Saturday, June 30, 2012

Writing Through Hard Things

I don't know how many of you know but the idea for TRAINWRECK came out of a sexual assault survivors testimonial writing workshop that I participated in. The workshop was amazing but also two of the most difficult days of my life.

Imagine standing in a room full of strangers and telling them about a sexual experience. Now imagine that experience was horrible and painful and nonconsensual. That's what happens to survivors in hospital ERs. It has to be this way. That's the sad fact of rape. If you want to report sexual assault or even see a doctor to make sure you're okay, you will have to tell your story over and over again. If you're lucky, there's a rape victim advocate in the ER with you. But regardless, it's not always the most empowering of experiences. It can be humiliating and difficult and re-traumatizing.

The workshop was meant to be a way of re-appropriating some of that. Telling our stories in our own words. Then writing them down (as poems, as stories, as essays). And the writing that came out of the workshop was gorgeous and raw and real and incredible. But I think every survivor would say that even in that space, where everyone around you is on your side and will listen to you and believe you, it still isn't easy to tell your story.

I am a big proponent of writing as a way of working through things. As a way of healing. I started a journal before anyone even knew what journaling was. But the reality is, writing TRAINWRECK was hard and heartbreaking. People assume it was therapeutic. It wasn't. There was NOTHING therapeutic about writing that book. But, I didn't write it for that. I wrote it so that people could see another side of rape. One that isn't really seen in fiction but is a very real possibility out in the world.

So how do you write through hard things? For me, the only way I could do it was to remember the WHY of it. Why I needed to write it. Why I wanted it out in the world. Why I had to push past things I really wanted to retreat from. Why I wanted to sell the book.

And because SimonPulse bought this book, we're able to do another survivor testimonial writing workshop in Chicago this fall. So something good has come out of something hard. And maybe someone will read my book and think that they're not alone. My belief in the possibility of THAT is sometimes the only way I can continue to re-enter what for me has been a very challenging and emotional story.

Do you ever consider WHY you wanted to write what you did?


  1. Christa, you are amazing and inspirational. And to answer your question, I don't consider the WHY as often as I consider the HOW. Perhaps I should give it more thought...

  2. Katy is right: you are indeed amazing and inspirational (even if you disagree sometimes with this statement, just accept it :D).
    There are some parts of my WiP when I know the why but it´s definitely something I could think of more.