How to Know if You’re Ready to Publish Your PainFebruary 22nd, 2017 by September Vaudrey
You’ve experienced a tragic loss or deep pain, but are you ready to write about it? How soon is too soon?
Five years after my daughter passed away, my literary agent asked me why I thought now was the time to publish my memoir about her death.
“I had to finish living my story first,” I replied. “I had to discover my ending.”
Though my grief won’t find its full ending until heaven, I knew I needed resolution with God before I had anything helpful to share with readers.
It’s tempting for writers to treat their readers like therapists, leaking unprocessed pain onto them in hopes of closure or resolution. But as we gain distance from our traumas, our perspectives change.
It’s never too soon to write about your loss, but it may be too soon to post or publish it.
It may take five years or five weeks, but it’s worth waiting to let your perspective mature. You will grow and learn lessons worth sharing during that time. And you will deliver more powerful, well-seasoned writings.
How do you know the right time to share your loss story? Here are five questions to help you decide.
Is my story fit for public consumption?
Some stories are too painful or too personal for the public eye. Others can be told orally but lose something when transferred to the written page. If this describes your narrative, write your story anyway, but consider keeping it only for yourself or sharing it with a private audience—friends or family.
Is this my story to share?
Your friend’s divorce, your mother’s cancer, and your grown child’s joblessness are gripping tales. But they aren’t yours. Someone else owns those stories and may not appreciate you telling them to the world.
If you gain their blessing to publish these stories, write from your point of view. Share how the event impacted or changed or grew you. Your unique perspective belongs to you and engages your audience.
Have I discovered my story’s ending?
Every good story needs a narrative arc—a beginning, middle, and end. Have you found your ending? Have you reached a point of peace, closure, or growth? If so, now’s your time to share. If not, let your story simmer. Think crockpot, not drive thru.
Have I spotted a universal theme?
No one can relate perfectly to your unique loss, but your pain becomes relatable when you connect it to a universal theme. This might be the power of community, finding God to be good in bad circumstances, or overcoming a fear. Spot a theme and include it in your story. You’ll hook and help your readers.
Have I received input from fresh eyeballs?
We’re often too close to our own stories to see their cracks. Test-drive your story by sharing it with trusted friends or a few literary types—and make course corrections as needed. Fresh eyeballs help your story shine.
When my writing friend read my manuscript, she coached, “Stop using the word ‘horrid.’ It’s too horrid! And every time you talk about heaven as ‘beyond the veil,’ I throw up a little bit in my throat. Just say ‘heaven.’” That’s the kind of helpful bluntness I need—and so do you!
Your story is worth sharing, but maybe not right now! Find your ending, release your polished story, and let your loss bring healing to the world.
For even more writing tips, sign up for our FREE 3-part mini course designed to help you start writing, sustain your writing, and share your writing.
September Vaudrey is a Write Brilliant alum whose first memoir, Colors of Goodbye, details the loss of 19-year-old daughter, Katie—and her family’s journey to rebuild their lives in the wake of this loss.