Originally, I was going to write at length about this concept. Then, I thought it would be more beneficial to open up the floor after a small discussion. Everyone handles trauma differently and writing directly about it isn’t always the way to go. Some would never dare to try such exposure and others do it in a more roundabout way. This makes me think that my perspective on the topic is unique to me.
First, I will say that a big factor in writing from trauma is how a person is handling the effects. If one is in denial about the damage or is too hurt to face it in such a way then it’s not a source of inspiration. I think this type of action is for those who are ready to face their trauma or expose it to others. Keep in mind that writing from trauma doesn’t always mean publishing. It can be a diary that is only for you, which is fine. That’s a long-standing method of healing.
Make no mistake that this can, and maybe should, be a way to heal. It can be seen as clearing the wound of pus and infection in order to improve the healing. Of course, this depends on the trauma and person. Not to mention the reaction, which is why many do this in private. You put a raw and bleeding part of yourself on the page, but then the thought of others seeing it can make it worse. A person many wait years to share it or never do it at all.
Personally, I have written a little from trauma without directly outing myself. Various painful events have helped me get through a few tough scenes, but I don’t think it was anything major. The real traumas stay on the inside. I did try to find a way to touch on the pain I was feeling from the divorce, but that didn’t work. Mostly because I had already set up the big plot that I couldn’t change too much without wrecking my foreshadowing and planning. Downside of a series is that it doesn’t allow for writing from trauma if the event happens in the middle of publishing it. If the trauma doesn’t fit the story then you can’t use it. So, I may be waiting a while before I try to do it if I go for the big events in the first place.
So, let’s get to the questions:
- Do you think it’s beneficial to write from trauma?
- Do you feel an author can write about a trauma they never experienced?
- Have you ever written from a trauma?
I think it’s beneficial to write from trauma since that is one of the ways to come to grips with the traumatic event. I think an author can write about a trauma they never experienced. They should be very careful and at least do some research on the results of the trauma on the victims.
I have written from trauma and believe the experience was very beneficial.
Good point on the catharsis. Even if you don’t publish, writing can help bring muddled thoughts into clear words.
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1. I think having experienced a trauma can be beneficial, because you can write the experience authentically.
2. I think so. But maybe he or she could seek advice from someone who has gone through that particular trauma to validate for authenticity.
3. Yes. I just wrote an article on depression and I’ve written about the trauma of being beaten up, having experienced both.
1. It is weird to think of trauma being beneficial. Always an odd sentence to read even when one understands it.
2. Advice is a great idea.
3. Depression is something I’ve touched on too. It’s tough getting deep on that without triggering myself.
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Charles, I know what you mean. While the trauma itself is not beneficial to the person undergoing it, it can be beneficial to someone else who is currently going through the same thing and feels alone in it. Years after I learned that I was unable to have children, I was able to comfort someone else who was going through the same thing.
Being a positive or supportive role model for those in the same boat is a great idea. That’s why I was doing my old anxiety journal years ago.
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>Do you think it’s beneficial to write from trauma?
I think it can be healing for the writer, and perhaps let others with a similar experience know that they aren’t alone.
>Do you feel an author can write about a trauma they never experienced?
Yes, if you have empathy and are willing to stretch yourself, you can put yourself in the thoughts of someone with trauma. For instance, in my novella The Weight of Their Souls, the POV was a soldier who had survived a massive battle where all his squadmates were killed. I was never a soldier myself, but I put myself in his shoes and I think I got the survivor guilt and paralysis when facing a similar situation pretty well.
Where I think writers go wrong is in treating forms of trauma as merely a plot device — ie, a man’s wife is raped/killed as a way to propel him into the plot — without considering how this might affect survivors of a similar experience.
Badly using trauma can also create the impression that such horrors are normal and ordinary. Fr instance, when we talk about mass shootings as something that can’t be avoided, when clearly there are many steps that could be taken toward prevention.
>Have you ever written from a trauma?
The only thing that I think I’ve written from my own trauma was a short story that touched on a bad breakup.
The trauma as plot device issue is a tough one. I think many readers see it as such in general. So, authors use it for shock value and don’t actually explore the trauma. It’s also the idea that horrible events will drive a person forward for either healing or revenge, so trauma seems like a low hanging fruit.
I don’t think I have anything to add to the comments you’ve gotten already. I know after he lost his son, Eric Clapton turned in some of the most soulful music ever.
Didn’t know that. Though I think I’ve heard of other artists doing that.
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I think writing and drawing from personal trauma can give the writing that effect of solidarity and familiarity within the reader. I think I see it as “offering my experience through a mediator – the character in the writing”.
Do you think it’s beneficial to write from trauma? – I think it most definitely is, and the spectrum of benefits is broad; I think it lets us connect in dark times.
Do you feel an author can write about a trauma they never experienced? – I believe yes, if anything, to give their third party so to say perspective, a “here is how it looked and sounded and felt for me – when someone else was in pain”, or processing or expressing their trauma. Again, I feel like it is an experience shared, that can often give insight to someone else, be it with their own trauma processing, understanding a different perspective or even their own craft of writing.
Have you ever written from a trauma? – I believe I have, at least to “acknowledge it” which is my own personal hurdle that I often as a human have to overcome. In regards to writing poetry specifically, I have often been encouraged to write about myself more, as well as given what I would say negative commentary (to sum it up We dont want to read abut sunsets, you should write more about your trauma – those dark personal poems just sound better!) I can honestly say that this sort of commentary makes me very reluctant to write poems or stories or just about anything about myself, especially the good parts – because i feel like it will get criticized for “not being dark and traumatic”. So the short answer would be yes, I have, but I have not enjoyed it one bit and I do tend to avoid it personally.
The outcry for dark and traumatic stories is weird. I notice it with endings a lot. People get upset with happy endings. It’s like they want everything to be a tragedy or display darkness.
The third party perspective on trauma is something I never considered. Mostly because of the modern push for people to write ONLY about what they’ve personally experienced. Getting the view of how a trauma looks from the outside can help pinpoint stereotypes and misunderstandings.
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I see where they are coming from, but i also feel like society in a way is for a longish period of time now dictating that sort of behavior – and i cannot understand it. Not all traumatic experiences, in fact id argue most of them, are solo experiences. Even if lets say, you are currently suffering from an illness and require tratment, it is not your experience alone; those around you also experience that same situation, through their own eyes. So while i cannot know in this example how either you, or perhaps the nurse administrating medicine felt, I know how i felt, and it is that experience, that facet of trauma i am sharing. Trauma can and is most often cause to us by some outside thing, event, person, you name it. Therefore I find it hard to understand the “write what you know” principle, because it is judged based on the presumption of what I know – instead of my willingness to learn, participate, connect, understand and share.
I think part of it stems from people being offended on behalf of others. I notice many who get annoyed make it a point to rant on social media in a very ‘I’ way. So I wonder if part of the equation is a desire for attention.
I just started writing and I believe I’m mostly writing from trauma and past experiences. I think sometimes putting it out there helps us to see others in similar situations and we don’t feel so alone.
Good point. It can be cleansing and draw in people who are in the same position. Maybe even attract those who are further along in healing, so they can show others that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
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