I got a message from a friend recently asking what to do when writing becomes too painful. Like in those moments when you're going along writing in a good rhythm and suddenly you hit on something that is difficult and it makes you want to stop and/or throw your notebook across the room. I thought I might share a more thorough answer with you.
1. Create a container for your writing.
First, it helps to create a container for your writing space. Even if you are just plopped on your bed with your laptop, you can light a candle or rub a little essential oil on your wrist (I like cedar, lemongrass and clary sage) or grab a stone like tourmaline or amethyst and put in your lap. I like to use something tangible to create the space but you could also just set an intention. Here is a little spell/prayer you could say:
2. Create a container for your memories.
Like it says in the prayer, let this work be a cauldron let the cauldron have a lid. (This trick is courtesy of my therapist.) Before you start writing or even when you are not writing, when you are just riding the train or driving to work, imagine a place that feels safe that you can visualize yourself in and return to whenever you need to. Mine used to be a meadow with a big oak tree now it is a white stucco house on a huge piece of land surrounded by trees where four grandmother guides are waiting to help me through my brain/heart. You can make it whatever you want but imagine yourself there and then imagine a container. It can be a sturdy suitcase or a heavy trunk. Mine used to be a clear plastic container with green latches that I once purchased at Target. Now it is a cauldron with a lid. Imagine yourself putting memories in there. Difficult memories. The memories you want to write about. When you start writing and you come to a place where painful memories come up an you aren't sure you want to deal with them. You can picture yourself placing each one in there like a photograph. Then close the lid. Seal it up, lock it. Put it somewhere. Know that you can always come back to it but that for right now, imagine that they are safe there and you are safe and you have done good work. Sometimes just knowing the container is there, makes me feel safe enough to continue going through the memory. I know this sounds woo and weird and it is but if you are reading my blog, there is a good chance you believe in the woo and weird as much as I do. It helps, just try it.
3. Metaphor is a storm shelter.
Like Rachel Mckibbens once told me, it is okay to keep some secrets for yourself. If you think this is something you might ever want to share. Or if you are not sure you can even get it out. Turn all the characters into inanimate objects. Give the experience one long metaphor. Maybe you are a horse and that dirty house was a barn. Maybe the tree at the end of the road is your father. Maybe the relationship is a garden of weeds. The friendship is an ice-cream shop with no electricity. When you create a metaphor for the experience or the people, it is often so much easier to navigate.
4. After care is not just for sex.
I first heard the concept of after-care from body positive BDSM folks in the Bay. It is a ritual you create for yourself and your partner. Maybe cuddling and massage. Ice cream and ointment. You know how it works. It's something I've started doing post-show. I think we all have an after care ritual for intense things whether it is healthy or not. My post-show after-care used to be to drink bourbon or mindlessly scroll on my phone in the car for half an hour. But recently, I made my self a pre and post show self-care kit, with flower essences, essential oils and crystals. It helps me reground and not have a vulnerability hangover the next day. Figure out what your after care will be when you are finished engaging with disturbing or painful shit. Maybe veg out with Netflix or put on a fuck ton of make up. You do you, boo. And do it intentionally, compassionately, and patiently.