Using Fear To Write

Here’s an interesting take on “writing what you know.” In the June 11, 2013 issue of The New York Times, author Sarah Jio writes about how one night of abject terror helps her to write about fear. For the first time, in this essay, she writes about that night and goes on to explain how the memory of the terror she felt helps her write about fear that occurs in other contexts.

During most of my writing life, I’ve been given the same advice–“Write what you know”–albeit with a twist now and then–“Write what you want to know.” Jio’s essay now gives me another way to think about writing. I was starting to wonder why the theme of loneliness runs through so much of my writing. It’s an existential loneliness born out of people growing apart or never really being together in the first place. It’s a loneliness that comes from never feeling you belong, no matter your DNA, no matter the size of your family, no matter how many friends you have on Facebook. It’s a loneliness I’ve sensed in other people, sensed to the point where I would want to weep for them. It’s a loneliness that I’ve felt as a child and again as an adult. It’s acute, it’s chronic, it may never fully leave me and it can at times be terrifying.

Like Jio, I only revisit those painful feelings when I’m trying to write about them; otherwise, I don’t want to remember.  That is the catharsis of writing:  even though I may not want to remember, when I get in touch with those awful feelings and let them flow from my heart, through my fingers, to the keyboard, there is a sense of relief and even gratitude that I can do something with those feelings of loneliness and fear.  Writing helps me to make sense of them, to understand how loneliness can drive someone to do things he or she would not otherwise do.  Ultimately, writing from those feelings helps me to understand the people (characters) that live in my head.  Once I let them go (and out onto the page), I feel lighter in my heart and stronger in my mind.

And, how about you, Dear Writer? Are there events in your life that you turn to over and over again to inform your writing? Do you, as Jio advises, “write what frightens you, haunts you, even”?

Previous Post

12 Comments

  1. I am writing a sort of autobiography right now and revisiting some very fearful moments in my history. It is weird, Bu I feel those fears again as I right and yet they somehow seem to dissipate with my words.

    Like

    • I do think writing can be therapeutic (and perhaps that why some of us write at all). I’m glad that writing is helping you to face those fears and keep writing :)

      Like

  2. But and write…good for an author you would think I could get that right! HA!

    Like

  3. I am sure that many writers use their words as a catharsis, a way of making sense of certain live events and circumstances. I imagine that if every writer analysed all that they had written, there would definitely be an element of them within the story and that is indeed how we put the words on the paper, by writing about what we know. The fact that it then makes you consider why you are writing what you are, can only be beneficial I reckon, if it helps us to understand and make sense of things that perhaps up until now, have remained a mystery. I certainly feel enlightened by some of the things that I have written and I really enjoyed your post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. :-)

    Like

  4. Olivia Stocum

     /  June 14, 2013

    I’ve awarded you the Liebster Award. http://theclaymoreandsurcoat.com/2013/06/14/liebster-award/ <3 Olivia

    Like

  5. I always feel you should write about what you know, but also that writing about it helps you know it more, and come to terms with it. Understanding is the key

    Like

  6. Wonderfully put. The English poet John Keats channelled the intense feelings he experienced during his depression into writing great poetry. I wrote a post about it here:

    http://malcolmscorner.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/in-praise-of-depression/

    Like

Tahoma Literary Review

A Northwest Based Literary Journal

barsetshirediaries

A site for the Barsetshire Diaries Books and others

Green Embers

My random musings, thoughts and just splash of C#

Who Is Jessica?

Writing strange fiction and scaring the pants off you in public

Expat Eye on Germany

Becoming German in 473,937,493 easy steps

Writer Site

Memoir, poetry, & writing theory

Lit World Interviews

With RonovanWrites

Fat-Bottom-Fifties Get Fierce

...and have fun doing it

The Contented Crafter

A blog containing random thoughts, creations from my craft room and tales about a cat called Orlando and a puppy called Siddy

Kitt O'Malley

Living with Bipolar Disorder. Loved by God.

Legends of Windemere

Enjoy the Adventure

Busy Mind Thinking

Wait! What?!

Hollis Hildebrand-Mills

Divine Imagery Is Everywhere™

parlor of horror

All things horror… and some sci-fi, too...

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

(Somewhat) Daily News from the World of Literary Nonfiction

"Broken Glass"

Quietly contemplating female characters in English and American literature

The 4 A.M. Writer

Writing about writing, life, and other musings

cicampbellblog

WriteWhereYouAre

Isabella Stines

A creative writing blog. Simple as that.

Year 'Round Thanksgiving Project

Not just a one day event, I'm blogging every day about what I'm thankful for

Jackie Mallon

Author/Fashion Designer

Aussa Lorens

Hacker. Ninja. Hooker. Spy.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,655 other followers

%d bloggers like this: