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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

WRITING FOR THERAPY

"The excursion is the same when you go looking for your sorrow as when you go looking for your joy." Eudora Welty, 1909- "The Wide Net" 1973

The Memoirs group that I instruct each Thursday morning is called Write from the Heart. From prompts we write our memories. Sometimes these are happy memories, often they dig deep into the depths of our hearts and sad memories emerge. It isn't unusual for tears to flow along with the words. But somehow, once those sad memories are purged from our hearts, it is soothing, and a kind of closure to the troubled thoughts that have been buried deep for so long.

I often find the same thing in my "Prompting the Muse" class which I teach at night school. More often these days I have people joining the class who want to write about their life's experiences and often this is a kind of therapy. In my last session I had a person who is a tsunami survivor. She is undertaking the painful task of writing about this experience as a memorial to those who did not survive. Her own survival was a miracle. So she has become the 'voice' of those who were not so lucky. Others write about unhappy childhood memories, being bullied. shunned by peers, broken families, lost loves. For myself, I've found this very therapeutic too. Putting those dark thoughts down on paper releases them from your subconcious mind. So, in a way, my writing classes are often like 'therapy sessions'.

I think every writer uses some of his/her own experiences in telling their stories, whether fiction or non-fiction. My play The Street, was partly autobiographical. Although it was mostly fictionalized, there were many parts of the story and dialogue that were true. I originally wrote it when I was eighteen and had seen my boyfriend and his pals become addicted to heroin (a drug that none of us knew anything about at that time in the '50's) I wrote it as a cautionary tale for my peers. A few years ago, when I reworked the play for production, I was able to add lots more to it, about the way things were back then including what happened to these young men when they were placed in the prison system. It was a heartwrenching experience, rewriting that play, reliving those by-gone days of my youth. And because of that experience I understand how it feels for people in my classes who are writing about their lives.

Even in my fiction writing I rely on some of my own emotional experiences to express the way characters are feeling in certain situations. I think it's important to get in touch with your characters, understand them to the depths of their souls, what makes them think, feel, act the way the do.

Lately I've been too distracted, too busy to revisit Alexander's world. My classes have finished for the season although I'm going to have private workshops at home during the months of July and August. At the moment I have a house guest from Germany and we're planning a few small trips to visit relatives and friends. After that it's down to business again. I'm feeling anxious about my writing, champing at the bit, eager to return to work on my novel. But for now I must content myself with editing, marketing travel stories and other small tasks that need to be completed and taken care of before I progress. My aim is to spend the entire summer working on my novel...and finishing it! To me, immersing myself in my historical-fiction world is the best 'therapy'. I'm happy when I'm writing. The present world passes by with all it's traumas and dramas and I am there, in the ancient world, riding with the Macedonian army or playing in the courtyard with Alexander's son. I long to return there and I will, soon. To me, it's as good as a holiday away.


"Writing fiction has developed in me an abiding respect for the unknown in a human lifetime and a sense of where to look for the threads, how to follow, how to connect, find in the thick of the tangle what clear line persists. The strands are all there, to the memory nothing is ever really lost." Eurdor Welty, 1909- "One Writer's Beginnings" 1984 "Finding a Voice."

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