Let’s face it, breakups suck. Sometimes they can come seemingly out of nowhere at the most surprising or inconvenient times. Sometimes we know they are coming. Maybe you’ve been arguing with your boyfriend or girlfriend for weeks and can’t seem to resolve your issues. Maybe one of you is moving far away from town and the other can’t or won’t join you.
Or maybe you never saw it coming. Maybe you loved that person with all of your heart and soul, but they drifted away from you because they didn’t feel the same. Maybe you even caught that person in the act of cheating…ouch!
Regardless of what the cause of the breakup was or whether or not you saw it coming, it doesn’t change the fact that breakups suck. However, with or without that person, life must go on. If you’re a writer, a breakup is no valid excuse to give up on your dreams and quit your job as a writer.
But what do you do if you find yourself needing to write about your ex? If you’re a songwriter like Taylor Swift then you might want to use your songwriting skills to help you cope with your breakup. This can be a great way to help you express yourself and deal with your emotions. However, it can also come at a risk. You don’t want to sound bitter or catty. If you’ve never dabbled in the art of songwriting before you may want to avoid it altogether at least until you start to really get over your breakup just so you don’t end up sounding too bitter and making a fool out of yourself in the process. Hey, we can’t all be Taylor Swift (although I wish I could be!)
However, one challenge you may face as a writer is dealing with how to write about your ex if you were in the process of writing a novel that they played a role in. If you’re working on a piece of fiction then it probably won’t be too hard for you to just further fictionalize the character or cut them off altogether, but what happens if you’re writing a memoir or a piece of nonfiction that your ex plays a bigger role in? Sometimes it is not practical to simply cut them out of the picture. Sometimes writing about your ex is completely unavoidable. Sure, it’s never easy to write about your ex especially during a recent breakup, but there is a way to do it without sounding bitter. Here’s how:
1. Only write what’s necessary. Let’s be real, writing about your ex may feel like torture. Did you have an amazing relationship and then have it all unexpectedly fall to pieces? Were you in love with someone that wasn’t in love with you? Did you have a horrific, messy breakup? Whatever the case may be, you can pretty much bet on the fact that your breakup has you feeling at least a little bit lousy and chances are you’d rather not think about it now, let alone write about it. This is why the first and most important step is to only write what is necessary. If you can cut your ex out of the story without jeopardizing your plot or story line, DO IT. If you can’t, such as the case for me and the memoir I am currently writing, then the trick is to only write what is necessary. Writing about your ex is hard, so why torture yourself with excessive, unnecessary details?
2. Tell the truth. Here’s another challenge you may face when writing about your ex: telling the truth. You’re going through a breakup and it sucks and you’re hurting. The only things you want to write now is probably about how horrible of a person your ex is and how you feel they deserve to be cast in a pit of fire. But really think about your relationship — was it always this horrible? What drew you to that person and what made you stay in the relationship for as long as you did? There’s a good chance that person had some good in them. Focus on the good and tell the positive side in the story.
Sometimes there really may not be a positive side to tell, and that’s okay, too. You could very well be writing a story about a nasty, abusive relationship and how you survived it (though I hope to God you aren’t because that’s just awful). Good or bad, you should always tell the truth and nothing but the truth about your ex when writing him into your novel. Don’t turn him or her into a criminal when everything wasn’t all that bad just because you’re hurting now and don’t make him or her out to be a saint if he wasn’t really all that great of a person.
3. Give yourself a break. Writing about your ex is going to be hard. You may have to write about all of the best parts of your relationship and this will remind you of the fact that it’s all gone now. Or, you may have to face the reality that you loved that person and their way of thanking you for your love was by cheating on you. You will be forced to relive, re-experience, and reevaluate your relationship, and quite honestly, watch your heart break all over again in the process. It will not only be painful, but emotionally draining as well. For this reason it is important to give yourself a break. Write down a couple of paragraphs and when things get too hard or too painful to continue, take a walk and get some fresh air. Chances are when you return you will feel refreshed, renenergized, rejuvenated, and prepared to write a better story anyway.
Writing about your ex will likely be the hardest part of your story, but that’s no reason to abandon your writing project. Remember, if you walk away and give up on your writing, your ex wins in the end. He or she already broke your heart, do you want him to ruin the writing project you’ve already worked so hard and invested so much time and energy on, too? I didn’t think so. When you follow these tips you’ll be able to continue on your story writing about your ex with grace without sounding bitter or angry in the process.