4 ways to write through tragedy (w/prompts)

Dear Reader,

The weekend is over and Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Minnesota are probably still on your mind in one way or another.

You want to forget but it’s still gnawing at you enough to sense you’re restless about it. But you don’t know what to do or how to start. You have to write that stuff down.

You have to write that stuff down.

I know what you’re thinking. Not everything is a writing exercise, Icess. True but not everything is about exercise either. Sometimes, writing is about healing and pouring something out of you onto paper so that it’s tangible.

Also, when writing through tragedy it doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to publish. Other people don’t have to see it and you don’t have to share it. It’s just for you, to sort your thoughts.

I learned how powerful it was to write about the tragic moments in life when my dad died. I wrote awful, dark poetry, that will never be seen by another human being ever. But when the tears flowed and my heart hurt, that page was my security blanket. It helped me cope with death and what it meant in my life.

Writing

Free write

This is the easiest, low stress, basic way to write about the tragedy. Take a paper and pen and just write what you feel and what you think.

It doesn’t have to make sense.

There is no judgment.

It can be a grocery list if you want.

And you don’t have to do it for long.

Set 10 minutes on the clock and write about the first topic that comes to mind. Don’t stop for anything just keep going. Don’t hold back.

Write a poem

Poetry writing isn’t my forte but I dabble. Something about the poetic form is freeing. You can use figurative language (those similes and metaphors you don’t usually get to use). And…here’s the thing…

It doesn’t have to rhyme.

It doesn’t have a structure.

It could be about something small.

There are lots of different types of poems that could help you focus on your situation. One of my favorites and basic forms is an ode.  This poetry form gives praise (or not if you want to be sarcastic) to an item, a thing, a feeling, or an experience.

This form uses lots of descriptions and imagery to give it heft.  Here are some more tips http://www.powerpoetry.org/resources/writing-ode-poem

Writing prompt: Write an ode to a favorite memory. Be as descriptive as possible. For an added bonus, use the five senses in your description.

Short story

For me, dipping into science fiction or fantasy while writing about trauma has helped. The flexibility is endless with these forms. Science fiction doesn’t have to be the traditional form of spacemen and aliens. Think Doctor Who or Orphan Black or any comic book-based tv show. It can be basic on reality with some one aspect — time travel, cloning, etc — being extraordinary.

I like reading Kurt Vonnegut’s  Harrison Bergeron for many reasons. At its core, I could be called science fiction if we’re looking for a simple genre. The story about how all people are made equal is dystopian, a sub-genre of sci-fi. It’s rooted in some reality but it usually deals with the ending of something, sacrificed for the common good. It brings up complex issues against the backdrop of fiction, allowing the writer to explore difficult topics.

Writing prompt: Write a short story where something human or an aspect of humanity had to be sacrificed to the continued life of the planet. Feel free to use time travel, cloning, a superhero (or two) or a complex equation to aid in your story.

Opinion/Column Writing

This is probably one of my favorites.

I’ve written commentary for Huff Post Latino and the Guardian and it’s been great. It’s also the most direct way of getting out the pain and the hurt while focusing on logic or argument.

Note that this is different than freewriting which has few rules. Opinion writing follows a logical stream of thought and includes examples and facts to back up the argument.

What I love most about opinion writing is that it can take may forms. It could be the basic letter to the editor in your city newspaper to a creative non-fiction form to even a grocery list.

Writing prompt: Write a letter to someone or something that made you angry or treated you unfairly. Don’t forget to include examples add facts to back up your argument.

I hope this helps. I’m actually writing through my pain and have written some new pieces I’m excited to revise and submit to places.

Remember, on the page, no one can tell you what to do.

Enjoy,

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Want to take it a step further? Join my online writing class starting in a couple of weeks.  I’ve got some great things planned and I’d love to see you there!

 

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