Was it worth it?
I get asked this a lot.
I think they are asking if putting in all the time, effort and emotional labour to write a vulnerable and raw memoir about trauma, is worth it. Like, if I say yes, it will somehow validate all the hours they have spent carving themselves open in front of their computers. And if I said no, then they could walk away from their books, guilt free because I’d warned them before they had wasted anymore time.
Truth is, it’s a silly question. So, instead I offer a better one.
What is the worth of our words?
Black ink on paper. Slices of trees bound together with glue and thread. Thoughts, opinions, memoires and imagination transferred from our mind onto the page. Strung together like brilliant rows of Christmas lights. Words are nothing more than specks of dust we pluck from our minds, and yet they hold so much value. But what exactly is their worth?
Did opening an old wound, digging through my trauma to find the most impactful bits and constructing a narrative that I could use to share it with the world make me rich and famous? Did it shoot me to the top of the New York Times bestseller list? No.
Thankfully, none of those things are the reason I write. Not for financial stability or notoriety. Not even for a pat on the back and am “I’m proud of you”. (Even though those are pretty darn nice sometimes.) Because the reality is, those outcomes are incredibly few and far between. There is nothing wrong with having goals of fame and fortune, I just wouldn’t put all yours and your works worth on it.
What does have merit, although, and is surprisingly much easier to come by is impact. The impact your words have on not only yourself but the people who read them. Whether it be fiction, memoir, poetry, mystery, romance – we all want our readers to come away from our books feeling something. Some of us may want to move them to action, help them learn how to love again, allow them to disengage from their stressful reality. For me, I wanted to make people feel less alone. Let them know that their experience didn’t isolate them and that even if they didn’t have the courage yet, their voice was just as important as mine.
Sitting in front of my computer for months, pouring over traumatic memories, teaching myself how to structure the perfect sentence, paragraph or chapter, and eventually stringing those words together took me from simply existing to living.
This is the worth of my words.
Writing should give us purpose, a goal, even one that at times felt far-fetched. I know that writing my memoir was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but putting those words on those pages, sending that book out into the world and letting it find the right reader who needs it, gave me back my life and so, to answer your original question - selfishly, yes, it was worth it.
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The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.
Eden Boudreau, (she/her) a lifelong maritimer, relocated from Halifax, NS to southern Ontario in 2016 with her family. It was at this time when she decided to finally pursue her dream of becoming a published author.
Using her own life experiences as a bisexual, polyamorous woman who has survived her fair share of adversity as inspiration, Eden’s essays have been published in major publications such as Flare, Today’s Parent, and Runner’s World Magazine.
As someone who has openly battled mental health issues, Eden was inspired during the isolation of the pandemic to launch her own podcast, Dear Lonely Writer. A show that interviews best selling authors from around the world and discusses the emotional labour that often comes with the writing process – before, during, and even after the book deal.
Her debut memoir, CRYING WOLF from Book*Hug Press arrives on shelves March 22 2023, which follows her difficult road to recovery after a violent sexual assault, with disbelievers at every turn due in part to her non-traditional lifestyle.
In her (minimal) free time, Eden spends it with her three sons, menageries of pets – including a duck named Dave – at their home in Georgina, ON.