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Using tragedy to inspire writing

This week has been one of worry for me. I live in Rochester, Minnesota and since January, I have been following a bear named Lily and her cub, Hope via Facebook and the web. Hope and Lily live in Ely, Minnesota. This week, 4 month old Hope and her mother were separated when Lily went off exploring while Hope was sleeping. It is not known at the time I am writing this, if Hope has been found or is even alive.

However, as I monitor the situation via the web, I have never seen so many people try to pull together for something as common as a small, black bear cub. People are so inspired by this tragic turn of events, that they have written several beautiful poems and said many prayers on behalf to Lily and Hope.

Why does tragedy inspire us to write? Is it because writing is a stress relieving activity? Is it because we can use writing to vent all those feelings that we may not be able to express in another way?

As I worried about Hope, I began to work on a story line that I have been toying with lately. I was also waiting for my car to get out of the shop and worried about the cost of repairs for it, so I sat down and wrote for 90 minutes. I was in the lobby of the shop, waiting for the mechanic to finish fixing my car and for ninety minutes I was in the world of my characters. All the worry and stress I had been feeling seemed to fade away as I wrote. When I finally finished and decided to walk to nearest store about a quarter mile away, I felt so much better.

Any time I have had to deal with stress or personal tragedy, writing has been an outlet for me. When I was fifteen, I had my first experience with death. We watched my grandfather succumb to liver disease. I was so saddened by this traumatic event that I would often turn to writing to help me cope. When he finally died in August of 1999, I used writing as a coping mechanism. If I could just pour out all the hurt and sadness into a piece of paper, I knew I would feel better, eventually.

When my uncle’s health took a downward turn in March, I was heartsick. I am very close to my uncle and regard him as more like an older brother. I live 10 hours from my family and could not get home when he was at his worse. To help myself deal with the pain of not being there when he needed family at his side, I wrote a beautiful poem for him. He was so touched by it, that he cried when he read it. I had put 26 years of feelings into that poem.

Writing can be a positive way to deal with all the negative that seeps into our day to day lives. It is a way to clear your mind and rebuild your thought process.

I am not saying that writing only when you’re stress or sad is the way to go. I am saying that using negative feelings constructively can be beneficial in writing. Use those pent up feelings to make your characters come alive and see where that takes you!


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