Writing Hurts Less Than Not Writing

Photo by Sear Greyson on Unsplash

As a child, I wrote stories and plays; poems and diary entries; news articles and cartoons. My mom and grandmother both wrote. I think I started because my mom did it, but it was something that came naturally to me, something I loved to do, and I kept doing it.

As I grew older, I dreamed of writing about my life. Writing a story that exposed the long buried truths of my decades on this earth. I dreamed of being published, and even recognized for the work.

Instead, though, I kept my writing to myself.

I wrote rambling, unfinished scraps of stories and keep them hidden away — crumpled pages in scattered notebooks, Word docs saved in a folder named “Random Crap.”

I worried if I told my story publicly, my family would be angry, embarrassed, and ashamed. I worried they would know too much about my experiences, and they would hate me, I would hate myself, and people would shame me.

I tried writing short stories for a while — a professor once urged me to write a memoir, and, when I told her my fear, she told me I could tell my story through a fake story; use it as fodder for fiction.

But my life isn’t fiction. My life was hidden behind a wall of normal.

(Is this why I want to write it?)

I was bitten in the face by a dog a while back. After a long emergency room visit, and more than 60 stitches, I was left with a long scar on my left jawline, jagged scars on the right of my chin and lip.

I was proud of the scars; I felt like they told people I’d been through something — even if these scars had nothing to do with what I’d actually survived to get here today.

But no one even notices the scars. They all say, “You smile so much, I never noticed them before you pointed them out.”

I guess I want people to know about my unseen scars. And, I have a continuing internal debate about that: why do I want people (complete strangers) to know? Am I needy? Why am I writing this stuff down and contemplating putting these shameful, exhausting, painful memories out there?

Less than a month ago, I posted my first story here. It wasn’t a particularly deep or painful memory, but I felt terrified after that first click of the ‘publish’ button. I hovered over the ‘delete story’ link for five minutes before I closed the computer and left it.

Fear lingered. I wasn’t sure if this decision (was it an actual decision or just an impulse?) to start sharing these memories, to purge the stories from my head, to get them out of that safe,“Random Crap” file folder on my computer— well, maybe, this whole decision, idea, impulse was a bad idea.

I returned the next day ready to delete it, but it had 22 claps. It had been read and some people even clapped for it. I felt oddly empowered to try again.

So, I wrote a deeper, more painful story. One from which I felt a bit of distance and felt comfortable letting out.

As I wrote it out, I could see the corners, ceiling, doors, carpet of my bedroom when I was nine. I could feel the darkness and depression alive in my childhood home. I was there.

I clicked publish, but felt like nine-year-old me was hanging around — not ready to go with the click of the publish button. I felt a bit raw. Unsettled. Undone. And, that held on after I checked Medium a few days later and saw: no one had clapped at my last story. I was both ashamed and relieved.

(Maybe no one read it at all. Or, maybe it’s no good. Wait, maybe I’m no good. Maybe this really is just a stupid idea.)

I left the idea of writing.

Writing (like my memories?) isn’t something I can leave, I guess. And the more days I spent shoving aside this desire (is this a want or a need?) to publish and have others read my work, the worse I began to feel. That raw feeling I felt from the last story was replaced by a deeper anxiety about what I wasn’t doing for myself.

Can the need to write be an instinct? Or is it really a want — a desire to be validated? What is my motivation? And does my motivation matter?

So, here I am: sharing my current, confused state-of-mind and attempting to capture the struggle of writing about my life for others to read. As I write this, I know I’m not looking for validation; I’m simply writing because I need to.

Maybe writing is a need, not a want.

I think there probably is a reason I need to write, and, in particular, write about my life. A reason why I need people to know — to read — my life’s story told from my perspective. At this moment, though, I have no idea what that reason is, other than it hurts more to not write than it does to write.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store