Writing about heartbreak is supposed to be the writer’s forte. It’s something most people just expect. Writers have the unique ability to turn a heart-smashing, psyche-damaging event into something beautiful and moving. Right?
Well, maybe. But we’re also human, so we have to go through that heart-smashing, psyche-damaging event just as much as the next person. We have to get through the days where we can’t get out of bed, where we can’t listen to the radio because a specific song might remind us of someone or something…basically, a writer’s time frame of emotional healing is not superhuman. Perhaps we notice tiny details and jot them down so we can remember them later, but writing about the heartbreak while it’s still fresh is probably not something even the greatest Writers can manage.
Because, imagine it. Imagine trying to take something that feels so one-sided, so close to you, and putting it down on paper objectively. It wouldn’t be possible. The small injustices would still be crawling underneath your skin, blinding you to how things really went down.
The question then becomes, when is it okay to write about heartbreak? When is it okay to turn our deepest tragedy (or even a minor one) into our greatest work?
Is it time to write about the story when, as one writer puts it, “you don’t need to tell it anymore“? When the emotional pull of the events no longer control you or compel you to blurt them out to complete strangers at a party? Tackling something so large and trying to wrestle it onto the page is hard enough, imagine doing it while you’re still undecided about how you feel?
Even Joan Didion, who wrote one of the most beautiful books (in my small opinion) about one of the biggest life tragedies one can ever face, had to take time between the sadness and the writing. Didion’s tragedy may be the kind that never truly leaves the nervous system, but even she knew that waiting until it settled, just a little, was the right thing to do.
When heartbreak no longer “defines who you are,” it’s time to write about it. Until then, you’ll probably never be able to retell the events in a way that’s fair, because your emotions will be the things that push your fingers on the keys, forcing your creativity to take a back seat to pain.
[Via The Rumpus]