It’s a gift.
Some people cry at movies, or a really, really great song. Some people cry when their favourite character on a TV show dies. But others cry when they read words that make them feel something.
I remember the first time words made me cry. I was reading a book – it was Looking For Alaska by John Green, if you’re interested – and after a particularly dramatic chapter I dog-eared the page and had to stop reading because I couldn’t see through my tears any more.
The thoughts and feelings behind those words had such a profound effect on me that I actually had to remove myself from the room and calm down. It was a bit embarrassing, really. And it was the first time I fell in love with writing.
I write about a lot of things. I’ve written about Kim Kardashian more times than I care to admit. I often write about red carpets and movie premieres, and you can bet that every time a celebrity baby is born, I’m going to write about it.
But nothing makes me happier than writing something personal about my life, because when I read that book while doing my best ugly-cry all those years ago, I wanted nothing more than to affect someone else’s life the same way John Green had affected mine.
A few months ago, I had that chance. I wrote a very personal story about learning to come to terms with grief – something I still haven’t really done – because my grandmother is incredibly sick and has been for the last few years.
I remember telling my parents why I wanted to write the piece and why I felt it was important to do – because for me, it was a coping mechanism. I thought my words would help me heal and maybe, if I was lucky, they would help strangers who were going through something similar.
After I had spilled my feelings onto the page, I sent it to my parents to get their thoughts and to make sure I wasn’t offending the family with my words, which is something I do each time I write something personal. Writing doesn’t scare me, and it never really has. But when I passed this piece on to my parents, I was nervous. It was the most personal thing I had ever written, and I was terrified of what they would think.
The silence on the other end of the phone said it all. They had cried when they read it, before sending it to my siblings and relatives. They told me the piece captured what we were all feeling but just couldn’t bring ourselves to say out loud: how do you say goodbye to someone when they’re – technically, at least – still alive? How do we cope with our grief when the person we’re grieving for hasn’t died yet?
It seems ridiculous to say that was the key moment when I felt I had achieved something with my career, but it’s true. Ever since that night in my bedroom with a John Green book and a family block of chocolate (no regrets) I’ve wanted my words to have an impact on someone’s life the way that book had on mine.
That night changed a lot of things for me. I found passion, inspiration and meaning in the words that I had read and I decided then that I wanted to do the same for someone else. And when I did, when I made my dad (someone who has always managed to hold it together) cry at my words – it made everything seem worthwhile.
What book has had a lasting impact on you?
Here are some amazing, inspirational female writers if you’re looking for a stand-out read:
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