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.)

“Because I Can”

beautiful life6Not sure when women got March as Women’s History month, but I’m glad they did. Her story isn’t told nearly as often as history. It is a little surprising, though, that along with this attempt to add more balance to our knowledge of the past, there is suddenly a wealth of sites celebrating songs that empower women. Buzz Feed offers 17 Empowering Songs By Female Artists To Boost Your Self-Esteem, The BoomBox has 20 songs to celebrate the superwoman in you, and vh1 has The 15 Greatest Girl Power Anthems. Each site features best lines from the song, the reason the song is great, and a video to enjoy.

I thought it was interesting that only three songs showed up twice.  The honors go to “Independent Women” by Destiny’s Child, “Stronger” by Britney Spears and the all time classic “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. It is worth checking out all three sites, but if you are just curious which songs were chosen, an alphabetical list of all 49 songs is at the end of this post.

Do you have one or two of your own to add? Of course you do. We all have our personal favorites.

I needed to find an anthem celebrating female power when I was writing c3, but because my hero was a fan of country music, I needed to find it in that genre. Country music isn’t my own first choice for listening, so I couldn’t think of a single one. I did a search and was surprised at the number of contenders. I finally settled on a song commonly called “Because I Can” by LeAnn Rimes and after listening to it and writing about it, I’ve come to really appreciate it. Here is how it got used in the book.

Teddie returned to her room mid-morning and pushed herself to stay awake through the rest of the day’s classes. Most of her life she’d been a good student, and she was trying to accept the fact that this year would be the exception. While kids back home were already stressing out about college applications, Teddie could only trust that her sense of adventure in spending a year abroad was going to count for something.

LeAnnShe was hoping for a nap before dinner, but Haley was already in the room, happily singing along to one of Teddie’s favorite country songs. Haley preferred pop and rock, but she had slowly warmed to some of Teddie’s music. Right now she was belting out the empowering words to song often referred to as “Because I Can”. It was impossible not to ask what was going on.

“One blogger called it ‘Barbie climbs Everest,’” Haley laughed, “and you know what? Even though I am not climbing Everest, I wasn’t offended.”

“Can I assume that means that you are part of the expedition again?” Teddie asked.

Haley’s wide grin was answer enough. “’Cami girl’—that’s my other name—‘set to climb Kanchenjunga.’ That was the other big blog’s headline. I can’t believe that it is really going to happen. You do know that this means that I am out of here in less than a week?

“What? Why? You don’t climb until May,” Teddie said.

“I know, but I’ve decided that I’ve got to spend more time adjusting to a higher altitude. We’re only at 6,700 feet here, so my dad is coming in a few days. We’re going to drive up to Lachen. It’s only about fifty miles from Gangtok but takes six hours to drive. It’s supposed to be gorgeous, and it’s at almost nine thousand feet. After a few days there we’ll drive up to Thangu at thirteen-thousand feet, and I’ve decided that I’m going to live there until the climb. I’m even going to let my dad do all the last minute coaching and training that he thinks he needs to do, because if I’m going to do this I have got to stack the deck in my favor every way that I can.”

Haley gestured to the pile of schoolwork on her desk. “I’m bringing my schoolwork with me, even though I’ll probably have to take incompletes in everything.” She looked hard at Teddie. “Are you going to be alright here by yourself?”

Teddie had to laugh. “Haley, you are about to go do something where people actually die, and you’re worried about me?”

“Well, there’s a lot going on here too.”

The song is also called “One Way Ticket.”  LeAnn Rimes gives the lyrics everything she’s got in this well-made video of her and her band performing it live. Enjoy.

Here are the songs from the other three sites.

  1. A Woman’s Worth by Alicia Keys
  2. Body Of My Own by Charli XCX
  3. Bust Your Windows by Jazmine Sullivan
  4. Can’t Hold Us Down by Christina Aguilera (ft Lil Kim)
  5. Conceited by Remy Ma
  6. Control by Janet Jackson
  7. Doo Wop (That Thing )by Lauryn Hill
  8. F**kin’ Perfect by P!nk
  9. Feeling Myself by Nicki Minaj (feat Beyoncé)
  10. Fight Song by Rachel Platten
  11. Flawless by Beyoncé ft Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
  12. Fly by Nicki Minaj Feat Rihanna
  13. Follow Your Arrow by Kacey Musgraves
  14. Freedom  by Queen Latifah, Yo Yo, Lisa Left Eye Lopes, MC Lyte, Nefertiti, Salt-N-Pepa
  15. Girl Talk by TLC
  16. Girls by Santigold
  17. Goodbye by Kristina DeBarge
  18. Hair by Lady Gaga
  19. I Look So Good (Without You) by Jessie James
  20. I’m Every Woman by Chaka Khan
  21. Independent Women by Destiny’s Child
  22. Ladies First by Queen Latifah Feat Monie Love
  23. Love Me by Katy Perry
  24. Love Myself by Hailee Steinfeld
  25. Man! I Feel Like a Woman by Shania Twain
  26. Milkshake by Kelis
  27. No More Drama by Mary J Blige
  28. No Scrubs by TLC
  29. None of Your Business by Salt-N-Pepa
  30. Obsessed by Mariah Carey
  31. On My Own by Miley Cyrus
  32. One In A Million by Hilary Duff
  33. Pretty Girl Rock by Keri Hilson
  34. QUEEN by Janelle Monae Feat Erykah Badu
  35. Respect by Aretha Franklin
  36. Run the World (Girls) by Beyonce
  37. Satellite Call by Sara Bareilles
  38. Shake It Out by Florence + The Machine
  39. Stay Beautiful by Taylor Swift
  40. Stronger by Britney Spears
  41. Try by Colbie Caillat
  42. Unpretty by TLC
  43. Video by India Aire
  44. Wannabe by Spice Girls
  45. Whatcha Think About That by Pussycat Dolls (ft Missy Elliot)
  46. Who Says by Selena Gomez
  47. Who’s That Girl by Eve
  48. You Can’t Play With My Yo-Yo by Yo-Yo Feat Ice Cube