Monday, January 31, 2011

Writing As Therapy

When I was 16 years old, my parents separated and my Dad moved in with the woman who was to become his second wife. It was a difficult time for everyone involved and in those early days the separation was all that anyone could think of.

At the time, there were only a few weeks to go, before I sat my O level exams and it was important for me to sit down and get back into 'revision mode'. But I couldn't, because all I could think about was our current family circumstances.

However, the writer inside me urged me to pick up a pen, so I did. I decided to write a letter expressing all of my feelings. It was one of the best things ever did. (It was also one of the worst things I ever did, because as a naive 16-year-old I didn't think about what the consequences were of posting the letter!) The act of sitting down and writing the letter enabled me to clear my head. Once it was written, I was able to think about other things ... like revision.

It's something I still do today with my writing. Sometimes, I find I'm not able to get on with the project I want to, because I'm thinking of something else. At the time though, whatever it is that my mind is thinking about, isn't always clear. Other writers may think this as Writer's Block, but I don't believe in the dreaded block. This is because my solution to this difficulty is to sit down and write!

So, whenever I can't get started on the writing project that I want to, I pick up a pen and notebook and I start writing a letter. It's a letter to myself, and in it I simple start by saying, For some reason I can't get started on XXX project and it's annoying me. Perhaps it's because of .... and I let my mind wander freely.

Sometimes my letter produces an interesting response. Perhaps there is a family issue that needs dealing with. Or perhaps I have a couple of other ideas floating around in my head and I just need to spend time jotting down the ideas, so that they don't get forgotten and I can come back later to them.

But after about 20 minutes, my mind feels clearer once more, and I'm ready to get working on my writing project again.

I've learned my lesson - I don't post these letters - they stay in my notebook. But I know that writing a letter to myself can get me writing again. Writing is therapy and it can help us to recover our minds. It's one reason why personal diaries and journals can be so effective for a writer.

So next time you feel stuck and unable to settle down to write, pick up a pen and notebook and undertake a little therapy. Write a letter to yourself. Tell yourself what it is you are thinking. You might be surprised by what you reveal. It may also motivate you into cracking on with your other writing projects too.

Good luck.