avatarMelissa Corrigan


What Happens When People Stop Reading What I Write

Do I write for them… or for me?

After a pretty rough car accident in October, I was shaken. Physically hurt, yes, and also just maxed out on my already pre-existing anxiety around driving and being in cars in our urban area.

Since we moved back to this city, five years ago, we’ve been hit four times. Two were vehicle-totalling wrecks. None were our fault.

Young, inexperienced, distracted drivers made up most of those who crashed into us. One was on the interstate doing 70 when he merged into our lane without looking, sideswiping us and almost overturning our SUV with our baby inside.

We’ve been able to recover financially and purchase more vehicles, but it’s gradually made me more and more apprehensive about driving around here. In fact, in the first moments after my most recent wreck, when the airbag exploded into my chest, I had a full-on panic attack.

My fifteen-year-old son, usually unshakably calm, was standing by my open car door screaming, his mouth open wide and his eyes fearful as he yelled, “MOM! MOM! ARE YOU OKAY?!” and my face and hands were numb, I couldn’t draw in a complete breath, and the familiar tingles throughout my body were a dead giveaway that I was in full panic attack mode.

I couldn’t speak but nodded until everything returned to normal and I could talk to him and reassure him I was OK.

“OK” was dubious, at best.

The first thing to go in the following weeks… was my writing.

Maslow’s Hierarchy…

If you’re not familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, it demonstrates that we cannot ‘access’ the higher functions of critical thinking and emotional regulation unless our “base” needs are met: shelter, food, stability. Once we have those under control, we can begin to move up the pyramid to accessing more complicated functions.

Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs; SimplePsychology.org

When that car slammed into us, it shoved me right back down a few pegs on that pyramid.

Suddenly, I didn’t feel safe… going to the store, driving my kid to school, or just driving around the block. Just getting behind the wheel of a car makes me a bit nauseous, every time. It made me feel weak and vulnerable, all over again, a feeling I’ve worked decades of my life to overcome.

It showed in my writing — both the lack of new pieces and then the tone that came with subsequent pieces. Bitterness, anger, and snarkiness ran through my work in ways I found distasteful, so I took a lot of extra time editing and revising so they didn’t come across so negatively.

And the whole while, that was lost income.

My readers seemed to have lost interest, or been turned off by my new work.

My stats plummeted, and so I shoved my laptop aside and went back to bed, hibernating in my cocoon for a couple more weeks, frustrated and feeling like a failure.

I’ve never really been in a position to suffer from writer’s block as I always just wrote in fits and spurts as things came to me, and now I’d begun attempting a regular writing schedule to produce quality work on a routine basis. It was going pretty well until October and that fateful afternoon, when I learned just how much inspiration for my writing came from my good mental health and just how quickly that could change.

Turns out I can get writer’s block, after all. And when I do, it’s a doozy.

Do I write for you or me?

For me. And for you. I write when I am inspired; when I see a news article or a friend’s comment or something interesting and I have the capacity to notice it, marvel at it, or relate to it, then I can write about it.

There’s not much to appreciate when you’re bickering with insurance companies, stuck being inactive due to broken ribs, and fretting about income just before the holidays. Not much inspiration to be found there — it’s a space of just… existing.

Being reminded to eat, and still not eating.

Being reminded to call the doctor and not wanting to.

Being reminded to get out of bed and sometimes refusing.

Feeling yourself and the online presence you’ve so carefully built slipping away into obscurity, gone before you began.

The frustration is great.

I pondered many times what I write about, why I write about it, and what the future could be with my writing career. I just published a guided journal — I’ve had it on the workbench for months and I promised myself it would be published Black Friday.

It wasn’t.

But it was published on Saturday, so I do feel quite proud and relieved that I was able to get this big thing off my to-do list reasonably ‘on time,’ despite everything.

And yet, my stats on Medium are still hanging out in the basement, and I have a sneaking suspicion why.

Trauma porn alert…

I don’t want to always write about my trauma. I think there’s a ton, and I mean a ton, of positivity in my life that I can cover, but trauma sells (unfortunately). If I’m not feeling it, though, I’m not writing about it.

I deserve downtime and appreciation for the uplifting and joyous life I’ve created out of the crappy hand dealt to me in my earliest years.

Perhaps I’ve made this bed for myself. I did share a lot about the unfortunate and ghastly parts of my life. I suppose I’ve typecast myself more than anyone else has. My readers, how can I come back from that?

I have a total of six kids (four mine, two bonus). I could write reams about each of them and their personalities and talents and quirks and everything that makes them great human beings. Mommy blogger? Eh.

I could write ad nauseum about my husband — who, aside from the most fervent of Hallmark viewers, would want to read that?

I could pen missives about our pets and their very distinct, and very amusing, personalities and behaviors. *yawn*

I could write about our fascinating neighbor, my four-year-old daughter’s “best friend”, a 74-year-old Black Panther who told us over Thanksgiving dinner (which she ate with us) that she “never met white people like us and frankly didn’t know white people could be like us.” That is, I suppose, personable and friendly and human? Either way, what a compliment.

Given all the possibilities, what have I been doing?

I’ve been writing for the stats. Or… trying to. But it’s quite a challenge when my most popular pieces, by far, have been about trauma and were written from a place of pain and discomfort. I don’t want to live in a constant place of pain and discomfort in order to produce art.

Oh, but isn’t that the wellspring from which all great art comes?

Sigh. Perhaps so.

And yet, I think it’s time for me to pivot, just a bit.

Moving forward…

I want to focus on healing, not just for me but for everyone in my comments and inbox who resonates with my writing because, unfortunately, they’ve experienced similar pain.

I did launch a guided journal — one designed to help someone mired in the icky aftermath of trauma, or simply struggling to find their way, pull forth their darkness, sit with it, and then send it on its way and develop a plan to move forward with their lives.

I believe in this so much I’m ordering several author copies at cost and sending them to resources in my area that serve veterans, and those struggling with mental health, so they can give them away.

That’s, um, still not helping my bottom line. Look, as an artist in a capitalist nation, we have to walk this line. We live to create, and, if we’re lucky, we create to live. I adore the idea of living off my writing — I’m sure most of you do, too. But I’m not going to push myself back into dark places, places I’ve worked so hard to get away from, to create art that makes money but hurts me in the process.

I’m still pushing on. The journal’s out, next up is the launch of my Substack in the first couple of weeks of December, and then, the podcast debut in January. I am still passionate about putting together all the arms of this movement to help survivors come together and heal from the various wounds life has thrown at us.

Adoptees. Veterans. Domestic violence survivors. Survivors of divorce, abuse, abandonment, addiction — there is life past it, a beautiful, wholesome, fulfilling life, and you can get there. I want us all to get there.

I’ll keep writing, too, and if my stats don’t reflect the type of audience I would like, I suppose I’ll be okay with it as long as I’m being true to myself, my mission, and my purpose.

I’m so grateful for the group of loyal readers I have, and I can promise you there’s much more to come.

You’ve seen where I’ve been. Just hang on and watch where I’m going, and while you’re at it, come with me for the ride.

Every single tip in my Ko-Fi tip jar for the next two weeks: today through Dec. 3, 2023, will go towards sending hope to my friend, a single mother working her tail off to support and provide holiday joy to her three children in this crushing economy. Read more here. You can also nab my guided journal here.

My name is Melissa Corrigan, and I’m a freelance writer/thought sharer/philosopher in coastal Virginia. I am a mom, a wife, a veteran, and so much more. I deeply enjoy sharing my thoughts and receiving feedback that sparks genuine, respectful conversation.

If you like my content, please consider subscribing… click here and follow along as I explore the themes of parenting, political ideologies, religious deconstruction, life as an adoptee, and LGBT allyship and family.

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