Monday, 3 August 2009

Writing, Therapy, & Disclosure.

Changing Draft Writing regularly acts to reveal - to yourself and sometimes to the world at large  - your inner thoughts and the wilder shores of your life experience  

Of course, in poetry and prose- fiction the wild surprise of such revelations is codified by metaphor and language, by characterisation and contrived narrative. Even so, the wild things are still  buried in there somewhere, to be excavated - in time - by over-eager biographers.

These wild things are self-consciously present in published diaries and journals - often self censored and edited to construct in retrospect an admirable self.  They are even more self-consciously present it the contemporary rash of ‘Misery Lit’  memoirs that now have special shelves in some bookshops.

The wild things are buried in the stylised, ironic prose of journalists who use their own lives as raw material in comments and commentary. And they are there in cyberspace, in the un-refereed frenzy of websites, weblogs, twitters and chat rooms. And blogs – like this one, you will say!

You might also say, of course, that getting the wild things ‘out there’ is all to the good. Aren’t there  courses and workshops in writing as therapy? Don’t some psychologists ask their clients to keep diaries to help with analysis?

But in my experience we have to be very careful about this process. I think that just to express and organise your thoughts is an empowerment in itself. Submitting them to outside analysis may be to surrender control - yet again - of your own life.

I have had the privilege  of working with many people, new to writing, who experience a magical release and self realisation when they find they can write down what has been inexpressible.

Some of these writers have turned up in workshops. I remember one man - jolly, likeable, easy going - who wrote a hungry, chilling account of  his slavish existence  in an orphanage. He was proud of and (as we all were) moved by his own writing. One of his stories told of a Christmas when the orphanage had  an official visit from the mayor. Lavish food was laid before the hungry hordes of children. But the mayoral party was delayed for more than two hours and the children had to sit there with the food before them. Then the mayoral party arrived and boiling gravy was poured on their cold dinners and they were forced to eat and show their relish as a public display.

I have worked with women in prison,  for some of whom writing was like lancing a boil. (See The Self Revealed, left) I have wept with them over more than one  free-flow articulation of a catalogue of abuse, confusion, despair and corruption of the self. Much of it was so dark as to be unpublishable – even on those special shelves in bookshops.

I was - and am - always careful to say I am not a therapist. All I could and can do is help them with the process of expressing, editing,  laying out and  producing a good looking document. But I have observed that this level of control over the uncontrollable aspects of people’s lives seemed and seems to be an empowerment and is of itself therapeutic.

The writing is enough. As a writer myself, I know this .



  1. Lovely--just lovely. Yes, the writing is enough:-)

  2. hi Pinkpackrat. Thank you for calling by. And thank you for your kind comment. I appreciate it.



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