My friend and I are both working on nonfiction book-length objects that are (at least partly) about grief. She’s been a great resource for me. We can compare our emotional experiences of writing, and we can make highly inappropriate jokes that would creep most people out. (Death creeps people out.) Here is some of what we are talking about:
1. If you don’t cry, no one else will either.
Your goal is to make them cry, people! Writing is not a gentle art. You want your readers to cry with you and laugh with you. My friend’s memoir has made three adult tutors cry in their place of employ. Write and cry, drink some water to rehydrate yourself, and go back to the page.
2. It’s OK to stop.
Writing is hard, people, and writing about grief is extra hard. Push yourself a little, but stop before you have a panic attack. It’s all right to write the hard stuff in little chunks. You know, take care of yourself and all.
3. Create a safe space for yourself.
Make a date with a friend after you finish writing for the day. Don’t fucking write about your mother dying the day before you go to your hometown for a visit (that’s me at this moment). A little therapy might help you work through the process of writing.
4. Go there.
The New York Times Book Review will pan you if you skimp on the good bits, if you shirk the emotional work, if you gloss over the important details. Make your writing space physically or mentally safe and fucking go there. See rule 1.
5. Find a relaxing hobby.
Have something you can turn to that has low emotional impact and will make you happy. Because I completely lack hobbies other than writing, I am working on a schlock novel that may or may not see the light of day. I don’t fucking care, I’ll publish it when I’m 60. I’ve also developed a fierce Words with Friends habit.
How do you cope with the emotional weight of your writing?