Ben Armentrout: Writing Through Trauma

When trauma strikes, it can whip the writing right out of a writer.  Writing is one of those practices at the pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, up in the section called “self-actualization.”  That teetering realm, inhabited with creativity, spontaneity and problem-solving, can be a difficult place to stay.  If anything lower down shakes, the writer is likely to fall off.  The climb back up can take a long time.

A month ago, my family suffered a traumatic incident.  Before that, I was getting up at 4:00 Am and writing for two hours almost every day.  I wrote more in the evenings as well.  I managed about 60,000 words each month.  Since the incident, I’ve written almost nothing.  I am clawing my way back toward the writing world, but it is taking time.

My own struggle to return to writing practice has reminded me of the many writers who have lived difficult lives and still produced enduring works.  Fyodor Dostoevsky was sentenced to death and prepared to die before a firing squad.  He was only spared at the last moment.  John Keats suffered the deaths of his mother and brother before tuberculosis claimed his life as well.  Sylvia Plath battled depression but continued to write until her death.

How do writers suffer tragedy in their lives and still manage to create art?  Life is filled with hardship.  Everybody is certain to come up against the kind of distress that can make writing give way to the basic needs of life.  Do you have a method to spring you back into productivity that you can share?  Do you use writing to weather the hard times?  How would your writing respond to a traumatic event?

2 thoughts on “Ben Armentrout: Writing Through Trauma”

  1. Lynn Lovegreen

    I know some writers who write more during a hardship, as a way to escape it. But like you, Ben, I tend to stop writing while I'm gong through a tough time. I go back to it once things are calmer, and often I get a burst of ideas when I start up again.

  2. Hello Ben – I am wishing you and your family well.
    During such times, I have found that my writing is not the answer. I cease.
    I turn then to the poets, for this seems to be their realm — the deep stillnesses.
    I've recently come upon the poetry of David Whyte and I recommend him.
    Best to you.
    Therese H

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