Over the course of the week, I tackled the hardest section of my book. I wrote about Charlie’s second suicide attempt. In this first draft, though the setting is different, the emotions present are very real. I read through all of the conversations that happened that night and I structured the scenes in a nearly identical way. This scene was excruciating to write.
I started the week by wanting to tackle the scene on Tuesday. It was my goal do the work on Tuesday in order to have it done and out of the way. When I sat down to write though, that isn’t what ended up happening. Instead, I ended up writing a preamble to the scene and setting up the situation more, adding context and emotional weight to the events that happened beforehand. Because I use “pantsing” as my writing style (as in “flying by the seat of one’s pants), the scene became something different than I expected and, in a way, I allowed it to.
When I first started this project, I knew that this scene, the night of the second suicide attempt would be the climax of the book. Emotionally charged and intense, it is clearly the event with the most tension in the story. I went into this project knowing that I would have to write this scene and I wanted to make it as lifelike as I could. As a result of that desire, I hid from the scene.
If I am honest, I didn’t want to go back. I didn’t want to go back into that moment of fear, helplessness, and desperation, where I felt like there was nothing I could do. I didn’t want to face those emotions again, but I’d put myself in a situation where I knew that I had to and I wanted to do the scene justice.
I was able to put off writing the scene until Wednesday. On Wednesday, I knew that I had to write it or that I never would. I had to face my fears and do what I had set out to do from the very beginning. In a sense, this was my moment to be brave. So I pulled all my information together, and I sat down and I wrote it.
Going back in was different than I expected. It was visceral and real and I felt the same adrenaline and emotional unease as I did then, but those emotions and that energy were no longer being expressed via my body (i.e. I was no longer trembling or pacing in order to expend nervous energy). The fear was still there but it wasn’t as forceful as it had been then, maybe because I knew it was no longer needed. It was a calmer and slightly more detached experience but some things were still very much real and as compelling as the night they happened.
None of this is the point of this blog though. What I want to focus on here is the time that it took me to write this excerpt. Usually, during a work day, I start somewhere in the afternoon. On Wednesday I pushed writing time until late evening, filling the time with anything from reading to watching videos on the internet to staring out the window. I simply could not muster the courage needed to go back into this terror and the panic of having to was really getting to me.
My stress came to a climax and I needed to get it out. I messaged a few friends and spilled my beans to them, seeking sympathy or understanding. My friends did respond but there was nothing that assuaged the stress. I tried to dance my stress away, but it was not a fruitful exercise. Throwing toys for my dog also proved ineffective. In the end, all I could do was I pull out my journal and I express my terror. I wrote about how I simply didn’t want to go back and face it all again. I admitted that I was afraid of the pain and the imminent feeling of loss that surrounded that night. I allowed myself to be afraid and to exist in that moment of fear. And after that, I was able to write it.
One thing that writers, as a group, tend to do is push themselves hard. We set up these goals for ourselves and drive ourselves to accomplish them, whether we are ready to achieve them or not. To some extent, this is good. It’s good to have deadlines and to strive and to set goals for yourself, healthy even. But one thing I wish to express to my fellow writers out there is the need for patience with yourself. If there is something hard that you know you need to write, it’s okay to allow yourself to admit what you are feeling about that scene. It’s okay to take the time you need before you can step into a place where you can write it. Don’t allow yourself to run from it, but take the time you need to prepare for it because that time is important. When you are writing something hard or even deeply personal, it’s okay to take the time you need to process it before you write it. Don’t force yourself into something that you are not ready for.
I signed up for this project knowing that this would be my end goal. I knew that it would be hard and it was, but writing something hard isn’t the end of the story. We move past our hardest moments on to something new. Writing isn’t always easy, most times it isn’t, but if you are writing something that you experienced in a very painful way, it’s okay to be gentle with yourself about it. Patience is important in any project, and when writing something that is personally very difficult, it is more than alright to be patient with yourself. Take the time you need.
I come through this week victorious. Thank you for coming along with me.
May we continue on together; unto dawn.