WHY YOU HAVE TO WRITE THE HARD STUFF

I wrote this post a while back as a guest spot on the Antithesis blog tour. Now, more than ever, I think it’s important to remind myself why I write. Plus, it’s a good post. It’s over a year later and it’s still relevant. I spent the afternoon Googling myself, and this is what I came up with. Won’t go into detail, the post speaks for itself. Enjoy!

WHY DO YOU HAVE TO WRITE THE HARD STUFF?

Originally appeared at: YA Midnight Reads

It’s an ongoing fear of mine. I’m standing in front of a crowd holding a novel—I’ve just done a reading and now hands shoot into the air. They have questions—questions about my story that I don’t want to answer.

They want to know which character I am.

They want to know which horrible thing happened to me.

I want you to close your eyes and think back on your favorite books. I can list mine off the top of my head. The Fault in our Stars by John Green. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. The list goes on and on—now you’re trying to figure out what these books have in common. All of them deal with hard issues—and the best fiction does.

When I finished The Fault in our Stars, I thought I’d never be the same. My heart was torn out and stomped into nothing. It made me think. It made me appreciate. I cried for days. There were moments of sheer brilliance in that book, some of them quiet and beautiful, others loud and energetic. All of them heartbreaking. All of them.

Clockwork Princess. You’re wondering why this is on my list. Didn’t it have a happy ending? Yes. It had a very happy ending, but it explored things that are so important to me. Cassie has a way of portraying friendships between males that you don’t see in fiction. Beautiful love for one another that would be scorned in the real world. It makes me hopeful. It makes me cry. It makes me want to be a better writer.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Where to begin with how epic this novel is? It explores drugs. Suicide. Self-harm. Homophobia. Discrimination. Molestation. Sex. First love. The bittersweet taste of hope and second chances.

Writing is not a dissociative process. I find myself steeped in my stories. I cry when I write. I laugh. I let go. (And sometimes I just write for fun—I mean, we can’t be angst filled all the time.)

So often authors are afraid to step outside their comfort zone. There’s a scene coming up in my current work in progress where a girl finds her father after he’s killed himself. I initially wrote this story a long time ago—back before life turned me upside down. To tell you the truth, I’ve delayed rewriting this story because of that one scene. I picture it in my head and I’m terrified. I know exactly how it looks—how it smells. I know the sound her hands make in the blood. I know that she will never be the same. I know that she will always ask what if?

And then I cry.

For so long I told myself that I couldn’t do it. I had to let the story go because I couldn’t bring myself to write this scene that had become so close to me.

Now I’m looking forward to it. That sounds macabre, I know, but it’s not for the reason you think. The suicide, the horror, it’s something that I need to let go of, and when I put it on paper, I’m releasing it into the world. And if I share it with thousands of people, maybe each of them will take a tiny piece of the burden.

I know I have to write it—and I know it will hurt.

There are authors who refuse to write about rape or drugs or teenage sex or death. They skirt reality as if it doesn’t exist. But if we lie in our writing—if we pretend that real issues aren’t there—what are we really accomplishing? Lying in writing is lying to yourself. If you aren’t emotionally involved, you’re doing it wrong.

Sometimes writing a scene is so hard that I have to walk away.

You have to write the hard stuff. You have to face the fear of the unknown—that’s where the good is, that’s where the things you say will affect people. If your writing starts to scare you—if you find yourself questioning your sanity and wondering how you found these awful things inside of you—you’ve found where you need to be. Write. Let it out. Feel lucky that you have an outlet.

My words are like scars. I see them and I remember. Sometimes they still hurt. Sometimes I see them and I smile, because at least I had the courage to show them to you.

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2 thoughts on “WHY YOU HAVE TO WRITE THE HARD STUFF

  1. “If your writing starts to scare you—if you find yourself questioning your sanity and wondering how you found these awful things inside of you—you’ve found where you need to be.”

    Wonderful. I have been exactly here. I have completed a piece and wondered what people would think about me once it is out in the world. I try to make a practice of pushing through it, but it’s hard. It’s much harder come publication time when I wish I could take it all back, delete all of the difficult scenes. But that would harm my creation, so I pull myself back.

    Thank you for reminding me that we are never alone in any part of this writing journey. We have all experienced these moments where we question ourselves.

    • Yes! We aren’t alone. And sometimes, even though the readers (and reviewers) don’t really understand what we went through, our other authors will. It’s hard to write a story, and even if the writing’s not great, or the plot isn’t as squeaky clean as it could be, we’ve accomplished something…fought for it…struggled through the hardest parts. And that deserves to be celebrated.

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