Writing about what makes you weep

by Kristin on August 17, 2012

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Yesterday afternoon, as the sky turned dark as night and the rain poured down in sheets, I wrote a post for today. But on this sunny morning, it felt too depressing to publish—especially on a Friday, right on the heels of another sappy post.

It’s just been that kind of week, I guess. The other night, after spilling (or should I say spewing?) my guts out to my husband, detailing every little thing that is breaking my heart these days, I shared this revelation on Facebook:

As a writer, I finally realized something: I have to write about the things that make me weep. I don’t want to, but I will be stuck until I do.

The next morning, after several hours of restorative sleep and a strong cup of coffee, I added this:

And in case you’re worried, I will also keep writing about things that don’t make me weep! It’s just time to stop avoiding the hard stuff.

I mean, really? Who wants to read a blog that’s devoted to weepy matters? The world offers plenty of heartbreaking material on its own!

But that’s just the problem, isn’t it? No matter how funny, witty, and optimistic I long to be, the world gives us what it gives us. I am who I am, and, silver linings aside, there’s only so much I can control about the way I respond to the world around me.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about writing, it’s this: I have to write about the things that matter most to me, whether they fill me up with joy, weigh me down with sadness, or knock me about with confusion. If I write just to be funny, or just to get in on the latest, hottest issue, I am wasting my time (and yours).

Because ultimately, it isn’t a certain topic or genre that makes something we read resonate deeply with us; it’s the writer’s heart. If the writer hasn’t poured her heart into what she’s written, it may be interesting, but it won’t move beyond interesting to moving. No clever word-smithing can accomplish what the writer’s heart is capable of: the transference of joy, sorrow, compassion or hope—raw ingredients with the potential of creating something new in the heart of the reader.

Sure, we all enjoy carefree, happy days filled with friends and posts that make us laugh, but I’m starting to accept that those aren’t the days that move me forward, into a new place. They just give me some respite, right where I am. I need that respite today, but I just can’t build a blog—or a life—around it.

Do you ever wish you could respond to your life in a different way? How do you come to terms with the “material” and heart  you’ve been given?

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  • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com bethany

    A friend recommended I read this post and I’m so glad she did. This is EXACTLY what she and I were discussing a few evenings ago, and exactly what I’ve been wrestling with in the months since my mother died. I’ve felt all clammed up in my writing, especially on my blog, because I’ve been afraid of letting my grief overwhelm my life and my work and my readers. Thank you for being honest – it is helping me be honest, too.

  • Pingback: Inspired By. | Bethany Suckrow

  • http://themchadley.wordpress.com Michael H

    This is very true. I’m only 24 and I’ve just found a love of writing over the past 2 1/2-3 years and I worry so much about what I write about. I want to always be positive and insightful and funny and deep, and the list could go on. But sometimes we just have to write about what we’re feeling. Which is very hard, we must be vulnerable. I’ve just realized lately that my writing, while sincere, has probably been for recognition. Which would explain why I haven’t gotten anything at all except friends reading. When you’re a christian and you write, you write not for yourself, or for your friends, or for your audience. You write for God, His glory shown in your life and put down on the page. Thank you for perfect timing in this one!

  • http://Www.orangeshirtguy.com Dave

    Top 5 list of the most memorable items of the recent past – the good things get the front of the alphabet and when the not-so-good enter my brain, the are listed with the end of the alphabet. A normal day’s journal might then be a, b, c, z, e, y g, h.

  • Debbie Grace

    Yes. Thank you.

    Dancing around the hard stuff just keeps me stuck (and frozen?). Sure, sometimes I do need to do a little dancing because I’m just not ready to go there quite yet. In those moments, my invitation becomes can I just be with myself, as best I can, in those places too? It’s been several weeks of that for me lately and it’s not been easy or ease-y. But when I do (and can) stop dancing and start writing? For me, too, *that’s* when the touching, aching beauty comes spilling forth.

    Thank you, again, for your wisdom.

  • http://rawfaithrealworld.wordpress.com/ Linda B.

    I think it’s important to write what’s really on our hearts. I love reading about the ups and downs in people’s lives. I know for me that everything makes it to my private journal and part of it makes it to my blog. Sometimes I find I’m more ready to post about something that is painful after a little time has gone by.

  • http://www.jenwritesstuff.com Jen

    So true! I struggle with this a lot too. When my aunt died a couple months ago, I wrote a raw, unedited post on my blog around 1am, published it, and worried. I worried about over-sharing, bringing people down with my sadness, or worse, appearing to plea for attention and pity. But it was healing to write it, and I was so grateful for the love and understanding in the responses.

    And I go through this struggle every time I get really vulnerable in my writing. Part of me knows what I’m saying could resonate and be grace to another person, and the other part is battling fear and insecurity, the worry that I am, to quote another writer I know, “bleeding on everyone.”

    And yet, this is the writing I’m most drawn to: vulnerable, real, hopeful. You have to write about what moves you to tears. I’d rather see whole hearts than pretty words and another blogger’s “how-to” list. I am learning to navigate this tension too. So grateful for this, Kristin. Be you and be honest!

  • Jen

    Oh. Yes. I am so transparent, my mom who lives 1k miles from me, knows when I’m seeing all the weepy parts. I stop writing, calling and texting. She is wise; she doesn’t push or cajole. She says, “haven’t heard from you.” it’s like code for, “I love you and want to hear all of it, even the hurty parts.”

    This, too. Sometimes it’s okay to hide from it. For a little while. But it’s still there. And when we’re ready to say it or write it, or acknowledge it, people don’t usually run. They usually respond with empathy. More to say, but, only this: please keep writing it all.

  • http://www.beingabranch.com Erin

    Yes yes yes. Sometimes I write and write and nothing feels right, and then when I write what is really on my heart, no matter how painful and tough, I instantly feel like I can breathe again.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    bethany, this is SO understandable: “I’ve felt all clammed up in my writing, especially on my blog, because I’ve been afraid of letting my grief overwhelm my life and my work and my readers.” It makes perfect sense—I’m glad you’re being honest with yourself about it! And maybe you aren’t ready to write about this experience yet. That’s OK, too, as long as you’re being honest about that. My painful experiences are different than yours, but I didn’t even start my blog until four years after my divorce, and I’m still figuring out how to write about it. Remember to give yourself lots of grace.

    Michael H, yes! I think anyone who writes for any kind of audience feels like this: “I want to always be positive and insightful and funny and deep…” It’s just not possible, though! I think you’ve nailed it with this perceptive point: “I’ve just realized lately that my writing, while sincere, has probably been for recognition.” It seems like you’re on your way to a new level of writing. Blessings!

    Dave, you’re being too meta for me! I think maybe what you’re saying is that we have to go with the flow, even if it feels less than smooth and orderly?

    Debbie Grace, I like how you put that—”dancing around the hard stuff.” That’s what I often find myself doing, not completely avoiding the hard stuff, but just trying to present it all neat and tidy, then move on. The problem is, the “moving on” doesn’t really happen in that scenario! You’re very wise to just be with yourself in those moments, letting the truth spill out when you’re ready.

    Linda B., it’s good to rejoice and mourn with others, isn’t it? We all end up feeling less alone when we’re vulnerable enough to let that happen.

    Jen, oh yes, I know this tension well: “Part of me knows what I’m saying could resonate and be grace to another person, and the other part is battling fear and insecurity, the worry that I am, to quote another writer I know, ‘bleeding on everyone.’” I’m so glad you’re working through this struggle. It helps us all.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    Jen, but of course you’re transparent when it comes to your mom. :) We’re all running/hiding from all kinds of junk, which is probably why we tend to get uncomfortable when people get real. It’s so much easier to rave about funny/witty/sassy blogs. But you’re right—when the time comes to get it out, the right audience will be there to embrace it.

    Erin, oh, I can so relate to this: “Sometimes I write and write and nothing feels right.” Occasionally when I struggle with my writing I’m trying to figure out the right way to get to the heart of something difficult, but more often if I’m struggling it’s a sign that I’m trying to take the false, easy way out.