What Your Reader Doesn’t Want to See

What Your Reader Doesn’t Want to See

I’m a novice writer. But I’m an experienced reader, as most writers (novice or not) tend to be. As I sink my teeth into yet another book, I find myself frustrated with the writing, but intrigued by the content. The author had a clear vision of what the story meant to her, but a somewhat murky view of how a reader might perceive her penned words. I’m starting to believe a well written book with nothing to say is far more gripping than an interesting story told in a self-important or confusing manner.

I have enough grey hair and laughter lines to remember the classic ‘80s comedy, Three Men & a Baby, with Tom Selleck cradling baby Mary while reading a bedtime story.

“The champ caught Smith with a savage left hook… that sent the challenger crashing into the ropes. Smith, his left eye swollen, and the cut above his right eye now much more bloody, countered with a barrage of vicious body blows.”

“What are you reading her?”

“It doesn’t matter what I read, it’s the tone you use. She doesn’t understand the words, anyway. Now, where were we? The champ began the fourth round like a man possessed, going straight for his opponent’s body.”

If four-month-old baby Mary can be mesmerised with big style and small content (and Tom Selleck’s beautiful blue eyes), I can too.

We have a vision of how our story will go (well – I do…) but, when it gets to the nitty gritty of putting fingers to keyboard, visions can get lost in a flurry of ego. Just because it’s written down, doesn’t mean an audience has to read it. For writing to extend beyond me, I have to envision the reader’s needs.

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About Simone

Crazy hair, solitude seeker, at peace in the natural world, Simone Yemm dedicated over three decades as a professional flautist and teacher. In 2008 she completed a Master’s in Journalism, specialising in editing, and continues to hone her skills as a writer. After a series of crises led to an emotional breakdown, Simone developed a passionate interest in mental health and shares her story to educate and support the wider community. With 25 years of marriage under her belt, she successfully raised three and a half young men and a chocolate-brown Burmese cat. A mean feat never to be underestimated.

www.simonelisa.com

As a novice writer I’m not in a position to state what to do for successful writing. But just as politicians learned over millennia, and drum into us with negative campaigning, it’s easy to know what not to do. As I lurch my way through another memoir, here are a few things I’m learning not to write:

  • Exclamation marks! They’re so annoying!!
  • Presumed fact. Belief isn’t fact. Back it up or acknowledge it’s a personal belief. This is a fact.
  • Half-truths. It’s difficult to develop empathy for a character claiming everyone is wrong and they are right. With only one side of the story, I instinctively distrust the assumption of innocence. What aren’t you telling me? Be vulnerable – tell me the whole story.
  • 1+1=3 Whatever the scenario (fact or fiction), give me the numbers and I’ll finish the sum. Our lives are unique – to us. Our stories are relatable – to everyone. Grief. Love. Fear. We all experience them in one way or another. I haven’t grieved the loss of a marriage, but I have grieved the loss of a career. Show me grief in the guise of divorce, and I’ll see the sum of your despair.
  • Tyipng erorrs. It’s hard to proofread you’re own work, and even with countless professional eyes on the the manuscript, typos slip through. But if there’s more then one per page, ewe need better professionals. Excesive speling, gramattical, & structurall, erors disturb the most forgiving of reeders.

For 36 years I taught eager (and disinterested) young people to play the flute. As years went by, I discovered how much more we learn from mistakes than we ever do from successes. I want to raise my standards as a writer and continue to hone my craft, and paying attention to both what works and what doesn’t is helping me do that.

I want to see the villain’s face crumble. Hear the soldier singing. I need to touch the warm flesh of young lovers, taste the salty tears, and smell the charred remains. Whatever vision you have for the story burning inside you, make it one we can all see. Remember your reader. Because then, much like baby Mary staring adoringly into Tom Selleck’s eyes, your story will find an audience.

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The Catharsis of Writing

Beneath the bluest of skies, clouds can gather. This week my clouds collided in a cacophony of noise. Many of us with mental health issues are lured by the seductive whisper of maladaptive coping mechanisms, and traversing darkness can blind the strongest of us to any light ahead. To stay safe and whole I need a way to store emotional pain. It’s taken decades, but I finally have a healthy place to steady me when my soul succumbs to chaos.

I write.

I use words to weave a cloak of self-care. I let the stream of consciousness burn through my fingers. I blog. I share with trusted friends. Write journals. Make notes on my phone. I write anywhere I can. And when I’m done writing, my spirit is a little softer and my heart a little calmer.

Almost half the population of Australia will have a mental health issue (depression, anxiety, substance abuse – to name a few) at some point in their lives. Fifty per cent of us. If you know another human, then statistically speaking, one of you is it. Inner mental turmoil can turn molehills into mountains, and when that happens our emotions and fear can overwhelm while destructive behaviours waltz in to calm the mental disquiet.

But writing out chaos gives it a name – acknowledges the pain. Writing needs no rules, no judgment, no audience. It matters not if you’re a “good” writer. Regurgitating words is an outlet for the whirlpool of noise and once out, there is a lessening of burden. A burden shared is indeed a burden halved.

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About Simone

Crazy hair, solitude seeker, at peace in the natural world, Simone Yemm dedicated over three decades as a professional flautist and teacher. In 2008 she completed a Master’s in Journalism, specialising in editing, and continues to hone her skills as a writer. After a series of crises led to an emotional breakdown, Simone developed a passionate interest in mental health and shares her story to educate and support the wider community. With 25 years of marriage under her belt, she successfully raised three and a half young men and a chocolate-brown Burmese cat. A mean feat never to be underestimated.

www.simonelisa.com

We live in a world where connection to meaningful relationships and pastimes can be superficial. Social media and online activities bring communities and individuals together in the most wonderful of ways, yet we still need connection in the “real” world. We need someone to hear our personal story in all its uncensored glory. Without real connections it’s easy to isolate, and isolation is rarely helpful for mental health issues.

Fortunately, there is a plethora of tools to support us, and we can all find different ways to work through distress. Writing is free, needs few resources, no training, and is available anywhere, anytime. Writing clutches your worst fears – all the problems that haven’t even happened – and puts them down in black and white. Or any colour you choose. It can offer perspective and validation. It gives words to unexplained feelings, unexpressed pain and paralysing fear. Writing clears a little space for the voice of reason to step in and whisper in your ear.

I started writing in a journal as part of my professional support therapies. Some days were so dark I couldn’t form full sentences – I just seeped the anguish through my fingers and let it rest. I read it back later and felt compassion for the girl silently screaming in my mind. That was three years ago. Since then I have written prodigiously. When full sentences can be found, I put my inclination to perfectionism to work, cleaning up text to publish in my blog. Sharing my story sheds the shame. It allows me to tell my deepest, darkest secrets and fears to professional and personal supports without speaking out loud. When my voice has no words, I give it one through writing. Publicly sharing my story brings me a stronger sense of connection to communities of people who understand when I’m suffering. They’ve been there, done that, felt it. They hear my words and feel them too.

I recently experienced a rapid spiral into depression and forgot to write. Chaos swirled. At 3am one morning, I wrote a thousand words of turmoil in a message to a trusted friend. She checked on me, kept me safe, and since then I’ve resumed my writing and the turmoil is settling. Rational thoughts are returning and perspective is coming back. My early morning stream of consciousness was a catharsis of emotional pain. My physical world remains cloudy, but mentally, emotionally, spiritually, I am clearer. I see hope and light.  And I owe that to writing.

 

*If you are experiencing mental health issues and need assistance or someone to talk to, please seek support services in your area. You are not alone and there is help available.*

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