I have been thinking about how we as authors and artists use our life experiences to fuel our works–specifically in writing with or through our pain, both physical and emotional. I have been working on a middle grade novel based off of my life experiences with a dear friend getting killed during combat. I wish I could tell you that it has been easy pouring my feelings onto the page, but it hasn’t.
When I first started writing this novel, I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be telling this story. Why is it my place to tell others how to feel. HOW can I tell characters how to feel if I wasn’t sure myself? I had so many people telling me that if I just cried it out or wrote it down that I would feel better. They were mostly wrong.
I finished my first draft of this novel almost 4 years to the day from my friend being KIA. I have written hate letters, horrible scenes where the kids have tantrums and ask God why, and I have written scenes where they all go into shock and not one of them can think of anything to say. I don’t know what is right, or if anyone can ever tell another person how to grieve. But I do know that the day I finished my first draft I felt a little weight shed from my heart.
Writing through the pain has been one of the hardest things to do in my life. I cry. I get angry. I cry some more and then try to get all those raw feelings on the page.
On top of my regular flavored depression, I got postpartum depression. I couldn’t read or write, or even care about any of that. I knew that I was destined to be a failure from the beginning, so why should I put any work into something that is going to be a failure. This time, my writing group helped save me. Find a writing group and hold on to their presence for dear life. If I didn’t have them telling me what I was writing was worth the struggle, I never would have finished.
In a world such as ours, feelings are important. It is important to me as an artist to feel the emotions that I am having. I need to write to get them onto paper or they spin around in my head like a plastic bag on a windy day. Is everything that I write gold? No, but I can work with shit and polish it up to look real nice. I like to use doing laundry as a metaphor about the writing process. I don’t mind doing the washing and drying, but damn if I have to like the folding or putting away of things. Some people enjoy the editing, and for this book I have found some scenes are way harder than others to revisit. Do I want to relive this day over to really make this scene work? No, but I will so that I am being as authentic as I can for my readers.
I write through the pain so that my friend will always be remembered, not just in my son’s name, but between the pages of the novel I hope to publish someday.
I write through the pain, not because I’m a masochist, but because I want to prevent others from feeling as lost and alone as I did.
I’m Nikki. I graduated in January of 2015 from Hamline. Undergrad in 2012 from Youngstown State University in Professional Writing and Editing. On the YSU English Festival Committee, working on my novels and a random picture book, and always trying to make the house not smell with a husband, two boys, and two male dogs.