Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Writing as catharsis

Hey there, everyone. Sorry to bring sadness to the blog today, but this is a good place to get things off my chest.

My beautiful, lovable, pain-in-the-ass family cat Holly passed away last week. I am doing better than I was, but it still hurts to think about her. I can distract myself for brief periods of time, but Holly is everywhere, in all my important memories. Every time I try to get away just for an hour or two, I always come back to her eventually.

But when it's too hard to confront things head-on, I have somewhere else to go: my fiction. I don't tend to base characters off of my own life, but when I reread my work, the emotions are recognizable as my own. I began Grandmaster Draw when I was living with a host family and forced to suppress who I was around them. I began The Hungry Ground when I was standing on the edge of adulthood and wondering if I was strong enough to do what I really loved. The situations are more thrilling and the stakes are always higher for my characters, but we both always come to a conclusion... even if it's not the same one.

About three or four years ago, I was working on updating one of my first story ideas from when I was younger: a fantasy/political intrigue type story in the vein of Megan Whalen Turner's books. I stopped midway when I realized the story needed another plot overhaul, but the main characters remain some of my favorite to work with ever.

One of the things I still do like a lot is the setting - a fictional country in the years following a bloody coup d'etat - and the effect it has on the characters. There's a constant undercurrent of longing for the things they've lost.

I've been thinking about that story a lot this week, and it's comforted me somewhat. Because when I was working on that story, it wasn't so much the tragic aspects that caught my attention. It was the ways in which the characters struggled to turn that tragedy into strength, and the way that someone's influence could echo long after they were gone.

I probably won't restart that story for a while - there's still a lot of plot to overhaul. But I think this week I'd like to write a few short stories with those characters.  I hope that in writing about it, I can exorcise some of those tangled-up emotions, and my memories can become comforting, not painful.

Thanks for letting me vent, guys. If you have a story about a time you used writing as catharsis, I'd love to hear it.


  1. Again, I'm sorry about your cat. And I've definitely done this. Before I started actually writing, I loved writing fanfiction (we're talking when I was 13, 14). One day I was really depressed and wrote a 2000 word snippet of the final battle in Harry Potter (before book 7 came out). Hermione, the character I identify most with, died at the end. Needless to say, it was depressing, but it was exactly what I needed to write at the time. I've done this other times as well, but this one sticks out in my mind.

    And no, you can't see it. I deleted it off the interwebs and my computer. It was a moment of catharsis, not genius ;)

  2. You're giving me flashbacks to my sordid fanfic past. ;-) Thank you for sharing - I've definitely written pieces like that, too.

  3. Now I'm feeling left out because I never dabbled in fanfic! Becky, so sorry to hear about your cat! I found out my cat died via instant message from my mom when I was away at college and I remember feeling a mixture of disbelief and just emptiness. They're "just" animals, but they're also in a way, closer to us than the people around us. That cat just knew when I was sad, and as independent as cat's are, mine would cuddle when I needed cuddling (um, which was kind of a lot during my teen years).

    It's awesome you can put your emotions into writing like that. The only time I've really done that was just after my car accident, and that was literally writing about what happened. I'm sure it was painful for everyone else who read it, but for me, it was exactly what I needed. I'm still terrified of driving, but I've stopped dwelling on what happened. Writing is definitely cathartic!