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  • November 23rd, 2007 | 5:52 PM
Do you feel safe enough to write the truth?

This post is for my friend Melodye, newport2newport  who is working on a really tough writing project right now. In a recent post she discussed how hard it was for her to write about some of the really difficult situations she has to address in the book, going back to less pleasant times in her own past in order to mine the truth and tell the story only she can tell. She wrote of waking up shaking and in tears after getting down the words that ripped at her heart for a second time. She mentioned the need to lean on friends and family members for support and wondered, "Is it fair to ask them to stand here in the fire with me?"

And I say yes, it is more than fair. Those who love us want to help us heal, they want to help us in any way they can and sometimes the best thing they can do is create a safe place from which we can create.

I have many projects like this, stories that will require me to go deep and think about things I'd rather not think about. I wrote a bit about it a few years ago in this post called, Does your writing scare you? I had to put Frankie's project aside because, well, it still scares me too much. I've been in the process of moving posts from my first blog and this seemed like a good time to move this one over. You can click the link to read it all behind the cut.

I am rereading The Writer as an Artist an old book by Pat Schneider which she has revised is now available as Writing Alone and With Others

I tend to reread this whenever I'm about to start on a new project because Schneider knows what writers are afraid of and says it's okay and encourages us to write anyone. She gave me my current mantra.

"You can write as powerfully as you talk. If you are safe enough."

I love that. It rings quite true for me. For years my writing was okay but not really going places and I know it was because I wasn't digging deep enough to write about the stuff that scares me. I couldn't because I didn't feel safe. It's only now, in a wonderful marriage with the best supportive partner I could hope for that I feel safe enough to visit the dark corners of my mind and write what is real, what hurts. Schneider says that if you can talk, any sense you have of not being able to write is a learned disability, scar tissue that "is a result of accumulated unhelpful responses to your writing."

She also says that, "For the writer, fear arises in exact proportion to the treasure that lies beneath the dragon's feet."

So we need to write toward that fear, past, through, over, kicking and screaming if need be but we need to face the fear, claim it, make it ours so it will reveal the treasure that is our writing, the stories we were meant to tell.

The last novel I finished was my most real yet. The raw kind of real that still makes my stomach lurch when I reread certain scenes and still makes me cry at the end. Now I'm gearing up to do it again. I'm glad I feel safe enough to try and write my truth.

For all of you that have painful stories to tell, stories you haven't even considered trying to tell (yet), take a look around the support system you have built for yourself. Find your safe zone. Make a list of all the things or people you need around you in order to feel safe. Maybe you're not there yet and that's okay. You should still make a list of what you need in order to feel safe so you will recognize it when you have it.

In case you didn't get it the first time, I'm going to repeat it. "You can write as powerfully as you talk. If you are safe enough." And once you are safe enough, (note that I did not say that you will feel safe enough because we will never feel safe enough to tell some stories but we will do it anyway) once you have a safe zone, there's only one thing left to do, dance closer to the fire and start to write.

We'll all be here cheering you on.
There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 16 comments — Leave comment )
November 24th, 2007 03:22 am (UTC)
That post is scary as all hell, Su.
November 24th, 2007 04:05 am (UTC)
Ack - I didn't want to be scary. I wanted to offer support. :-(
November 24th, 2007 04:15 am (UTC)
Yes, my WIP is scaring the hell out of me. For one thing it's based very loosely on my own experiences growing up with a bipolar father, who happened to be abusive. I originally wrote this as a memoir and read sections at UCI extension class where I had other writers speechless with what I went through. I even had people question my experiences. So, yes it's hard. But I'm going back to it in January. I feel it's a story that needs to be told.
November 25th, 2007 06:33 pm (UTC)
Yeah for you! It is so important for kids to hear these stories, to know that they are not alone. And it is important for you to tell them because there is a certain part of you (probably not all of you because it is a long process) that will be healed by the experience. I know I felt that way after writing Hugging the Rock.
November 24th, 2007 04:17 am (UTC)
Thank you. I needed this. I was beginning to feel like that, too scared to write the truth.
November 25th, 2007 06:50 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. It IS scary to write the truth and I won't lie to you, the fear doesn't go away in the writing, but getting through to the other side is so empowering it is worth the journey.
November 24th, 2007 04:39 am (UTC)
Thank you. I think I needed to hear that.
November 25th, 2007 06:50 pm (UTC)
You're very welcome.
(Deleted comment)
November 25th, 2007 06:52 pm (UTC)
You're so welcome, Melodye. I'm blessed as well and am thankful if anything I say can help give you the strength to write the story you need so much to write.
November 24th, 2007 01:57 pm (UTC)
more thanks giving
Susan, thank you for your bravery, your honesty, and your willingness to share. It really makes a difference.
November 25th, 2007 07:19 pm (UTC)
Re: more thanks giving
You're so very welcome. The more I share, the easier some parts of it get TO share.
November 25th, 2007 03:31 pm (UTC)
What a wonderful post. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, in terms of how it's so hard to let our characters tell the truth when you know people are going to read your work. It was so much easier when nobody read it but me. Your post makes me want to be brave. Thank you!
November 25th, 2007 07:20 pm (UTC)
I'm glad to hear that my words helped you want to be brave! You're so right though - it was much easier when we were our only readers.
We owe it to our readers but more importantly, we owe it to ourselves to be brave.
(Deleted comment)
November 25th, 2007 07:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
( 16 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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"Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing. They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties."
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"As writers, we must be willing to feel our sadness, our anger, our terror, so we can reach in and find our sweet vulnerability that is just sitting there waiting for us to come back home."
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"Writers write about what obsesses them. You draw those cards. I lost my mother when I was 14. My daughter died at the age of 6. I lost my faith as a Catholic. When I'm writing, the darkness is always there. I go where the pain is."
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