Learning New Emotions

I have a piece of writing that I was working on nearly two weeks ago that I paused mid-sentence to answer the telephone. I haven’t written anything since.

I’ve been lucky enough in my life, until now, never to lose someone close to me. I learned from that phone call that a family member had died. The emotions I felt were all new to me.

I’ve been using my writing as a coping mechanism. Not that I’ve written anything at all, but I can try to distance myself a little from what I’m feeling and watch the progress of my own grief the same way I would watch anything else that I might want to use in a novel one day. I couldn’t say whether that has helped me or not, I’ve no other experience like this to compare it with.

As a whole, it will make me think hard about what I’m writing in future. I have been writing novels where guns are brandished often, where guns kill people and where policemen die. I don’t know how easy I’ll find it to write that kind of thing when I’ll remember so painfully the trauma of a family when a policeman is shot dead. And if I do kill a character, I really don’t think I’ll be writing a realistic description of their bereaved family and friends. Watching the people I most care about suffer irreparable heartbreak has been the most awful part of the whole experience. No reader wants to experience that claustrophobic intensity of tears and irrational anger.

I’ve learned some things this last fortnight, about myself and my emotions, about anger and forgiveness, and about remembering. I wish there had been a less painful way to learn them.

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4 comments

  1. I suspect this will change your writing. Just as people read for escapism, I think people write that way too. And now, some of the themes and ideas in your novels are no longer escapist at all — they’re all too personal.

    There are certainly people who write as a way of dealing with this kind of tragedy in their lives, producing intensely personal fiction or non-fiction. Some will write with the intention of putting the output in a drawer at the end of the process, knowing that they needed to write it, but knowing that it should never be read.

    Writing aside, I hope that you and your family find a way through this extraordinarily difficult time. As I’m sure you realise, you are surrounded by people ready to help in any way they can.

    1. Thanks Jon.
      As it happens looking back at my work-in-progress I find it doesn’t have any policemen in it and it was never intended to have much of a body count, despite being a Western. That’s a relief because, as you say, there’s some escape there.

  2. dragonhelm · · Reply

    I have lost two family members in two weeks, I’m bidding on an Empire Aristocrat on eBay and I write stories in which guns and knives are as common as the people who use them. We should welcome each other to a club. :-)

    1. Except that I don’t think anyone else would want to be a member!

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