Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Facing Your Dragons - writing trauma and abuse.

This is an extract from a chapter in my soon to be published book
Memoir Writing - How to Tell A Story From Your Life.    

Facing Your Dragons - writing trauma and abuse.


     I’ve so often been told, 'writing trauma is therapeutic isn't it?’.  My answer is ‘ Hmmmm… maybe…’  I’ve always found trauma difficult to write about, like some kind of self-torture, re-traumatising yourself by reliving the event.  And looking back I see, not just my sadness but how it affected those around me.  I also see that so many people (out of unconsciousness, ignorance) were insensitive to whatever trauma was being experienced.   I end up feeling the sadness and grief  again.  The isolation of not being understood. 
     So you don’t always want to dwell on the traumatised past, you usually want to turn your back on it.  Look to the future. 
      However sometimes in order to heal the past you MUST revisit it, examine it from different angles, realise you were a victim, through no fault of your own, but you survived, you’re a survivor. Then you might be able to move forward and let go.  When you’ve come to a certain point where that’s possible. And that point is different for everyone. Your ‘moving on’ point is unique to you. Accept that. Respect your own self-knowledge.         
                             
Some rules for writing about trauma or abuse.

1.    Tell the story simply without being mawkish, over-sentimental.  Don’t go into gory and over-dramatic detail.  Keep the writing spare and factual – showing what happened, not telling, don't wallow. Think of your reader standing beside you, watching the events unfold.

2.    Take care of yourself – only write about it when you are ready (it took me many years, to be ready to talk about losing a baby).  You may never be ready to talk about some stuff. Stop when it becomes overwhelming.  You can push yourself sometimes if you need to (only you know). Remember writing about the trauma or abuse can often feel like being ‘re-traumatised/victimised’.

3.    Be careful who you share or discuss or show the writing to, the first time.  Choose carefully.  Some people may feel they should 'handle' you, be kind and sympathetic to you, do Oprah Winfrey pop psychology on you. Avoid these people.

5.    Think about the target audience, the readers of your memoir. Will they be moved, sad, angry when they read of your experiences?   Face it, often we readers buy books because we want to experience the writer's pain/drama/joy vicariously. . Let the story unfold naturally.
6.    Remember inspire yourself to face your dragons. Put some music on you like, pick up your pen(or your laptop},  and just write - see what comes out.  Give yourself a surprise.

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 Link to my memoir A Hippopotamus at The Table set in South Africa 1975-8




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