What to do with the hurt?

It was my fault. I’d turned my phone to silent for church and forgot to turn the volume back on. So, I didn’t hear the phone ring. 7 times. 7 missed calls…all from a restricted number in Virginia.

Where my son is stationed.

Panic. I thought—oh no! What if he’s in trouble? I checked, the number was registered to the state.

More panic. I texted my son. Nothing. Called his cell. It went right to voice mail.


Admittedly, I had terrible scenarios emerging in my creative brain—most of them ending with him in a hospital.

“Calm down,” my husband said. “It’s probably nothing.”

Right. Tell that to my mother’s heart.

Four hours later, my son texted. “I’m fine. What’s the problem?”

He hadn’t tried to call. Wasn’t in the hospital. Wasn’t deploying suddenly to war.

The calls were from a telemarketer. Are you kidding me? (and I have to say, a darned determined telemarketer!) All that fuss, worry and…


That helpless feeling, the sense of not knowing, the panic that I kept fighting was exactly the emotion I was searching for in the SCENE I COULDN’T GET RIGHT. A scene where my helpless, frustrated, panicked heroine waited for news on a loved one.

Oh brother. But Yay! Because now I knew exactly what emotions to bring to the page, and how.

Last night, Meryl Streep gave a long acceptance speech for winning the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement award at the Golden Globes. Her best line came at the end—“Take your broken heart and turn it into art.”

I have had my heart broken plenty of times—losing loved ones, surviving terrifying situations, being betrayed, embarrassed, humiliated. And so have you! Everything counts when you’re a writer. (even if it is your crazy mind overreacting!)

You have an amazing toolbox of writing skills if you are able to dig down and find those emotional moments that have formed you. Bring them to the page, explore them, pull out the lies, and the truths. Don’t be afraid—you’ve walked through them and survived. Now gift those moments, those truths to your reader.

It’s true that every great story has a piece of the creator in it. Let your hurt give the story power.

This is one of the many things we talk about at our annual Deep Thinker’s Retreat—how to create characters who bring authentic emotion to page (and how to write it!) We also brainstorm your story, help you flesh out scenes, wordsmith and dissect that story down to find the most powerful, compelling pieces. It’s such a life-changing week that we usually fill up with repeaters within the first week of opening.

But, we leave a few spaces open for new attendees. Right now, we have 2 spots open for our retreat in Destin, Florida, in late February. Click HERE to find out more.

Use everything. Because your story matters.

Go! Write Something Brilliant!

Susie May

P.S, if you’re interested in the retreat, we have a twin upper bunk available, and a KING bed in a semi-private room (you share the bathroom with 2 others, but you get the bed to yourself!) Chose either of those two options in the drop-down menu under lodging and it will calculate your retreat costs. Any questions? Write to: retreats@mybooktherapy.com. See you in Florida!