A little talent is a good thing to have if you want to be a writer. But the only real requirement is the ability to remember every scar.” So says Stephen King in his own particular take on the old adage that you should write about what you know, drawing inspiration from your own experience. I like the idea of remembering every scar, even though it might turn you into a poor, paranoid, retributive creature. The key thing is to be able to recall the feelings associated with each inflicted wound, because being able to write truthfully about emotion and therefore to share insights with your readers is what will bring them back for more.

However, being able to reproduce your own personal scars as literature is harder than it looks. If you transcribe your experience directly, without allowing your imagination to work upon it and transform it, you run the risk that a) your work will be full of self-pity and b) it will be so personal to you that it will fail to resonate with other people. You need to convert the particular into something general, without losing that unique genesis that made it individual in the first place – almost a contradiction in terms and flipping difficult to do.

Write about your scars from a safe distance, when you have enough perspective to interpret them in a way that will illuminate what you are describing for your audience. One of the best experiences for a reader is to think That’s happened to me, I’ve felt that, I’ve been there. It’s that moment of recognition, of identification, of profound sharing. The way you achieve that connection with them is not simply to reproduce your own trauma and unhappiness for public consumption, no matter how skilfully you re-imagine it. What you need to add is a sense of wisdom gained,  the promise that out of the darkness light has come. Suffering in stories always needs to be accompanied (and redeemed) by hope.