Tessa’s observations here may not apply to most simple life writers who write part time and very much for pleasure and self-exploration. But her points are well taken in any event, especially the one about choosing which content to write about. That fits with James Pennebaker’s admonition to mix plenty of bright memories with the darker ones to keep depression at bay. I thank Tessa for sharing these points. It’s always good to know the risks of “turning pro.”
According to the website health.com, writing is one of the top 10 professions in which people are most likely to suffer from depression. Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Hemingway…the list of writers who have fought depression is long. But what about people with no history of depression? How might writing affect them?
Well, let’s see. Take an otherwise healthy person, shut her up alone for hours at a time, day after day, month after month, year after year, watch her pack on the pounds (as physical exercise becomes a thing of the past), ask her to write, knowing that the end result can never be perfect and, to boot, tell her there’s no way of guaranteeing if she’ll be published, or paid.
Hmm, tricky question…
So what’s to be done? Well, one option is to choose, when we can, what we write about. Some stories cannot be manipulated. Some demand a sad ending. The bleak beauty of Alice Munro’s short stories, for example, would be lost if her endings were happy (or even bearable). But sometimes, when the first thoughts and images are just stirring, we do have a choice. We can mold content and/or conclusion.
I discovered this for myself by accident. A few years ago, I was reading my mum’s copy of the Daily Express, a newspaper designed to make English senior citizens rant and rave, when I came across an account of pensioners stealing free biscuits from their local cinema. It was so funny, and just happened to fit perfectly into the story I was writing. Each morning, I was amazed to find that I couldn’t wait to continue working on the story. This, after fifteen years of writing! Now I keep a file of strange or funny or awe-inspiring articles. Every now and then, one fits into a story, and makes the writing fun.
Award-winning author and founder of eChook Digital Publishing Tessa Smith McGovern will be chatting about what it takes to write and publish a short memoir, live on BookTrib.com Tuesday, December 7 at 3 p.m. ET. Tessa will be here ready to answer all of your questions and discuss her three essential memoir-writing tips.