From the beginning of my time as a writing being, back in the wee single-digit years, I have always used this form of self-expression as a way to make sense of the world. Whether it be through poetry, lyrics, journaling, nonfiction or fiction, there has always been that element of wanting to learn or explore my own emotional maze — and wanting to come away from the experience understanding more than when I entered it.
I wouldn’t have survived certain periods of my life without writing. Most of my adolescence, for example. Those were rough years filled with so much angst I could’ve made Jane Eyre look like a Katy-Perry California girl. Through jilted relationships, a year in France and a year in Hong Kong, through anger at my mother, fights, self-hatred . . . all of it, I put pen to paper or tapped on my old Olympus typewriter or used a computer to get it all out.
And yet, the works I’ve written specifically for publication don’t fall into this category. Perhaps it’s self-preservation that impels me to draw an emotional line between the truly personal and what is for public consumption. After all, for most of us, our personal dramas and insights are rather banal vis a vis the rest of the world. Sure, we think we’re interesting . . . but I long ago learned in PR that most of the time that doesn’t translate to other’s perceptions.
So why am I writing a novel right now about a woman finding independence in divorce after decades of marriage? Shouldn’t I know better? It’s odd, but somehow — in spite of everything in my life that might be applicable to hers — this story isn’t about me.
Instead, I’m exploring emotion — my protag’s — and letting myself really go in and look around at the human experience at this juncture in her life. Sure, sometimes while I’m writing a scene, I burst into tears because it touches on my own experiences . . . but the world I’ve created is hers, not mine. Her reactions aren’t mine, though they often move me to examine my own.
Is this a more subtle form of personal therapy? One could argue that any creativity is therapy for those of us who yearn to create. But I think something else is going on here, a kind of hybrid newness in my approach to writing. Whatever it is, I’m grateful for the process.
- What form of creativity have you used for your own personal therapy?
- Have you ever read a book and felt like the writer wasn’t so much telling a story as figuring out something for him/herself?