If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it. ~Anais Nin
Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. ~Gene Fowler
Deep writing is a courageous act.
When we read a book that articulates something we hardly dare to admit to ourselves, let alone to another person, we make a connection; we are given a reprieve from our shame and our solitude. This is a precious gift.
In order to write work that moves readers, we must be courageous on the paper, writing the things we fear to say. We can use fiction and metaphor to protect ourselves partially, but unless we find a way to write those feared depths of our lived experiences, our work will remain shallow and will not touch the depths of our readers.
We must write fearward, into the heart of what troubles us.
Sharon Overend, a writer I met through the Writer’s Community of Durham Region, wrote about struggling with this as she works on her novel:
Anne, I thought, I’m afraid of Anne. After all, she’s living every parent’s worst nightmare—her kid is sick and the family aren’t handling it well.
We aren’t meshing because as her world falls apart, so must I, but I’m not, I’m not letting myself fall apart (figuratively of course).
…Anne scares the bejesus out of me, but I owe it to my readers (and to myself) to push my fears aside and write Anne’s true story.
At the end of her post, Sharon shares an exercise that helped her get closer to her character’s feeling.Copy a strong line from your existing prose onto a clean piece of paper. With that sentence as your guiding light, start writing everything you see, hear, smell, FEEL around that sentence. Keep your hand moving for fifteen minutes.
It is a good exercise, and I used it this week to help me get closer to some truths I need to write as part of my contribution to An Intense Life. Christine Fonseca has asked each of the contributors to the blog to write a letter to our teenage self about growing up gifted. I have been struggling with this letter because writing it honestly is forcing me to face the worst experiences of my life and the short-comings of well-intentioned people who love me deeply.
These issues from my teen years are the reason that I started writing my current novel. My fear of facing them is the cause of the biggest weaknesses in the novel. It is time for me to write into the hard places of my life and bleed all over the page. And I am scared.
Do you have tips, tricks, exercises, etc. that you use to help you work through your fears. Please leave them in the comments. I need all the help I can get.