Finding Your Pain

2011.01.28 | Screenwriting

It’s three a.m. in the morning and I’m sitting here wide awake thinking about pain and what it means to me as a writer. I’m not talking about physical pain, but rather the mental anguish that supposedly comes hand in hand with good writing. If we as humans have no pain to access, how can we give a character that same sense of emotion if we have no context.

When I first started writing with serious intentions, I wondered if I had enough ‘abuse’ in my life to come close to the depths I thought I might need for writing anything worthy of publication. I was frozen with fear that I didn’t have it in me to write with passion or pain. To prove how easy it is to scare a new writer, just flick on your computer. It’s easy to find articles about past generation writers who lived with demons clawing at their coat tails as they typed themselves into a Pulitzer.  I didn’t have that growing up, or at  first when I started exploring my past, I didn’t think I did.

But I do, and we all do.

To throw out one example (which I am comfortable talking about):

I spent most of my life thinking that divorce is average. If half of all the marriages in the United States end in divorce, why should I, a child of eleven, now forty find pain in something so average. Maybe you also grew up in idyllic circumstances, free from starvation, free from parents with addictions, and in what you would call a solid family existence. Where is the pain in that?  How can I as a writer find anything to access in a life so pretty?

Divorce is pain, for the participants and for the fallout victims (the children). Maybe it’s okay to look back on those memories as more than average, and greater than what the brain can handle. What did my parent’s divorce do to me such that I can access that pain when I’m writing? It gave me a sense of loss that was never recovered to any sense of normalcy. It unhinged a foundation that is by all normal standards suppose to remain in place. I never learned that moving on was a possibility.  All I could see growing up was loss when relative after relative divorced. Why bother gaining love when you lose it anyway? That’s why I’m not married. That’s why I don’t have children. Because I will (based on raw data) lose them.  No one ever taught me that you can move on from that…to this very day.  So here we are; we have arrived and accessed emotion dark enough to translate into story.

Find your own personal anguish because pain is the one thing that makes us feel truly alive.  When we can connect over pain, I feel a true bridge is built between the mind of the writer, and the mind of the reader.


Really relate to this post. Thanks for having the courage to share such personal thoughts.

Brendan O'Neill ( January 29, 2011 at 3:16 pm )

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