So, one of the stories I’m working on is crime and psychological thriller about a pedophile’s victims, who have essentially grown up in a cellar.
I won’t give too many more details, because spoilers, but that’s enough for getting to the crux of what I want to talk about in this post.
Sometimes the stories we want to tell don’t just make the reader uncomfortable. Sometimes they make us uncomfortable, sometimes so uncomfortable we have to ask ourselves periodically why we are even writing about these kinds of things.
Of course, this is a story I don’t feel I can stop. Because it’s something I could see happening, could truly believe as a reality, and because that reality makes me sick with the thought, I need to paint the picture so that other people are sick with the thought – sick enough to do something about it. To stop this from being a reality that we could believe as possible.
I know I couldn’t do this kind of story every day. It’s the kind of thing that would eat me up inside if I wrote it all the time, and my soul is dark and scary enough, thanks.
So how do we cope with the stories we need to tell but don’t even really want to think about for more than a few minutes at a time?
Small doses. It’s as simple as it seems. If you can’t cope with it in long stretches, don’t. Write what you can, and then write something else. Come back to it when you don’t feel slimy at the thought, and then when you start feeling like your skin is covered in an unwashable film, do something else until you’ve forgotten what that sensation feels like.
Yes, it’s a project going slowly, but every time I read back over what I’ve got to see where I’m at, I get that same chilling sense that I’m right on track.
So write the stories that make you question your imagination and humanity, but don’t destroy yourself while you do it. Physical and emotional health always come first.