Pain is defined as acute physical, mental or emotional distress or suffering, and it’s something each of us experiences. It’s universal. We all have the aches and pains of sore backs and joints that have supported us for a lifetime, the all-too-often hurts of unkind words and thoughtless acts, and many bear the invisible scars of pain inflicted at the hands of those we loved and trusted.
We all have pain in our lives, but why the heck should we give our pain that much more attention by writing about it? I think there are a number of good reasons to go where the pain is. Here are a few:
- Provides healing – For ten years, I did not write, and those years were pretty bleak times. When I finally picked up my pen again, everything I wrote was painful—deep hurts and losses that I hated thinking about much less committing to paper. I thought the depressing stories would never end, but they did, and writing through the pain freed me up to remember and record the happier moments of my life. Fashioning those words and sentences helped me to work through the pain and no longer be at the mercy of it.
- Helps us to learn about ourselves – There have been many times in my life when I didn’t understand what was happening; I couldn’t make sense of the why behind an experience. As I detailed the incident, I became aware of what I contributed to the situation, how I might have done it differently and what may have been behind the choices I made. Mentally, I could not reach those conclusions. I had to see it on paper in front of me to understand. I write to inform and educate myself as well as my readers.
- Power in the pain – Pain is an unpleasant emotion. It’s raw; it makes us feel bad, and we tend to avoid it whenever possible. Try the opposite in your writing. Instead of ignoring or sidestepping the painful moments of your life, reach out for them on the page. Harness them and use the energy of the pain to fuel your writing. Write from your gut and let the pain pour from your pen in whatever form it takes. Tears may flow. Write anyway.
American novelist and screenwriter John Gregory Dunne said, “What a writer brings to the story is an attitude, an attitude usually defined by the wound stripes of life.” What are the wound stripes you can write about today? What painful experiences are you willing to meet on the page?