Should we really write so personally?
All these examples of poetry, novels, blogs and plays that are so heavily grounded in a real-life situation, should we really be so open?
With a few important side-notes and a powerful fearlessness, being so honest and open not only heals us, but it has the potential to create real, tangible works of art. Getting it right, however, can be a complicated and frustrating internal war.
For a long, long time I would write these personal and quite blatant poems, but I would never release them. I would never show anyone. The majority of them were deleted, in fact. For years I have been honing my process and getting over the fear of being honest in exchange for good writing and the opportunity to help others. So here are some of my personal tips when it comes to writing the truth:
If it’s sad, let it be sad.
As much as there are slightly odd parts of the community and the world that seem to glorify sadness and mental health issues, there is also no point trying to force happiness where it does not exist. If your writing comes from a place of sadness, let it be but be aware of how it makes you feel. If it plunges you deeper into depression, take a step back. If it releases something that had a hold on you and makes you feel lighter then continue and share it with others.
Create some differences.
Okay, so this is a tip primarily for my fellow novelists and playwrights out there. If you’re creating long-form content that is going to be performed or read at length, create some differences. For the quality of your work and for your own sanity, be wary of writing all the facts. Life is often the best source of inspiration, but rarely the best formula or set of situations for artwork. That’s why it’s so difficult to make things more accurate; not everything works, and not everything should. Think about how difficult writing or performing something will be if you use the exact words that were said or outline an identical situation.
For some context, I’m currently writing the 3rd play for Wilflen Theatre which is called ‘If I’m Being Honest’. It’s about a variety of things, but it is also intensely personal and honest, and so to keep my own sanity and so as not to risk the integrity of the play, I have included subtle differences and slight changes. These can be minor changes to dialogue, or names or actions.
Beware of your audience
This is a big one for me. If you’re writing and writing publicly, you HAVE to be aware of your audience. If you gain some success or reach a high level of readership, you are in part responsible for all these different lives. I currently write across my Instagram @LiamXavier95 and on 3 different websites, (Thought Catalog being the most successful). Not only do you want to create artwork that heals yourself, but you also want to create things that do the same to others. With this, you have audiences that like specific things and most importantly are affected by specific things. When dealing with (like me) mental health, or difficult subjects, it’s important to decide whether you could be putting someone’s life at risk with the content of your work or not. I try to release poetry and plays that are both honest and accurate to the mental health experience, but that don’t potentially trigger my audience or encourage them to follow through with anything. That’s important.
Don’t be afraid, write it and decide after.
This is the best piece of advice I can give for this subject. Just spit it all out and if you decide you hate it after, then great, at least it’s out of your system. If you love it, even better!
Taking that step to just write and write and write and give it an ending is to offer yourself closure you might not already have had. It is a chance to practice writing and get used to dealing with real-life in your writing (It’s not easy) and it keeps your thoughts at bay.
Feel free to ask me any more questions below. Let’s have a discussion! In the meantime, don’t be afraid and get writing!
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” – Louis L’amour.