Much like I described in a previous post about the need to write what you love, I find that what haunts us has an equal pull on the motivations of most writers. Writing is considered cathartic to some, even therapy to others. I had been thinking about this subject for some time (apparently the entire few months between my last post and this one) when my mom sent me this great NYT article: Writing About What Haunts Us
(Why did she send me this article? What is the unfortunate childhood sin for which my mother wants me to admit my guilt? I didn’t steal any of my father’s gloves. Okay, Mom, if you’re reading this I’m just kidding, of course. There was that matter of suffocating our gerbils when I was three years old… Yes, my siblings, I was THREE!)
As I mentioned above, I had been ruminating on this subject for at least a few weeks–haunted, right?–thinking about how it applies to my writing. I realized there are certain themes in my life I have a hard time letting go, so I write about them. They haunt me in a sense, but I find the subjects enjoyable during the process of writing. It’s not that I obsess about these themes; if anything, they don’t seem to let me go. I’m moving on with life but they don’t, apparently. I’ve come to understand that they are powerful memories and emotions experienced in the past that don’t just go away without talking about them or writing about them. Heck, it is cathartic…and fun.
I naturally gravitate to writing YA stories. The teen years are replete with angst and romance, eh? How often have we read about a middle-school kid who moves to a new town where he has no friends? (That happened to me.) How often have we read about pain of a close relative dying? (That happened to me too.) How about the boy who just can’t seem to get a date in high school? (Umm…that wasn’t me.) And how often have we read about the crippling fears of a story’s protagonist? These examples are all too common, and in many cases, cliché when it comes to storytelling. But it’s interesting, it gives writing a depth of emotions, and we relate to it.
I’ll be your therapist: Write what doesn’t feel good. Write from your pain. You might feel better.