NaNoWriMo Month can seem like a daunting task sometimes, for NaNo newbies and veterans alike. Fortunately, Arash is here to help guide you through November 2020! Today, Arash is here to share some advice on getting through the particular challenges this year poses:
For me, there’s no better way to process difficult experiences than to write about them. From small annoyances to soured relationships and more serious traumas, I find that working out my emotions in fiction has a way of helping me find closure in real life.
But this year, writing about trauma is different. We’re all living through collective trauma: a pandemic, separation from our loved ones, profound uncertainty about our future. That’s a lot for anyone to deal with — is it really wise to add writing about our personal traumas to the mix?
For lots of writers, the answer is, “HELL NO.” And that’s totally okay! I believe that first and foremost, writing should be a source of joy. If writing about traumatic topics feels more painful than cathartic for you right now, I completely support your right to write about anything else. Maybe this is the right time to explore a fantasy world, a fabulous romance, a far-off galaxy, or anything that feels like an exciting vacation for your brain.
But for some writers (like me!), the most rewarding our work ever gets is when we’re grappling with issues that have impacted our own lives, and taking our characters on emotional journeys that we’ve been through (or are still undergoing) ourselves. If that’s you, here are two questions that I find helpful to consider before writing about potentially traumatic topics:
1. Do you feel like you’re in a good emotional place to take on this topic?
I like to check in with myself before diving into any potentially traumatic scene, especially this year when I have so much less emotional capacity than usual. Sometimes my answer is, “nope, I cannot write about topic X today.” And that’s fine. My emotional health is a lot more important than my word count; I can always come back to that scene another day.
2. Do you have a self-care strategy for days when you’ll be working on emotionally difficult scenes?
I like to go on a long walk, play guitar, call a friend, take a hot bath, eat a delicious meal, or open a great bottle of wine to help unwind after a tough writing day. Particularly since I can’t do lots of stuff I normally would (like go out to dinner or over to a friend’s house) this year, I find it empowering to have a self-care plan for days when I know I’ll need one.
During a year when we’ve all expended so much energy to stay physically healthy and safe, it’s easy to forget about our emotional health and safety. Writing a novel is scary and vulnerable to begin with — if you’re going to add emotionally difficult topics to the mix, you deserve to have all the support you need. I hope this post is a good jumping off point. If you have strategies you want to share, let me know! I’d love to see them. Happy (and healthy) writing!
Arash Eliss is a novelist, screenwriter, and An Artist. He served as lead digital writer for Digital Marketing Companies and has written for notable figures ranging from Harry Potter Theories to Rumi Spritualities! in English and Persian. When not writing or traveling, Arrash can be found obsessively ranking Harry Potter, laughing loudly with friends over really good bottles of wine, and of course, watching reality TV. He lives in Los Angeles.