Emptying your veins onto the page.

Writing is therapy.

How much of yourself do you pour into your writing?  The answer may vary dramatically depending on the type of writing you do.  No one bares their soul in a technical manual.  But fiction writers, poets, lyricists… all inject their own joy and pain, fear and desire into their work.  The question is: what do we risk in exposing ourselves to the world?  How much do we give?  Sharing the very essence of yourself is either crazy or incredibly brave.

Part of it is about trust.  Do you trust yourself to convey those thoughts and feelings accurately?  Do you trust your readers to understand, to relate?  Because that’s kind of the point.  We are sharing.  We want it to reach someone, to entertain at a minimum, or to move the heart, stir the spirit.  This very notion gives your writing weight.  It’s a heady thing– moving a soul.  Choose carefully, the words you’re about to commit to paper.  Craft them with skill, arrange them just so.  Speak them aloud to see how they roll off the tongue.

Another part of it is honesty.  Do you share the difficult stuff, too?  The things that might make your readers cringe?  Exposing your fears, flaws, failures, and mistakes opens you up to criticism, rebuke and rejection.  And yet that cleansing, that catharsis may be just the thing you need to put out there.  Risk or not.

Consider your audience.  Who is reading your work?  Maybe you’re anonymous here on your blog.  That certainly gives you a lot of freedom to post at will.  For those of us blogging with full disclosure?  Not so much!  So what do you do if there’s something just eating away at you?

Some stories just beg to be told.  I’ve had an interesting life full of adventures and catastrophes, joys and pain.  The painful parts are the hardest to tell but they are also the stories that burn inside.  That doesn’t mean I have to write a memoir.  But I can tell a story.  Wrap a memory in the cloak of fiction and pen the narrative as if it happened to somebody else.  All the desperate hopes, crushed dreams and lost loves pour onto the page.

If you look hard enough, my writing empties my veins.  More of it flows out every day.  If you are able to separate the drops of fact from the volume of fiction, you will see the essence of me.  Go ahead and look.  I’ll leave you to decide which is which!

What do you say, writers?  Do you pour yourself out onto the page?

 

The Morning After (Here Lies a Soldier part 5)

By Meg Sorick. Find other parts of the series and a family tree, here.

Meredith sat at the kitchen table, her robe belted tightly around her, sipping her coffee. The day promised to be a dreary one, not much good for sightseeing. She sighed heavily. Maybe David wouldn’t mind a day of rest. They could begin looking at the albums and scrapbooks. He seemed to be eager to get started. She laid a hand over her belly and grimaced. She felt sick and the coffee wasn’t helping. Why did she do this over and over again? It was as if she had no power over herself when Rob was around. And it always ended the same way: with Rob sweet talking her into bed and her waking up cold and alone the next morning.

She heard the door open and close down the hall and the water running in the bathroom. David was awake. She pushed her hands through her hair and pinched her cheeks to give them some color. There was no way she would let her cousin realize how dreadful she felt. By the time David had emerged from the back of the house, Meredith had composed herself.

“Good morning, David,” she greeted him brightly.

“Good morning,” he replied. He looked around, frowning. “Your… friend is gone?”

“Ha! Oh, yes,” she said. “He had to be off early. Other people to see for the holidays, you know.” She rose and went to the coffee pot. “How do you take your coffee?”

“Black with sugar,” he said. Clearing his throat, he continued, “I didn’t realize you were, um… seeing someone. You never said. I hope I didn’t make things awkward for you.”

She kept her back to him. “No, not at all. I… We… That is to say, Rob and I… well, it’s er, not a serious thing. And em, I wasn’t really expecting him, but…” she trailed off. “Anyway, here you go.” She smiled and handed him a mug.

He accepted it, studying her intently. Her smile was little too bright, like she was forcing it. The pain in her eyes was apparent, though she was obviously trying to hide it. Meredith was hurting and didn’t want him to know. Feelings of protectiveness and righteous indignation welled up inside him. She averted her gaze. He was making her uncomfortable. That was the last thing she needed right now. Mentally shaking himself, he smiled broadly. “Thanks, Meredith.”

When he smiled, she relaxed. He had a wonderful smile, full of warmth and sincerity. It bothered her that she worried what he thought of her. She realized she wouldn’t be able to bear it if she disappointed him. Where had that come from?

David sipped his coffee and sighed. “That hits the spot. So, what do you want to do today?”

“It’s not a great day for sightseeing, so I thought we could start perusing the letters and photos. What do you say?”

“That sounds perfect. If it’s all the same, though, I’d like to get a little exercise first.”

“Of course. What did you have in mind?”

“I’d like to run.  Is there a good spot for it?” he asked.

Meredith grinned. “I know just the thing. Mind some company?”

Meredith and David drove out to the coast road and parked. Then she led him to a path hidden by the bushes that ran parallel to the road. David let her set the pace and was pleasantly surprised at her athletic ability. The air was moist with the misty rain and the mild temperatures kept the ocean breeze from feeling too chilly. It was all David could do to keep his eyes on the path and off the magnificent view of the ocean below. When they returned to the car, they were both breathing heavily. Meredith unlocked the car and handed David a bottle of water. “So,” she gasped, “not bad, right?”

“It’s amazing. I could get used to this,” David said, deeply breathing in the salty air. “God, it’s pretty here.” Spontaneously, he leaned down and kissed her forehead. “Thank you, Meri.”

She wasn’t sure which thing surprised her more: his gesture of affection or his use of her nickname. She swallowed hard. “You’re welcome.”

“So, what’s next?”

“Home for a shower,” she said. “Then some breakfast?”

“Perfect.”

Meredith let him go first, figuring he wouldn’t take as long. While the water ran in the bath, she put on a fresh pot of coffee and sliced up some fruit for their breakfast. She let her mind wander back to the previous evening.

David had introduced himself to Rob as Meredith’s cousin from America before beating a hasty retreat to his room. He’d made the excuse that he was tired from the long trip and needed an early night anyway. As soon as David’s door had closed, Rob had pulled Meredith into his arms.

“I miss you, Meri,” he breathed into her ear as his hands roamed up and down her back.

She found herself responding to him the same way she always did. And now, the morning after, she hated herself for it. This was why she’d left the city – to get away from him. He wouldn’t commit to her, liked things the way they were, tried to convince her that she did too. He was like a drug she was addicted to. A drug that was slowly poisoning her. A single tear trailed down her cheek. She was so lost in her misery, she hadn’t heard the water shut off, hadn’t heard David come up behind her. “Meri,” he said softly.

When his comforting hand rested on her shoulder, the last of her defenses dissolved. She turned into him, buried her head against his chest and wept. His arms went around her and he murmured soothing noises while she sobbed. He cursed the man that did this to her and swore to himself that he’d never let the bastard hurt his cousin again.

(Image courtesy wildwomanspeaks.com)

Here Lies a Soldier ( Part 1)

By Meg Sorick. Find other parts in the series and a family tree, here.

Meredith stared at the headstone. She always stopped at this one on the way to her great-grandfather’s grave. It read: Here Lies a British Soldier of the Great War, Known Unto God. She pulled a single stem from the bouquet she carried, and laid it on the grass beneath the marker.

The breeze sent a chill up her spine. It was threatening to rain. The channel crossing from Dover to Calais this morning had been rough, and her stomach was just now settling. Then she’d navigated the roads of Flanders on the side opposite of which she was used to driving. Thank God Bedford House Cemetery was deserted on this early weekday afternoon in April. It was a beautiful place, surrounded by farms, quiet, reverent, profoundly sad. She drew in a deep breath of the cool damp air and walked on, moving further into the field of white markers.

The cluster of six headstones was about halfway in, near the center aisle on the left side. They were grouped in two rows of three, back to back, facing away from each other. Meredith walked around them, reading each name. These men had all served together, died on the same day, April 24,1915. One hundred years ago today. She came to the last one, her great grandfather, Lance Corporal, Frederick Jennings, Welsh Regiment. In one month’s time, 70,000 Allied soldiers, including Freddie Jennings, had died in the Second Battle of Ypres. He had been 22 years old, married less than a year, his young wife newly pregnant with the daughter he would never know.

A tear trailed down Meredith’s cheek. That daughter, Anne, was Meredith’s grandmother. Meredith buried her face in the bouquet and inhaled. The lilies’ delicate scent filled her nostrils and made her smile. What would Freddie Jennings think of his great granddaughter laying flowers on his grave? She was the only one left to do it, Gran had made Meredith promise she would go. It had been her dying wish. She conjured the image of the young man from the wedding photograph Gran had kept on her bedside table. He’d been tall and handsome. At 22, he retained some of the lanky awkwardness of youth.

The crunch of gravel behind her made Meredith turn sharply. Another car had pulled into the parking lot. She watched as the man emerged from the vehicle and walked in her direction. He stopped and consulted the sign at the entrance that explained the history and the layout of the cemetery. Well, she thought, the solitude had been nice while its lasted. She faced the headstone once again and rested her hand on top of it. “Goodbye, Freddie,” she murmured. “See you next year.”

“Don’t go on my account,” said the voice behind her.

Meredith jumped, sucking in a breath. The man had approached more quickly than she would have expected. She turned to face him as he moved closer. He was tall, quite handsome and… familiar? She smiled, recovering her manners. “It’s all right.”

He moved closer and stood beside her, his brow furrowing in concentration. He pulled a sheet of paper from his pocket and studied it, mumbling under his breath.

“What was that?” Meredith asked.

“Oh, sorry.” He gestured to the headstone. “I said I found him.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve been researching my family history. I’m the last one. Everyone else is gone.” He hung his head, cleared his throat. “I… I have no one. I’m all alone.”

Meredith’s eyes widened. “This is your…?” she began, lifting a hand and letting it drop.

“My great-grandfather and his brother were both killed in the war. Great granddad’s body was never found but… I believe this was his brother. I’ve found my great granduncle.”

Meredith laid the lilies on the grass in front of Frederick Jennings’ grave and turned to face the man. She smiled and held out her hand. “Hello, cousin. You’re not alone anymore.”

Header Image: Bedford House Cemetery, Flanders, Belgium. Photo my own.