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Or: the differences between writing for therapy and writing for an audience.

You've had a dreadful experience.

Maybe your one true love has left you forever, shredding your soul with insensitive words.

Perhaps you have watched someone you care deeply about die, slowly and painfully.

Or, maybe, a long cherished dream has been snatched away from you, just moments before you achieved it.

What the experience is doesn't matter. What matters is that you hurt.

You really hurt.

You want to get it out there, write it all down, purge yourself and let the words flow like blood over your paper. Catharsis, you know, will help you deal with this agony.

And this is good.

You sit, pen or keyboard in hand, and you vomit out the bitterness, the anger, the fear, the injustice. It tumbles out, unchecked, and every word lightens the burden on your mind. The rocks in your stomach don't press so heavily.

You feel liberated.

And this is good.

So there it is, this opus.

And you think -- "If people could only see this, they would understand. They'd empathise. They'd be able to feel the way I do."

This is not good.

This is, in fact, positively bad.

When you write for therapy, you write for you. Your only duty is to yourself, to making yourself feel better. It's very unlikely -- even unnatural -- that you will take the time to hone the writing to perfection.

The minute you decide to share your work, you have a new duty, a duty to your readers.

It's not enough to "get a reaction". It's not enough to "make them feel your pain". You can do that by grabbing them by the throat and shaking them, but I doubt they'd thank you for it.

As soon as you start to write for someone else to read, you have to make every piece of writing the very best it can be. The words should be carefully chosen, without redundancy. You should take care with spelling and grammar, you should proof and refine. This doesn't mean, necessarily, that you should make the work less raw, less emotional.

It just means you must make sure that it's good writing.

Take your catharsis. Put it in a drawer and leave it until you are as over the event as you can be.

When you are calm and objective, come back, look at it again, rewrite it until you have the distillation of the original emotion.

Then share it with the world.

Every experience in your life is grist to the writer's mill, but separate the wheat from the chaff before you start grinding.

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