your readers, and let chaos take its pain and crawl into a corner and die, for all we care.

We have no use for it, and neither do you.

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