It was Nora Ephron (or more accurately, Nora Ephron’s mom) who famously said “everything is copy.” Which is extremely wise, in many cases. It can be deeply cathartic to take a terrible or frustrating or tragic experience and make it into art (though I think none of us can do it quite so well as Nora Ephron did). It can feel like winning, like even though you went through something terrible, through sheer force of will, you made that experience work for you. You metabolized trauma into something beautiful, something funny, something ultimately good. But also, sometimes, it doesn’t feel like that at all.
If you get too much of an eye for narrative, if you start looking at your life while always wondering how you might write it, how you might explain it to someone else, you start exploiting yourself. You become a voyeur of your own life. There are some experiences that you need to keep just for yourself, or maybe tell only to a few people you trust. It’s hard to draw that line sometimes, to figure out what the dividing line is between allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and forcing yourself to show things you’d feel safer keeping private. I’m not always sure where it should go. But I think it’s important to know that as an artist and a creator, you can draw that line wherever you please. As a writer, it’s important to me to remember that I don’t owe any audience or editor any part of myself that I’d rather keep private. As an actor, it’s important for me to remind myself that I don’t need to force myself to explore emotions or situations that make me feel unsafe.
Art is not just a service you give to the world – it should fulfill and enrich you too. If a project is taking too much out of you, it’s worth pausing and considering whether it’s worth it. No person and no project is entitled to every part of you or every story you have to tell. Some stories are ones you only feel comfortable telling to yourself, and not sharing them doesn’t make you weak or a bad artist. It's just drawing appropriate boundaries. Make art that makes you feel stronger. Tell stories that make you feel enriched and supported. At least allow yourself to keep some stories just for yourself. You deserve them.