Writing the raw

It’s no secret that the best art is born from pain. Writing and creativity gurus, such as Natalie Goldberg encourage us to emotionally cut ourselves and bleed on the page. Goldberg writes:

Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.

But when I read that, all I can think of are the opening lines of Sylvia Plath’s poem Cut:

What a thrill
My thumb instead of an onion.
The top quite gone
Except for a sort of a hinge

Plath’s poem goes on to describe the bleeding thumb as a bottle of pink fizz. For her, the pain is thrilling and makes her feel alive. But revelling in the pain in that way, can actually give you a false high that prevents true healing.

So what if you don’t want to exploit your own wounds? Can you still honour your grief, pain, loss or whatever darkness you’re feeling, through writing? Yes, yes and yes. But I believe that approaching pain square on by living it, breathing it, writing it is sometimes best done in private. You have to use your judgement to decide when to ponder and when to publish (if, at all).

After my mother died I wanted to write something for publication. But it was all too raw. I tried many times and nothing felt right. Seven years later, I managed a blog post, called Fasting into the light. But the darker parts are still unexpressed – publicly, that is. In private, I have reams and reams of writing, which I initially discounted because they hadn’t been published anywhere.

In the last couple of years, I’ve become fascinated by creative writing for therapeutic purposes. And I now realise that all writing – published or otherwise – is therapeutic. Those hours and hours of writing allowed me to chart a new path.

In this day and age of #fulldisclosure and #truestory, not everything has to be for public consumption. Whether you’re a writer or not, the most important work of your life may be the writing that is languishing on your old computer, or stuffed in a drawer. And do you know what? That’s alright. If your art has served its purpose, then it’s a cause for celebration, not shame.

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