Writing Deep


How do you write from the deepest places in you?

I once thought that writers are people with some sort of hole inside them, something missing that they are always looking for. That hole, or a sort of wound, is the element that can infuse their writing with power. And I still think this is probably true, but it isn’t only true of writers.

Everyone has a hole or wound, because no one is perfect. No one had perfect parents, or perfect life experiences. Something, or someone, at some time, has left each of us with a little something missing. Something we are always looking for.

It is part of what makes us human, to walk around with a forever-wound inside. I think even the best of us, those we judge happy and successful when we gaze at their outsides, are walking around still bleeding on the inside. Some bleed more than others, of course.

But speaking now as a writer, I have come to realize what may be obvious to everyone else, that part of what makes writing from the very personal become universal is that writers are not alone in walking around with that wound inside, and our wounds recognize each other. Readers recognize a bit of themselves in our writing even if it is not something they can articulate.

The wound could have any number of causes and, in the end, it doesn’t matter. The cause is unimportant. The important thing is the universality of the feelings created by the wounds and the feelings created by the methods we choose to cope. The bleakness, the grief, the fear, the anger, the loss of confidence. The feeling of being unloved or at worst, unlovable.

How people handle these inner wounds, these painful feelings, is the grist for the writer’s mill. Think of the possibilities. Self-knowledge, hard-won, that eventually leads to some transformative healing. Or not. Perhaps the character relies on poor methods for just getting by, surviving. A writer could devise any number of coping devices, some appearing benign at first glance but sure to cause more damage in the long run, or some that are clearly faulty from the get go, like addictions, or lashing out at others to evade inner turmoil.

I believe the best writers recognize the possibilities, but also the dangers of trying to write with authenticity, because at least on some level it requires them to write from some place within their particular wound, and that is painful. They can call upon imagination to give themselves a little distance and place the characters between them and the worst of the pain. They can try to handle the difficulty of writing from that wounded place by letting the characters do the suffering for them, on the page. Still, this takes some courage, because the characters don’t always fully shield the writer and the pain can slip by them and zero in on the writer’s heart.

But writers who want to write with true power let those feelings come up from the deep places in the wound, to be real, and inform their work. Being open to this can lead to accurately naming truths and bringing them fully alive for the reader. But writing this way, anything can happen. It may not turn out the way the writer would wish.

Sometimes the pain and suffering is the end of the story for a particular character, because that truth just needs to be said aloud, be named, and be allowed to be stark. Sometimes writer’s imagination gives those characters enough of something, strength, hope, even luck, to survive. Maybe even to have redemptive, happy endings. Because hope and healing can be truth also. Either way, a writer can write something meaningful.

I think it is most writers’ highest ambition to find the way to write from the depths of their wounds. Because whatever the outcome of a story, if it is authentic, it will be felt as true. It will resonate and vibrate within the reader.

Have you read anything lately that somehow reached deep into you and wouldn’t quite let go?


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