The premise behind my second novel Another Way to Fall was for the heroine, Emma to be able to write the life she would have led if her illness hadn’t stolen it from her. It wasn’t difficult for me to imagine how writing that lost life might have been cathartic for Emma, in fact it’s what I love about writing myself; it was that kind of catharsis that spurred me to write both Another Way to Fall and Yesterday’s Sun.
It’s easy to see how the confines of the page can provide a certain sense of security that enables and emboldens the writer to share their innermost feelings. And while both of my novels were clearly for public consumption, the characters I’ve created are sometimes speaking my words and thinking my thoughts. Maybe the readers can see through that false veil or perhaps they are able to take some of those feelings as their own for one reason or another.
But not everything I’ve written has been fiction or with the sole purpose of getting published. I turned to writing when my son was ill, at a time when I couldn’t articulate my feelings in any other way. To put it simply I couldn’t physically talk about what was happening but I could write about it. I didn’t chose writing as a therapy but rather it chose me. Having never had any aspirations to be a writer, when I started to keep a journal I was less interested in the prose than the message I was trying to convey or the memory I was trying to capture. And two years later when my son died, I was determined to write his story. It ought to have been tortuous to relive some of the horrors he endured and I witnessed but I somehow survived the retelling of it.
I can’t say how writing Nathan’s story helped but I don’t doubt that it did. As a bereaved parent it gave me the reassurance that while I had lost my son and knew that time would steal the sound of his voice, the scent of him and the touch of him, I would forever hold onto those intimate details of his life even after they inevitably faded from my mind.
The intimate details of Nathan’s life are there to be relived if ever I need to but in truth, up until recently I chose not to, and even when I did open it the other day it was only a quick glance. I had been planning to write a blog about a park bench in preparation for my next novel Where I Found You which is being released in June 2014. It was a bench in Sefton Park that I had in mind which held memories of me sitting there heavily pregnant with my daughter. Then I just happened to be in Calderstones Park the other week and passed a play area with another bench which evoked another memory. This one was not so pleasant and it made me finally open up the journal and read the entry about the day I took by two children to the park in a failed attempt to feel like a normal family.
If ever I needed proof that writing can be cathartic then it was that entry in my journal. All those feelings of anger, futility and sadness are there in the words I had written, there on the page and not eating away at me. I can’t claim that writing Nathan’s story has purged my soul of all the pain and grief but it has certainly lessened the burden. I suspect my reluctance to read it over is that fear of all those feelings returning but there are some treasures in there too, the good memories and the reasons why my son is my inspiration. But then I don’t think I’m ever likely to forget that.