Why Writing is a Personal Form of Therapy
by Sharisse Coulter
Anyone who writes either for fun or professionally will find this topic obvious. Most of us probably started out writing in our journals or jotting down random thoughts or rants about our own lives. Rather than speak on behalf of anyone else, I’ll focus on why writing has been my own personal therapy, and how that’s helped my writing get better as well as keep me sane, on a personal level.
Like a child, I want to have some level of control over the world around me when I find myself in situations that make me feel helpless. I may not be able to control things in the real world, but if I sit down to create a story I get to rewrite any narrative I want. I can write a monologue I wish I’d been quick enough to deliver in person, eviscerating someone who wronged me. I can write characters with all the qualities I wish I possessed. I can create a scene where my horrible boss gets what’s coming to him, rather than my thinking evil thoughts while smiling and doing what I’m told. The possibilities are endless and, even better, I’m in total control.
As much as it’s great to be the master of a universe, even a fictional one, there is another, more important component of therapy that writing fulfills: honesty. In order to create a character, I must be able to see the world through their eyes. Good, bad, or anything in between, every character requires reasoning behind their actions. Whether I relate to the character or not, I must explore their perspective in order to write their part of the story. If the story started with a personal need to vent, I still have to write the foe with honesty, and may come to see the world through their eyes. It might not make me take their side, but a little perspective is always healthy.
The other side of writing is the mask. The mask is like an actor’s role: I get to take on a persona and explore emotions without risking pain to myself. I may be too frightened to explore certain emotional topics. I might not be ready to deal with the weight of them on a personal level. But if I create another world and characters outside myself, I can put them through the same emotions without having to become vulnerable. And a funny thing happens when I do: I learn. I learn to see myself, not as an anomaly incapable of dealing with grief, for instance, but as a person, like my character, who lives in a world they don’t control. Things happen. We react. But if we explore those events honestly, even in fiction, we will see our own faults, desires and even strengths in a new way.
With perspective and honesty, I can create any world I want. I can imagine characters that live out my fantasies or who don’t share my weaknesses. I can experience the world in a new way, through them. And when I’m finished, I can look at my own life with new appreciation and hopefully learn the lesson that experience was meant to teach me in the first place.
Genre – Contemporary Women’s Fiction
Rating – PG13
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