A writer wrote to me recently with a really great question. She wants to write a story that draws from a difficult chapter in her life, but wonders if the possible closure is worth the tough memories and negative emotions it will stir up.
In her own words:
I have an idea for a story that I would like to write. However, the story draws on my experiences from a rough time in my past, and I anticipate it could be emotionally draining for me to write this story. But I also feel and perhaps hope that writing about this could help me find some closure for some stuff. Do you advise writing a story that would unleash some tough memories and negative emotions if the end product could be a great novel?
Andrews and Thomson see depression as a way of bolstering our feeble analytical skills, making it easier to pay continuous attention to a difficult dilemma. The downcast mood and activation of the VLPFC are part of a “coordinated system” that, Andrews and Thomson say, exists “for the specific purpose of effectively analyzing the complex life problem that triggered the depression.” If depression didn’t exist — if we didn’t react to stress and trauma with endless ruminations — then we would be less likely to solve our predicaments. Wisdom isn’t cheap, and we pay for it with pain.
Writing is a way of channeling and focusing this rumination in the way that organizes your complex thoughts and channels them into order and a narrative. By taking these feelings and forcing them to make sense on the page, we are also identifying, describing, and understanding the things that are causing us pain.
Now, that’s not to say that diving into a dark pool doesn’t have its consequences, and if you feel yourself getting pulled under you absolutely need to reach for a life preserver or get out of the pool.
But I tend to think that this is one of the most important reasons to write. No matter what genre we’re writing in, whether we’re writing raw memoir or wacky kids adventures, we’re ultimately trying to make sense of the world and of ourselves.
Art: La Bohémienne endormie by Henri Rousseau