I've been wondering recently, why it is that I love writing angst so much.
Because it's never pleasant to put myself in the shoes of someone having a breakdown or a panic attack, so... why do I do it so much?
And the good news is, I've come to a few conclusions.
I think I write angst for the same reason I write characters who are not perfect. The two go hand in hand, really. Someone imperfect will mess up, and sometimes there will be bad consequences.
I write imperfect characters because I am imperfect. I need to connect to the characters I'm writing to be able to feel their emotions and transcribe them properly. I want to relate to them, just the same as I want that for me when I'm reading, or watching something.
I understand the importance of having cosy stories out there for when we don't feel like we can handle a lot, emotionally. But angst with a happy ending is the only thing that keeps me returning to writing and reading, because:
I want that happy ending for me too.
How important is it to read about a person who's gone through difficult things, ended up traumatised, maybe, is messy, tired, doesn't have their shit together, and still gets to find unconditional love, people who will support them and love them as they are?
To read about a character losing it, ugly crying, and their love interest or partner not running away but sticking with them through the bad stuff?
There is an element of catharsis to writing (and reading) angst: I sometimes pick up a story I've already read, that I know will make me cry, when I need to let out some pent up emotions. In writing characters who are going through a rough time, I can also let out the difficult things that I am feeling myself.
So I hurt my characters. I give them too many emotions, and trauma, and physical pain.
But then, I pick them up and heal them.
So it's catharsis, but in a way... It's also the biggest act of self love I am capable of.
I'm terrible at embracing my flaws, at loving myself unconditionally. But in doing that for fictional people who I love very much, I am showing to myself that yes, it's okay to mess up. If this character is too tired to brush her hair and clean her flat, but she still gets to fall in love with another who has PTSD and rejection sensitivity, if I give them that happy ending...
I am slowly, gradually convincing myself that I can be imperfect, but still be good.
That maybe I can be like them and let myself be loved for who I am.
I don't always realise how much of myself I put in my characters (but it does get pointed out later by friends who ruthlessly see me), although I've been doing it more consciously, lately. Writing a character who has scoliosis and chronic pain. Another one who is autistic. As I grow to know more about myself, and little by little accept them, I can bring those elements into fiction too.
It's painful. When I wrote that character with scoliosis, it wasn't fun half of the time, because I had to constantly remind myself of what it felt like to grow up bullied because of the corset, to feel isolated and weak, to be in pain since age six, etc etc... It was painful but at the end of writing that book, I'd created a character who was also full of love for his friends, his family, who messed up but fixed his mistakes, who grew more accepting and strove to become a better person everyday.
And now, if I admit to myself that I love this character, while seeing all the similarities between him and me... It gets a little easier to accept myself as I am.
It's still hard though.
Just writing those few paragraphs put me on the verge of tears. There's a lump in my throat because when you're disabled, or different in any way, turns out it's really hard to love yourself, because you're told to fix yourself all through childhood and teenagehood. And one day BAM, you're an adult full of insecurities, and now you're told it's actually extremely important to be yourself and embrace that person.
No wonder I have to write so many books.
Self love is important, yes, but it's also incredibly difficult to be the only one loving yourself unconditionally, if you haven't been shown by others that you deserve it.
So I will keep crafting stories that ultimately are about one thing: telling a hurt person that they deserve good things, too. Giving them a love I'm struggling to give myself, fixing their pain and making them happy.
They deserve it and deep down, I know that I do too.
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