I write because it’s cheaper than therapy

It turns out you can buy a whole collection of “cheaper than therapy” t-shirts and most of them make the valid point that doing something physical, or doing something you love, is good for your mental health. I guess the remaining ones (mostly about chocolate, wine and beer) make the point that the occasional indulgence is helpful too.

Most people I know who write, do include “writing as therapy” as one of their reasons. Sometimes it is the main one. I’m no exception. Writing anything is an outlet for me, and it is one of the reasons I blog, and at times keep a journal. In some ways the journal is the best mental health tool, because it is a place where I can explore my own issues without giving any thought to a reader.

However, fiction provides a sort of veil between my raw emotions and a make believe story while it allows me to delve deep into issues that might never surface in something more contained like a journal. Creating a plot has a certain non-linear element of surprise to it that can take me exactly to the places where I least want to go.

When I started my first novel, I promised myself I would do my best to write without fear. Some of that entailed pretending that no one I knew would ever read my book. (I still have to pretend that sometimes.) I got the chance to go to Ireland in the middle of my first novel, and toured the Jameson distillery. I was surprised to learn that every bottle of Jameson contains the two Latin words “Sine Metu.” Without Fear. Well, Mr. Jameson and I seem to have things in common.

I have a theory about writers block. So far, in my case, it is caused by one of two things. The first, and easiest to solve, is that my body needs something and I’m ignoring it. Usually it’s sleep, but sometimes it’s food or water or even a trip to the bathroom. My brain will eventually cease to create until I care for myself.

The other is that I want to go somewhere with the story and I’m censoring myself. Occasionally it’s because I have another direction I want the plot to go, but more often it’s because something deep within wants to take the story into territory that bothers me. I’ve learned that my muse becomes silent until I relent and stride into the dark forest that is scaring me so.

There, I find the demons that have my particular number, and as we stare each other in the eye, I become a little stronger and they become a bit less terrifying. As I write them into the ordinary, I turn them into creatures of the light.

The forest is huge and the creatures are many, so it’s not like this writing thing is a quick road to complete mental wellness, at least for me. But I do recognize that writing forces me to confront my worst of everything, and with the confrontation comes a measure of understanding.

While looking for information for this blog, I found a great post written by “The Angry Therapist” on tips for dealing with life if you can’t afford therapy.  I found the entire article worthwhile, and some of it surprising and wise. I especially liked tip seven: share your story.

A final word about therapy. Several people I’m close to either see or have seen a therapist and each one of them has benefited from it. It is, I’m told, expensive and hard work, but with the right therapist and the right attitude, it can be life altering. So please understand that I don’t mean to claim here that writing, or any other activity, can or should replace therapy when it is needed, or even wanted.

Therapy may be something I’ll try someday. Much as it may help me, I’m confident I have enough garbage in my head that writing for my mental health will always be an option for me. Besides, I have six other fine reasons to write, and there are four of them I haven’t given much thought to lately. One of them I’m kind of secretive about, and it will be the subject of my next post.

(Read more about why I write at at The Number One Reason I Write Books, Nothing cool about modest ambitions, and My Eye-opening Second Reason for Writing.)

How does courage look?

From SOAR, a leadership development course

From SOAR, a leadership development course

Each of my five novels centers around a virtue or an ideal that I hold dear. Peace, joy, and hope weave their way through x0, y1 and z2 respectively, and every so often on my blog for each novel I go searching for the best images or best songs to represent this theme.

From a post called “Courage” at the blog Ramana’s Musings

Bravery, as found in humans of all sizes, ages and genders is at the core of my novel c3. But for some reason, I’ve left courage alone. Why? I suppose I thought of it as less easily captured by a simple image, or that I thought I would only find the expected photos of warriors. Today I tested this theory, and was surprised by the wealth of poignant images that capture the feeling of courage without saying a word.

From Bplans, a site for business planning

From Bplans, a site for business planning

I’m posting my six favorites here. I’ve grabbed them off the web. This is something I prefer not to do, so to mitigate this as best I can, I’ve set it up so that clicking on the image itself will take you back to my original source, and I attribute that source in the caption. If you like what you see, please go there and show them some love.

From "The Science Of Conquering Your Fears" at the Huffington Post

From “The Science Of Conquering Your Fears” at the Huffington Post

The images did tend to fall into a few categories. Small cats and dogs standing up to or seeing themselves as lions and wolves were popular. Mountain climbers were well represented, as were people jumping off things, often into the water. Many images didn’t make much sense without the words they came with, and I eliminated those for now.  “Best posters about courage” will have to be a category for another day.

From Dreamstime, a royalty free stock photo service

From Dreamstime, a royalty free stock photo service

I was also surprised by the sources. I used images from a site selling business software, another selling leadership courses, a site for stock photos and a newspaper article. You also see photos here from two other personal blogs, both of which look quite interesting. I’ll have to follow them both. Neither listed an orignal source, at least that I could find, or I would have attributed that too.

From the blog

From a post called “Courage” on the blog Velinda Peyton

Because my theme is more about courage shown in every day life and in unexpected places, I did avoid the pictures of  firefighters and of men and women in uniform. This was in spite of the fact that I agree that these people often show amazing bravery, and I have a great deal of respect for what they do. Only one such image tugged on my heartstrings until I could not resist, but it wasn’t the military man who swayed me. It was the little boy, doing his best to stay strong. That’s courage.