How do we know when we’re writing too much?
It’s tempting to think they’re’s no such thing as too much. Maybe that’s true for some people, especially if the things they write cover a variety of styles and subject matter.
But this week, I’m conscious that I may be writing too much of a project too quickly. My nonfiction project contains many memoir-style pieces for the purposes of outreach, and I am working on some that cover a very dark time in my life.
My task is to convey, at different times, an authentic tone of what it’s like to be a practicing addict, to take doses of drugs you know might kill you and not care as long as you get high, to be deep in clinical depression or overwhelming anxiety, to be suicidal, to be convinced that suicide is the best thing you can do for those you love, to know that you have lost and drugs have won, to plan your own disappearance and death, to know that you deserve nothing better…
My task is to write it so well that an addict or a mental illness sufferer will identify strongly, while someone not familiar with the feelings will have a window opened to a bit of understanding.
Strong feedback I’m getting tells me I am at least partially succeeding in this. But there’s a cost: I’m writing it authentically enough to affect myself as well.
Floods of old emotions, ones that are always there but more in the background, wash over me. Old grief, guilt, and shame come up often. The otherworldly loneliness of that time echoes.
Too much of this is dangerous to my current mental health. I’m noticing hits to my self-care and changes in how I relate to my family.
These things need to be written…but I need to pace myself.