“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.” — Natalie Goldberg
Being a writer is a complicated thing. We love to write for the sake of writing, but we also don’t want to write because some days it is just so hard. But still we write, because not writing is not an option.
So what do we write about? People have different views on this. Some like light and happy stories. Some like dark and depressing stories. Some like gore and horror. Some like aliens and cool technology. Some like hot romance where the girl and guy always have their happy ever after. Some like the never ending thrill. And some like deep and moving characters no matter what the story is about.
But we all wonder… what really makes a good story? What draws the reader to each page to hungrily reach the end? What makes writing such an intense and rewarding process for the writer?
I think all these questions have one answer.
When we write the hard stuff, the really hard stuff that makes us flinch or look away or feel deeply uncomfortable, that’s when writing becomes truly great. That’s when writing becomes engaging and profound. That’s when writing becomes personally fulfilling.
Some might think that writers write disturbing content because they themselves are disturbed. But it’s more than that. Deeper. It’s about understanding things more fully. Understanding how things happen to get to that disturbing thing, or understand why such a thing exists in the first place. It’s about exploration and digging for deeper knowledge. And maybe for some it’s about playing out some dark fantasy or thoughts, but most writers I know do it for far more nobler purposes.
We shouldn’t write the things that we fear or disturb us just to write about those things. We should write them because it’s a natural part of the story, because it’s the exact place that particular thing or event needs to happen. These things should unfold naturally and at their own rhythm.
But when we go “there”, when we dig deep and don’t flinch from the hard things, we become better writers and better people. We build up our understanding of all things. We make discoveries about the world around us. We truly have a better grasp on the reality of our world, and our place in it.
We shouldn’t be afraid of what others might think of the disturbing topics and events that unfold in our the writing. What we should be afraid of is not allowing ourselves to be split wide open. When we bleed on the page, only then can the great writing begin. Only then can we discover who we really are and what we are made of. It’s not about the disturbing things we write, it’s about the people we become because we allowed ourselves to think about the things that makes us uncomfortable and afraid.
Okay… so maybe some us who tread into the disturbing waters are a little “off”, but that just makes life a little more interesting to live. And maybe in the process of facing our fears, we become a little less afraid. And maybe in writing about the uncomfortable, we become a little more empowered along the way.