Author Kathleen Glasgow Shares Secrets and Lies for the Good of Your Soul

It can be really hard to put yourself out there in your writing, especially when you want to share your feelings through your characters.

In the New York Times bestseller Girl in Pieces and in her new novel, How to Make Friends with the Dark, author Kathleen Glasgow writes incredibly moving characters who are going through some very challenging times. In this article, she shares advice and prompts for how you can use writing to explore your feelings and end up helping others feel less alone.

I write a lot about difficult things: depression, grief, self-harm, body image. My characters, like me, tend to keep things bottled up until everything implodes. Of course, it’s not healthy to carry around your pain. Keeping so much inside can make you sick, emotionally and physically.

So, just like me, my characters tend to learn (sometimes the hard way) that they need outlets. You need to empty your grief, your giant feelings, somewhere. In Girl in Pieces, Charlie Davis puts her feelings on paper in the form of drawings, specifically comics. In my new book, How to Make Friends with the Dark, Tiger Tolliver is much less focused than Charlie. She hasn’t quite figured out what her outlets are, but by the end of the book, she’s making small steps: she begins writing her grief down in a composition book. She says, “I’m writing this down because someday I will be Alice, with a whole lifetime spent without a mother, a lifetime of walking around with a Grand Canyon of grief in my heart, and people should know what that feels like.”

People should know what that feels like. People want to know that other people feel sad, too, or mad, or grief-stricken, or hopeless. But sometimes it’s very scary to put the “true you” down on paper, right? What will people think?

I love books because they are safe places to explore my feelings about things that are going on in my life. I love books because some stories mirror mine, and I feel better. I’m not alone.

But how to start? You have a story to tell. You want to reach people who need your story. You need to heal yourself a little in the process. I have two prompts for you.

SECRETS

What is a secret you’ve never told anyone? Write it down on a piece of paper and fold it up and put it away. Congratulations! Your secret is out (technically) and safe. Now try this.

Start a short story with your secret as the first line. Make that secret the basis for an imaginary character. Live through that secret using the character. Why did they keep the secret? For example:

“I stole twenty dollars from my mother on Tuesday night.”

Now that the secret is out, answer it. Who stole twenty dollars? Why? Why on Tuesday? What did they use the money for? Do they feel guilty, or do they feel satisfied? You might be surprised where your mind goes when you remove the secret, a real thing, from you and give it to a fictional character.

LIES

What’s the biggest lie you ever told? Take that lie and use it as the first line of a poem. Write twenty lines as quickly as you can. Then go back and erase the lie. Without the lie, what is happening in your poem? What twists and turns happen when you write quickly, without censoring yourself? Are there images that leap out at you? Is there a certain music that seems to happen from line to line when you read your poem out loud?

Further ideas: turn that poem into a song! Make your own music to go along with the poem or find a friend to help. Take your story and make a short film using your phone with a bunch of friends.

Writing is fun and furious and soothing and tempestuous and hard, just like life. It’s the single greatest healing factor we have. What do we do when we are sad? We listen to music with lyrics that speak to our sadness. What do we do when we need to escape our own inner turmoil? We read a book to lose ourselves in someone else’s world. What should we do when we are just too full of feelings?

Write. Them. Down.

Nobody needs to know how you started writing your great story or poem. Just say, “I had a brilliant idea.”

Trust me, they’ll believe you.

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  1. Readler2

    Kathleen Glasgow’s writing has inspired me so much and been extremely helpful to me during my ongoing struggles with anxiety and severe depression. Her characters are very flawed and relatable. What I love most about her books is that they sugarcoat absolutely nothing. We get to read about what these vitally important issues are really like to experience.
    Every time I try to write a new story, I find myself quitting very soon but I have recently started writing poetry and it has become a huge part of my day that helps me and I even look forward to. I have finally been able to write something that I like, and it’s so much easier for me to pour out my feelings in verse for some reason than creating a character and trying to get inside her mind even though most characters I create are very much like me. Some of my poems I’m truly not ready to share with the world yet, but I have managed to find the courage to show my writing to a couple of close and supportive friends, and I have luckily been able to receive very positive feedback. I am hopeful that one day I will be ready to post some of them online for the whole world to see, including on GetUnderlined, but I don’t know if that day will be tomorrow, ten years from now, or never. God, I’m literally sobbing while I type this out. Really what I’m trying to say is that reading and writing have healed me in so many ways, and I am so lucky to be a part of the incredible book nerd community. Thanks so much to GetUnderlined for providing this safe space where I feel like I can truly be myself among people who share my interests.

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  2. AnnaRenee

    I used to hate reading but I love poetry especially the ones than have a dark story behind it. I thought many times about write a story. I tried writing my feelings and emotions down but my sisters found it, told my mom same she’s I’m notrying supposed to think or feeless things like that but I do I just couldn’t tell herror that. Your writings and book inspire me so thank you.

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