Every day that I describe (okay, complain) about my various writing blockages or my inability to move my manuscript forward, there’s a small place in the back of my brain that reminds me how lucky I am that I have the time, the space, and the quiet to write essentially as much as I want. When I have a good writing day, all is right in my world. But even a bad day writing—when nothing works and I delete 1,000 words for every 100 that I add to my manuscript—is still a better day than a day spent at the office.
But my bad writing days are nothing compared to those of some military vets, for whom writing can be a testimonial to life itself, an “act of survival,” as one vet described it. More returning soldiers are discovering that writing can ease re-entry in several ways: their narratives can help explain their experiences to friends and family (between 2001 and 2014, 2.7 million service members deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan; that’s less than 1% of the population), and it can help them cope with trauma and PTSD.
However, for some vets, writing about their wartime experiences means peeling back layers of memory and pain that can amplify the symptoms it’s meant to diminish. Ex-soldiers can be unprepared for the trauma—or not know how to manage it.
The article “War of Words” has a lot more to say about vets and the writing they do to corral their demons and make sense of what they experienced. I don’t want to paraphrase it: the writers can describe how they feel and why they write more powerfully than I.