Updated: Jul 13, 2022
Write a blog, they said, it’ll be fun they said. Then why is this particular blog, my first blog, causing me so much angst. I mean I’ve just written a book, a book about my life, that I entered into a manuscript competition and the convener of that competition believed in my story so much that he afforded me a publishing contract. My life story is going to be there on a page (or a bunch of pages) for all to read. So, here I am writing this blog, about writing, the whole reason I have ended up here writing a blog. So, why write?
First, I should introduce myself. I’m Sonya, single mother of two. Full time detective, in the actual sense, yes I’m a cop. I’ve been married, divorced, married, widowed, married and divorced, you’d think I should have learned by now that the marriage thing was probably not meant for me. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, I know right, I’m living it, but I assure you as you join me on this journey you will get sucked into my regaling tales of how I ended up here, and some of the interesting situations I found myself in along the way. Just one more fun fact before I move on, I am a blue widow, a police widow. Throw that in the mix and we are in for some fun times, that’s why write.
My writing journey started out as a series of journal entries. I was told by a number of therapists (yes, I’ve seen a few to find the right one) that putting my thoughts on paper would help me gain clarity and remove them from my worry bank. Writing would set me free. I mean the worst thing that could possibly happen to me did happen, why was I letting these thoughts control me.
The first date in my journal reads the 29th of January 2012, exactly eight months after my husband Damian was shot, at work. He attended an armed robbery at the Pacific Pines Tavern and was shot on duty. Yes, he too was a police officer. It was the biggest thing that had happened on the Gold Coast since I had joined in 2003. It was the biggest most damning thing that had happened in my life to that point.
I had not seen anything that was so eclipsing in the news since I was a kid and the Gulf war erupted, the events of 911, the repeated footage of the planes flying into the twin towers and them subsequently collapsing, and later the devastating Port Arthur massacre. Footage of each of those events is firmly burnt in my memory. It felt like that, footage of that night at the Pacific Pines Tavern, pictures of Damian and I, and our small children splashed everywhere, our story was everywhere, we were everywhere. Each day would bring news updates about the investigation, about us and about who Damian was. Each day there were more tributes and acknowledgement of Damian’s heroic actions. Something like this isn’t an everyday occurrence, so how, you ask, does one cope in the aftermath of such a tragedy. And that is why I needed to get the thoughts out of my head and onto the page. That is, why write.
The cathartic process of taking those thoughts and writing them on a page, with a pen was one of the things that saved me from my own self destruction. A safe place where I could leave the thoughts that were causing me grief, sometimes to return and ponder, and sometimes to let them go.
The physical journal itself was something I could touch and feel, I could run my fingers over the words, trace them and then let them go. The words became more than just thoughts that buzzed around and wreaked havoc in my flailing mental health. To be able to see the words and thoughts in plain sight and unravel their reason for appearing in my mind helped to rationalise why I felt the way I did around certain events.
I found once I could see my thoughts written across the page, they no longer lingered in my mind to be tossed around and dissected. Journaling became a source of therapy for me. It took the edge off my PTSD, and anxiety, caused by some of the unfamiliar situations I found myself in, and gave me an opportunity to vent and let my thoughts go. I didn’t need to have anyone read the words, I just needed them out of my head so I could begin to process the immense emotion I was feeling. It is apparent, after reflecting on some of those entries (research for this blog), that I was angry, very angry at just about everything. I guess writing on a page is far more appropriate and dignified than knocking someone out, and perhaps a far more mature way of dealing with my new found aggression at that time.
When I was a teenager I used to write stories for the kids I babysat. I would take staple together makeshift books to take over to their house and we would illustrate the books together. We’d create a fantasy land where anything was possible and the ending was always an adventure.
I wasn’t the best English student in high school but I made every effort to perfect my writing, only to always be told that I wasn’t quite good enough. Now, I definitely have no formal qualification to write nor am I an expert in any particular field, but they are certainly not reasons to not write.
That brings me to why write, a book. For years I have said I want to write a book. It wasn’t until 2019 when I found a psychologist who worked well for me that that ‘want’ became a reality and a method for me to be able to move through my trauma and allow myself to sit back and acknowledge my journey.
In one of my very first sessions this psychologist offered me some simple advice he too had received many years before, to live a fulfilling life do these three things: plant a tree, have children, and write a book. By the time I started treatment with him, I had already accomplished two of those things, the third, writing a book seemed like a pipe dream. I mean I am a single mum with two busy kids, working full time shift work, where on earth was I going to find the time to sit down and write a book, but once I got started this proved to be much easier than I had expected. It was the right time for me to release all of the thoughts and feelings associated with my story and put them on a page.
I started by jotting down a working title for each chapter, so I knew which part of my life I was referring to, and then I fleshed it out with details (not to over simplify the writing process). Over about an eighteen month period I managed to complete just shy of 70,000 words, enough to make fill book. Who’d have thought my humble little story would be that many words.
There’s a certain freedom in having your story written in words across a page. I felt like I was no longer carrying a burden. Although my story is common, people are widowed all the time, every time I have reread my story it makes me proud to be who I am, the good the bad and the plain ugly, on every single page. Not one sentence of that story makes me feel ashamed. I would often say to my friends that there are worse things that could have happened, and each of them look at me and shake their heads. I have been told that the loss of a partner is ranked as one of the most traumatic experiences in life.
For a long time I wondered if it was a little too self-indulgent to think that people may actually want to read my story, but I hope that by doing so the least I can do is espouse a small ray of hope that even though bad things can happen, you can still go on to live a full and happy life. It’s all about your perspective.
I look back and can see how fortunate I am. I was lucky enough to have had Damian as my soul mate. He and I created a beautiful family. I found a job which I am passionate about and feel like it is where I belong. Throughout all of this I have had the best support crew, my family and friends. My story is as much mine as it is theirs.
So why write? Why not? You never know where your story might lead you.