The Angst of Writing

The Angst of Writing

The writing process is the most personal thing I go through in my life. I bare my soul much more than I want to. Then I ask myself, who wants to read something if it is not from the heart?

The most personal piece of writing I ever tackled was a screenplay I wrote in college about my first experience with bipolar disorder. The wound was so raw, I had to fictionalize it. I told the true story, but not in the first person. It was too painful to admit that it had happened to me, because there was a great deal of misunderstanding about mental illness at the time.

Because I didn’t admit the screenplay was a true story about my life, it seemed so bizarre to others. People didn’t believe it. They found the story implausible. “That could never happen!” was the criticism I received from my classmates.

I rewrote the story on a blog, and it has been accepted by one publisher. All I have left is some final editing and to make an initial investment in marketing, and I will have completed the book. Yet, I hesitate. What holds me back? I am open online about my disorder. I publish a daily paper on mental health and mental illness. What is keeping me from moving forward? ~ The angst of writing. I am not ready to relive those early experiences.

That is the dilemma of being a writer. I know that I cannot back away from the pain in my story, and you cannot let yourself or your characters off the hook either. Face the emotional pain and triumph. You must face the pain and write it down. Write down your feelings. Be honest and true to your story. Anything else cheats your readers of the depth of your story and your experience as you lived it.

I’ll never forget the advice my screenwriting teacher gave me many years ago, “Do not back away from the drama.” Why? If you do, your story loses all its power. You won’t connect as genuinely with your readers, because you cheated them of the depth of anguish, pain, or fear that the protagonist is going through. In a good story, that character suffers through, finds courage and plunges ahead.

Just as I must do to finish story about a young woman who loses everything: her husband, her career, her mind, her only child and must work hard on her health to come back to life. The story has a triumphant ending and will be available in book form as “A Mother’s Ring.” I appreciate readers sending positive thoughts my way as I attempt to finish the tale.

Don’t be afraid to suffer for your craft. The rewards are great. You do it for the audience and to share your story which may change the day, or even the life of someone who reads it.

Libby Baker Sweiger
LBS Consult