Scars: When Writing Hurts


When writing hurts
Writing: pleasure and pain

Therapeutic writing has been part of my “mental health” routine for a long time, as it is for many other writers. I have written about my soul scars, healed an unhealed: about my less-than-perfect relationship with my late father, about my perfectionism and the myriad of unfinished novels and stories that are languishing in files and notebooks in my office, about my sugar cravings and about those days when all I want to do is lie in bed, reading Terry Pratchett’s novels because the world outside is ugly.

I write every day: a few lines or a whole chapter. I’ve been doing it since I was a young girl so I’ve had time enough to reflect on the act of writing. As far as I can tell from my own experience and that of other fellow writers, writing can be:

  • necessity: something we cannot stop doing; separated from our notebooks and word processors, we suffer. We’re addicted to words because they let us say what our mouths won’t say.
  • An outlet: we write because it’s liberating. There’s something in the mind-eye-hand coordination that writers find relaxing as if all the tensions and nasty experiences could evaporate once our thoughts are on paper (or on the screen).
  • job: but not in the sense of “what a fabulous job I have: I am a writer!”—although this also happens. It’s more like “I can’t believe I accepted writing 2000 words on the sexual life of the rhinoceros beetle. I hate insects!” Writing, then, feels like a chore, like a punishment. We even forget those days when we’re flowing and flying with the words.
  • As a stressful, anxiety-provoking activity: this happens when we dig deep down into those sensitive areas of our life, those past experiences we have swept under our psychological carpet. Such introspection is usually part of therapeutic writing: you’re asked to unearth an uncomfortable episode from your past suddenly realizing that it hurts much more than you expected. It hurts like crazy.

I had such feeling a couple of weeks ago. I was writing about my tendency to procrastinate —something I’m not proud about but which isn’t a big worry, either. As words and lines went on, I realized that in fact, I was writing about opportunities lost, about being a failure, and a lazybones, too old now to reach my goals. The next minute, I had this choking feeling in my throat, as if I were about to cry.

TLC for writers
Love yourself. Love the writer in you

Sometimes, taking it all out into the light is not a good idea. What shall we do when writing suddenly feels like picking a scab?

  • Stop writing: Obvious, isn’t it? But you’d be surprised to know how many writers just can’t leave a paragraph unfinished. When it hurts, please stop. You can always come back to it later.
  • Change scenario: Leave the room; leave your studio or wherever you’re writing. Go take a walk around the block or get yourself a chilled beer. Just being in a different place will soothe your emotions.
  • Move your body: What I did was putting on my training gear and hitting the gym. A sweaty Zumba class can clear up your head and help you get rid of your gloominess.
  • Cry your sadness away: crying can be really liberating and a very good way of letting all that emotional pressure off your soul. A good cry is nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Write a short story on a different subject: children’s stories work best for me (there’s something truly optimistic about a talking frog or a stupid, little princess), but choose any subject you like. Sci-fi, maybe?

Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure only death can stop it.

Ernest Hemingway

Remember that writing shouldn’t be an act of masochism: if dumping your feelings or memories on paper is making you unhappy, stop doing it. Little is gained by writing bitter words.

Have you ever felt uncomfortable or sad when writing? How do you cope when writing hurts?


12 thoughts on “Scars: When Writing Hurts

  1. Thank you for this honest post and opening your heart. I cannot say that I’ve felt sad when writing. But I’ve had moments (or days) where I knew I needed to write to meet a deadline but felt kind of down, thinking that how was I supposed to give positive and useful advice without feeling like a fraud because I wasn’t feeling positive. I did what you recommend: get a change of scenery and things to inspire and uplift me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So, Dorit, we’re talking about “writing as a job” here, when writing doesn’t feel much like a pleasure but rather like a chore, something you have to or need to do. A chance of scenario would work very well in this case but have you tried to write a short story? Something fantastic, a fable maybe, where you can condense your advice? It works wonders with creativity and, in no time, you’ll have tons of ideas to share with your readers.
      Thanks so much for your comment.


  2. Thank you for your nice and interesting post Maria and for sharing your experience. Enjoyed a lot reading in English. I could say that writing is kind of therapy for me too. I write when I feel blue, when I feel stressed and has no desire to contact with anybody, this last one occurs quite rarely. Also I enjoyed writing when I like to share something that I have already experimented. I do not consider myself as the writer but I feel necessity for writing in my own freewriting style. Any way when I finish writing I feel the liberation. I see that my thoughts are more clear and organized. Although I could understand that sometimes, I could feel the same as you when I feel the negative emotions or something I have difficulty to accept in my behavior. It is quite normal and the change of the activity could be a remedy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Elena, that’s precisely the point. Writing is usually a pleasant activity, something liberating, an outlet, a way of having fun in made up worlds; that’s why it feels so strange when you reach one of those tender areas of your pysche or your personality that you normally avoid touching too much. In that sense, writing can be unpleasant for a while and that’s something we’re not used to.
      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this issue.


  3. Maria, I have never felt uncomfortable when I write, on the contrary, I write to feel well, to understand sadness, to spell pain.
    Of course writing hurts, that’s precisely the idea, if it hurts, and it’s authentic and pure what you write.
    If you don´t know how to find a scar inside you, just writing you can find it, and most likely it hurts, but you should not stop writing.
    Words hurt. Words like great and terrible could have many meanings. Any words which give you a special impression or emotion have a personality. They are words which can make something sound important or trivial, dignified or common. They suggest that some things may be desirable, or undesirable, good or bad, strong o weak, right or wrong. But they always hurt. And that is the magic of being a writer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m always surprised by your courageous approach to soul-healing, Eliana: always facing directly what hurts and being ready to dig deeper and to understand what lies under the surface. Myself, I’d rather stop writing than letting my writing be associated to discomfort. I’d rather keep writing as my primary source of joy and well-being, but I totally see your point.
      Thanks for sharing your strenght with me.


  4. Lovely post. Writing is something I love. I hadn’t thinked like that all my life, but long time ago I realized that writing was a great way to connect with me, to know me better and to cure my scars. Writing issomething great, it makes me feel more light, better and clarifies my mind

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Odina,
      Thanks for sharing your passion for writing here. As you say, writing can be a wonderful way of making your mind clearer and digging deeper into your emotions. It’s precisely that direct connection to our tender emotions what might turn writing into a hurtful experience. That’s why I’d recommend not to go on writing when the emotions that arise are too uncomfortably strong. I’d rather thing about writing as a pleasant experience, not a painful one.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A mi escribir me encanta creo que es una excelente manera de soltar emociones tanto buenas como malas, es una excelente manera de expresarte, de dejarte ir y sobre todo de guardar en un sitio un pedazo de ti que luego puede enseñarte tu evolución y lo bien que lo has hecho en la vida.

    No sé si lo hago bien y por eso me encanta leer que hay maneras y la escritura como terapia creo que es una de las que quiero explorar ahora. Así que gracias guapa 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hola Diana:
      Últimamente se habla y se recomienda mucho la escritura terapéutica, soltarlo todo en un papel que, como suele ser privado, todo lo acoge y todo lo soporta. Sin embargo, precisamente por esa enorme libertad que da el papel a veces nos podemos «pasar de frenada» y acceder a esas áreas blanditas de nuestra personalidad, sensibles y tiernas que, a mi juicio, es mejor no tocar mucho hasta que cicatricen un poco. A los que nos gusta escribir se nos va la fuerza por los dedos y, a veces, nos pasamos y nos hacemos sufrir. Aunque ¿quién dice que no sea un paso necesario?
      Muchas gracias por tu comentario; anímate a probar la escritura terapéutica y ya me contarás que tal.
      Un abrazo.


    1. Hi Aida:
      I guess you have a point there. It might be a matter of balance: let’s say that 7 out of 10 times you feel better after pouring your thougts on paper,that your mind is clearer and you feel lighter. Then, I guess it’s ok if a few times writing makes one feel sad, or inadequate, or like a fraud or whatever. It’s the overall positive experience what matters, isn’t it?
      Thanks so much for sharing your writing experiences with me.


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