There are many reasons why writers write: the urge to create, to find an outlet for a headful of ideas, a desire to connect with others, to make your mark, capture a moment, to explore, invent, imagine or just because you HAVE to.
One of the most powerful writing experiences I have found though, is writing for catharsis. I don’t necessarily do this often, as I’ve been lucky enough not to need to, but when I do it honestly feels like some sort of therapy.
I definitely wrote for cathartic reasons after giving birth to my third son twenty-one months ago. Not (thankfully) that anything too terrible happened – he was born healthy and (eventually) had a natural delivery – but, man, it was such an ordeal to get there. Nine days of stop-start labour (that meant I barely slept), followed by endless hours of contractions so strong they should have prompted a baby to shoot out across the room not simply lie around wriggling contentedly!
Anyway, once my bundle of beauty had finally emerged, even though I was so happy I could have exploded with it, I still felt I had a lot to process. My births have never gone to plan despite me being convinced each time that ‘this time it will be fine!’ so I think there was a frustration there that I needed to address. So, with baby firmly attached to the milk supply (i.e me) and a never ending pile of cakes, biscuits and hot-cross buns at my elbow (I looked so terrible that everyone who visited felt the immediate urge to feed me sweet things) I set about writing about my experience.
I’ve recently read what I wrote. There’s a prose piece written when he was a week old which alternates between ‘then’ and ‘now’ quite effectively (I was trying to capture the amazing difference a week can make, so it leaps from the intensity of contractions to the peacefulness of breastfeeding in bed by the glow of a nightlight). There’s also a poem that goes through the whole labour describing it as an approaching storm that sucks me in and nearly drowns me. Powerful stuff.
I remember writing both these pieces, then reading them back and it making an immense difference to me. Like a big release of emotion that made me feel both lighter and like I had more energy. Plus I felt like I’d captured something for later. Birth is such an epic experience I’m glad I managed to store it somewhere outside of my own head, even if I never show what I’ve written to anyone.
How about you? What motivates you to write? Do you (or have you) found writing to be a cathartic experience?