Lessons to Practice #20: Writing in the Company of Grief

Howdy everyone! How’s life on your end of the internet? Hopefully you’re staying cool in this sweltering summer heat and making some awesome memories!

Emotions rule me from time to time. I own that aspect of myself, and I know that I swing from completely logical and in my head to raw and unfiltered pretty quickly.  At times, this means that my writing can get off the rails, often detouring into the trite and sentimental (yes, I’m looking at you, first draft of Stalder Press to Handstand). However, just like with time management and personal creativity, I’m learning how to grow and embrace my grief — and ultimately channel it effectively into my writings. Tonight, I hope I can share some of  my methods with you all.





The Benefits of Emotionality

I’ll start on the bright side. Affect is the heart and soul of our writings. Without it, the author has zero motivation to share his story, and the reader has no impetus to read on. Nothing grips us, makes us more motivated to write and keeping turning the pages of our latest favorite book, than our personal emotional highs and lows. We are the gatekeepers of every private memory, dream, and regret, and in sharing those vulnerable parts of ourselves, all the matching emotions demand to be shared.

Watching the Pitfalls

With that urgency of sharing feelings comes a few potential drawbacks to be wary of.

  1. The first is trying to make your readers feel too much too early on in your creative fiction, or, as I like to call it, “emotional upchuck.” This may show up as skewed development of characters at the expense of plot development. For example, watch out for bits of dialogue between characters in which only emotions and musings are shared, to little or no effect as far as advancing the plot goes.tenor
  2. The second is actually overdeveloping your characters by imbuing them with too much of your personal life. We all draw inspiration from our friends and loved ones, and it’s easy to transfer too many traits from the real individuals to their fictive counterparts. A good way to avoid this is by checking your expectations for your characters, adding characteristics and personal experiences that are different from those you are basing them on so that the lines don’t become too blurry. You can also have your fellow writers proofread your work and do some developmental edits. Does the narrative flow? Are the characters compelling enough? Am I overly invested in shaping them? IMG_20170514_185038.jpg
  3. Finally, the third drawback is losing your story’s realism. Human interaction can be a tricky thing to nail down, and by bringing too much of our personal stuff to the table, we’re much more likely to veer into sentimental territory and make caricatures out of our key players. We all want to share at least some of our successes with the world. We also all have our own traumas and losses that truly drive us to share our stories. Rest assured — as I’ve had to assure myself, too — that all of these intimate details have their place. The key is learning how to let them out at the right time.


My dad passed away two years ago today, and there are still oceans of grief and confusion I find myself swimming in. But, day by day, I’m learning how to channel the gravitas in appropriate measures. I do so with my plots (the end of the world in Stalder Press to Handstand), in the ways I open my heart and soul to the supportive Acro community that I’m now fortunate to be a part of, and in the stories of perseverance, family loyality, and self-acceptance that I pen to the best of my abilities.

They’re our Feelings to Embrace

At the end of the day, we can’t ignore our humanism when we write. Self-care has helped me to find the time and the place for almost all of my lived experiences in my writing. It’s also allowed me to create some damn compelling characters without losing myself as I try to make sure they’re reflective of my own friends, family members, and romantic interests. No, at the end of the day, I know where to leave off with my writing and pick up in the real world. That’s self-awareness that only you can discover with time and effort.

My wish for you all is that you’ll find what it is that brings you emotional catharsis and healing, so that when you’re ready to type out your next chapter, you’ll remember all that you’ve been through — and all that you hope to share with the wide world out there. Don’t worry, we’ll be right there with you to feel all the highs and lows 🙂




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