At a Christmas party this past weekend I ran into a writer I know who has been having a rough time emotionally this fall, to the point that she can’t really move forward in her creative life. I suspect there are a lot of folks out there who are experiencing the same symptoms to one degree or another this election year.
What I suggested to this writer (and anyone who considers him/herself any kind of scribe in this predicament) is to put down on paper or pound out in a document all your raw feelings. In other words, to journal your way through your angst and/or the thoughts that are bringing you down.
Journaling can do wonders to help you objectify what you’re feeling, getting out in front of you what you’re experiencing emotionally and what you suspect are the reasons for it. And by journaling I mean really venting and letting loose and putting down in words exactly what comes to mind when you target the root causes of the dark mood you find yourself stuck in–describing the sadness, the depressing thoughts, and so on and making an attempt to articulate in detail the reasons for it.
No one will ever see this but you, but the dividends are often significant and long lasting. On the short term, you’ll find that it tends to help you process your way through the doldrums you’re going through. But also, what I’ve learned over the years with of this type of journaling, is that sometimes months or even years later I can go back to these entries and there staring back at me is a vividly captured emotion that I experienced in my past and that I can now use in my current work. I’m still connected to it, but I now have the necessary distance from it to be able to fold it into my writing.
At times it’s been exhilarating as a writer to have this documentation of my past emotional struggles available to me–my own private treasure trove. And on occasion a past journal entry has unlocked a key I’d been searching for and that I needed to unwrap for a project I was currently in the middle of.
At any rate, it’s always a good practice for a writer to use words–the raw material we work with day in and day out–to help guide us through the down times. And you may find that down the line it will prove a bonanza.
I’m the Program Director of the low-residency MFA in Writing for Stage and Screen being offered by the New Hampshire Institute of Art. Our last residency ran July 21-31, 2016 and we are still considering applications for starting the program with our January 2017 residency that runs January 6-15 or for starting with our June residency running from June 22-July 2. I’m also a playwright and screenwriter, producing partner in my production company Either/Or Films (The Sensation of Sight and Only Daughter) a professional script consultant, and the author of The Playwright’s Process