Hush. Therapy in session.

last day of high school
last day of high school

For a while now I’ve been dragging out stories from the past to wrap them around some writing idea. Recently I’ve begun to wonder, however, if I’m not too stuck back there, feelings that should be over and done still right under the surface. What’s it mean to be over something anyway?

Should writing be therapy? How can you tell when it is and when it isn’t?

13 thoughts on “Hush. Therapy in session.

  1. Darc tells me that when I relate a story from my youth, that I am not a 40-something woman telling a story about her past, I’m a 14 y/o girl telling about what just happened to her. I never realized I did that.

    I don’t know what it means to be “over” something either, I think. I like to think I’m over things, but when I remember it, it’s like it all rushes back to me and I’m “there” again. Some things I am detached about, other things not so much.

    Personally, I suspect fiction writing probably shouldn’t be a therapy. I guess because I think of it as a business. You have to find out what agents are looking for, what’s selling, so many things! I think writer’s however, have stories to tell, and many of those stories come from memories, and there’s an intertwining between memory and fictionalization that takes place that really can’t be undone, business be damned.

    Love that picture, btw!

    1. Just yesterday coworkers pointed out that my voice cracked when recounting a minor insult from over 10 years ago! It made me wonder how I never knew I was over anything.

      You suspect right. And if the fiction is therapy, you the reader shouldn’t be able to tell. It should be a story!

      And thanks. I hardly recognize my teen self in that shot.

  2. You know how at the foot of your posts, just before the comments, WordPress automatically selects a sample of “possibly related posts” — the ones in boldface chosen from your own site, and the ones in normal face from elsewhere? Here’s the list under this post (I don’t know if it’s different every time the page is viewed):

    From writing in the water:
    dancing from wires
    The Rewrite Chronicles: The Mom vs Writer Smackdown
    The Question

    From somewhere else:
    Ann Cooper – Making Processed School Lunches a Thing of the Past

    I don’t know; that all just seemed like a mysterious sort of response from the universe. (And another Cooper, even.)

    “Should [whatever]?” questions make me uneasy. In this post’s case, the word “writing” is tricky — because there’s more than one kind, I mean. Blogs — especially writers’ blogs — often end up as a sort of therapy for the blogger, even if they’re not outright confessional. Have you been using writing in the water intentionally as a form of therapy? to vanquish ghosts from the past? to get things out of your system, or try to understand them better?

    Or have you been using it to get your words and stories out of your system, using a set of ready-made narrative… uh… narrative modules, I guess you could call them?

    Granted, I’m not in any of these stories from your past, and maybe I’d feel differently if I were. I’ve been reading your blog for only a year, but I’m confident you started it as a gifted storyteller already; I’d likewise guess the blog has sharpened your story-telling skills, with a huge variety of whetstones from your real past, rather than with a handful of bigger, more complex (and unwieldy) whetstones from your imagination of the present.

    “Should”? I dunno. I do wish I’d thought of the trick myself — and knew remotely how to use it!

    1. Maybe it’s the Cooper…? The universe does give some crazy responses.

      I disagree with should questions even when I ask them. So go figure. But I’ve never knowingly used my blog as therapy. And it hasn’t vanquished anything or cleared up my system. I don’t understand things better either. I do, however, like putting things into words. Feels like taking control a little. Claiming it? I think I liked telling a story and getting a response, seeing what other people say, finding what stories get responses and which ones don’t. I like learning how to choose the words to capture a moment.

      Am I making sense?

      I hope the blog has helped my writing. I feel that is has, but I’m sure I’m any judge.

  3. I don’t know if writing for publication should be cathartic, but I think some writing certainly can be, and for some people, should be. It might be the only outlet someone has to release what’s trapped in them.

    I agree with JES; I think blogging certainly contains a therapeutic quality, and most bloggers (who, again, aren’t professionally blogging) will find it eventually. I think journals are intentionally so; same with diaries. Those are secret places where the darkest parts of us can be lightened, where the bitterest pills can be regurgitated. So, yes, writing can be therapeutic, and in some cases SHOULD be.

    But writing for general consumption, if it’s therapy for the writer, is probably serendipitous at best.

    Shutting up now.

  4. In my opinion, these things are the good earth from which your writing ideas grow. Not necessarily exact replicas, but people, events and feelings from our past inform our prose, enrich it, give it depth it would otherwise lack. I say you should mine that soil for the gems that it contains. Everything is worth it, if you use it. (And writing is cathartic, too.)

    1. Sometimes I wish I understood (or could see) where my fiction grew from… and I wish I could tell when my writing had depth and when it didn’t. Are they real gems or fakes? But I agree–everything is worth it, if you use it.

      Some gems may take more courage to dig out than others.

  5. Sarah

    I can tell that writing has been in healing, in retrospect. Then, what I wrote becomes like a boat that I filled with artifacts and set out on the sea, releasing me from their upkeep and weight. This has proved for many subjects: my divorce, my childhood, motherhood, and so on- whether I fiction or nonfiction.
    The transformative power of writing is why I write. The process itself. The impact it has on others is part of that process, but is not the whole of it, nor even necessarily the most important part. I don’t mean journaling, but narrative- telling the story is a form of alchemy for the soul, the spirit, the mind, the heart.

  6. I think writing can be therapy, and I know it helps me. It just gives me a sense of peace to write some things down, even if it’s in my personal journal that no one else will read. That said, I do think there are some things that we can never get over. But maybe writing it out helps deal with it and move on with our lives. I suppose only the writer can know if that’s true or not.

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