When Writing Triggers

IMG_8118There’s something that happens to me sometimes, Something that I haven’t talked about with many other artists or writers, but I am sure I can’t be alone in experiencing.

When writing fast, when creating off the cuff and uncontrolled as we do in deep journal-type writing practice, or in NaNoWriMo, we have to pull from the depths of who we are, dipping into the River Styx of our pasts and coming up with handfuls of memories to water our thirsty minds.

Sometimes, as we write and keep dipping down into these depths, we come up with a grenade. A live memory, a feint taste or vague smell that reminds us – even if we aren’t aware – of something traumatic and deep. Next thing we know, we’re crying or angry or waking away from the keyboard in a fury of unexplained emotion.

Sometimes, our writing triggers us.

And as I write this, in the wake of my own triggered experience, I wonder if this might possibly be the reason for some cases of writers block. It would makes sense – we are beings made to not touch the hot stove a second time, to not walk into the forbidden cave.

It would be so easy to abandon anything that gets too real, too close, too dark.

I’ve been writing furiously to catch up to where I want to be for NaNoWriMo, and for two days blazed from 2,000 to nearly 14,000. Somehow in the process of those words, I touched some forbidden vein or nerve deep in my psyche. It ached and stung, kicking off a cascade of the kinds of anxiety and self loathing that us creatives seem to be so prone too.

I thought, as I sat in a ball on the sofa, that i could understand never going back to the page. If I was not leaving for San Francisco tomorrow morning for The Night of Writing Dangerously, I might have seriously considered quitting the novel I’m working on to retreat to safer, higher grounds. But I want to keep going, and I’ve been here often enough that I know quitting isn’t the best option.

As Rumi said, our wounds are the places where the light enters us. And through the light of these wounds, our stories can heal us if we live through the triggers, live through the internal storms that our deep selves can create. If we can write through the hard times, maybe so can someone benefit from reading them.

No matter what we do, though, we can’t stop or else the darkness inside wins.

We can pause though, take a day away to have a bath or a cry or to just let the emotions die down.

Then, start writing again.

So now, I ask: Have you ever been triggered by your writing?

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2 thoughts on “When Writing Triggers

  1. I haven’t, but I can see that if your writer got busy enough rummaging through mental attics and basements, your editor would fade away. So the writer throws a jagged event or bloody memory up into the air from the depths of a forgotten box – and there it is. Too late for the editor to bustle in and shove it back down. And if you never knew how to deal with it or simply didn’t want to, it would be very angering to have it thrust at you like that. Thanks for the heads up that this can happen – I won’t feel crazy when it does.

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