Love Letter Monday: Creating Closure Without the Other Person
Hello from beautiful LA.
I’ve inadvertently stumbled into a mental wellness strategy for writers developing manuscripts or films that deal with trauma, heartbreak, and the characters that played a role in those hardships.
I’ve been focused purely on the screenplay adaptation these last months. As I’ve shared, during the five years I was working on the I Am Yours manuscript, I was visited by reoccurring nightmares, my hair turned white, and there was the Infamous Constant Left Eyelid Twitch. None of this is surprising, I chose the path, and the process yielded results I desired and wouldn’t regret for an instant.
But what’s been very different about writing the screenplay is a month into the process, instead of envisioning, say, my ex-husband while working on scenes that have to do with that character, I’ve been visualizing the actor I ultimately want to cast in that role. Actually, I’ve recast all the complicated characters in my mind using my ideal actors.
Incredibly, the nightmares have completely disappeared. As has the notorious twitch. My hair has been growing in as brown, not white.
Moreover, because I have no personal connection or memory of the actor playing the male lead in my mind, not only is his image safely clear of triggering heartbreak and trauma, I’m able to retain the same degree of verisimilitude and nuance but with more agility, enjoyment, and freedom, accessing whole new memories I had repressed that aren’t in the book.
It reminds me of an exercise that therapists do with patients who are yearning for closure and forgiveness from/toward a person they’ve had a painful relationship with. The therapist stimulates a loving, safe conversation where they pretend to be that complicated character while the patient expresses all the unspoken words to seal that wound and let the person go. Often, speaking or writing these ideal, loving words is all that we need to create closure.
It illuminates how forgiveness is more about freeing yourself from the past, less about another person.
It illuminates the power we have to author ourselves free.