Writing Through the Heartache

Laura Freymiller - Pyragraph
Photo by Melissa Glassman.

There is a common misconception that to be a good writer, you must be suffering. Although personal struggle certainly grants writers better insight into the beating heart of humanity, I am much more on the side of Gabriel Garcia Marquez who once said in an interview for the Paris Review:

“To be a good writer you have to be absolutely lucid at every moment of writing, and in good health. I’m very much against the romantic concept of writing which maintains that the act of writing is a sacrifice, and that the worse the economic conditions or the emotional state, the better the writing. I think you have to be in a very good emotional and physical state.”

This proved extremely true for me recently. But it is also the case that sometimes writing can also be the path to this “good emotional and physical state.”

Most of my adult life, at least from the age 17 on, I have been playing the exciting game of depression vs. expression. It is a game that goes something like this: Laura is writing, Laura is creating, Laura is happy; then! Depression sneakily hits! Hello new and exciting brain chemicals and mood swings! Hello return of suicidal ideation! Goodbye productivity!

This is especially the case when my romantic life goes to shambles.

My boyfriend broke up with me last October, and it hit me hard. Before the breakup I was writing at a furious rate, producing short stories and blog posts as if my hands were on fire.

This was the first step: simply writing again.

Post-breakup saw a dry spell the likes of which I hadn’t seen in a while. What good was writing when I couldn’t even get out of bed? What was the point of a story if I couldn’t share it with him? Never mind submitting things anywhere.

That’s when I was thankful that I’d fallen into the habit of writing daily. I’ve been writing at least three pages a day for the past two years, and I think it’s safe to say if I hadn’t I’d be dead by now.

I get so used to writing that I sometimes find it difficult to sleep without writing at least a few crappy paragraphs. What did I eat today? What did I wear today? What did a customer say to me that struck me as funny? And with these few sentences my brain sometimes manages to spark.

This was the first step: simply writing again.

The second was more difficult and more painful: taking what I had learned and experienced in my recent relationship and finding a way to turn it into fiction. I was determined to use the memories, the details so familiar and tender, and transform them into something public.

It was writing as a form of grieving, but more than that, writing that could say something universal about the process of grieving. Writing that could throw out a lifeline to those drowning in the same tides.

So I wrote about him. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The feeling of rejection that shook me to my core both for its familiarity and its strangeness. The beauty mark just below his eye. The way he picked at the nail of his middle finger. These things took on new meaning and through the fictionalization I was able to gain distance.

What am I trying to say? That writing can be a form of solace, but in order to be art it should bring the personal to the level of the universal. This is their power, adding meaning to an otherwise semi-meaningless event.

People get broken up with every day, but if we can find a kernel of the powerful within our individual experience, then we gain so much more. Keep writing even through the heartbreak.

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