As writers, we are often told to "write what we know". To write what you know if to bring a certain level of knowledge to the subject, a sensitivity and awareness that may not be there for a topic we haven't yet experienced. But the simple truth is that sometimes this popular axiom is not as easy to put into practice. Often, the choice to write about a personal experience can be too painful for anyone to get the proper perspective or distance in order to write whatever that is... and do it well.
It wasn't long after my mother's death that a fellow writer friend told me that I should write about the experiences of dealing with my relationship with my mum and her eventual passing from colon cancer. I tried to write the story. I truly did. But I couldn't come close to capturing the pieces that were laying around me like puzzle pieces waiting to be put together. Even now, eight years later, I'm not able to write about those last three months of her life. I'm too close to it. Too emotional. I lose myself and my voice when I write about it and become someone else.
There are those writers out there who can write about their lives and experiences and do it well. Look at Eat, Pray, Love and you'll see a fine example of a woman who is able to transform her choices onto the page and transfix an audience in the process. There is a fierceness that happens with certain life experiences that allows us to be able to share and captivate others with the story. Maybe that is the key... that fierceness.
And then there is the vulnerability. To truly search your soul and put it on paper is to be put a piece of yourself onto the paper for others to see, love, hate and often criticise. That's not always the easiest prospect. To put it out there is like offering your child up for others to pick into pieces. Our natural instincts are to protect our children, ourselves and our creations with a guarded heart. Quite the opposite of what is needed.
I recently took part in a workshop where we talked about recurring themes in our lives. The issues that we continue to work on and deal with again and again. Mine is grief. It as suggested to me that I write down my journey dealing with grief. A task I've taken to heart. There is a very real possibility that this book will neither be completed, or ever seen by anyone, save myself. But isn't the journey worth it? Shouldn't writing, whether seen by others or not, be something that stretches our soul, shakes our core and offers us a mirror in which to see the deepest part of ourselves?
So, what is your journey?
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