Writing as Therapy

Letting it all begin

Fresh paper and a nice expensive pen

The past cannot subtract a thing from what I might do to you

Unless that’s what I let it do

-Relient K, Therapy


Why is writing so therapeutic?

Maybe it’s because it’s the only time I can fully be myself. There’s no worry that what I’m thinking/saying/doing is going to be judged. At least, not the kind of judgment that directly affects me. My writing—yes, that will be judged, but if my characters do something risky or stupid that’s on them.

I grew up in an environment where everything was scrutinized, everything judged. You tried to talk to the new girl to welcome her at school? Boom! You’re labeled as madly in love with her. You listened to the wrong kind of music? You were seen as a lesser person. The list goes on and on. What does that do to a person, especially a kid who is more susceptible to being molded by those in authority? I’m not sure I’ll ever fully know, but I do know that it affected me. Deeply.

But I do know that writing is one of my strongest gifts, and while I write just to tell stories and write to (hopefully) move people, I also write for me. What I’ve grown to lack in areas of confidence and self-esteem, I’ve learned that my characters can lift me up. Where I’m not sure what to say, my characters can help pave the way. And when I’m not sure how to react, my characters can help me explore what’s best.

How’s that? Because I put pieces of myself into my characters. I portray some of them—not in their entirety, but in certain aspects—as how I would like myself to be, and how I could be one day. And that’s a powerful thing. My creations live in a make-believe world, but their interactions can have a very real-world effect.

And that’s therapeutic. Especially when I have a hard time opening myself up to others, even a trained professional. As a writer, I can fail and curse and stand up again without having to feel the shame of doing so. I can create life, I can kill. I can break up and fall madly in love and while it isn’t happening to me, I can feel some of the same rushes of either. Rushes that I largely lack.

Writing is an emotive activity, too, and when you’re trained to diminish your emotions, writing is a good way to learn how to express them again. Isn’t that the very point of therapy? To become a more wholesome person?

So I’ll fight against injustice as Victoria Crowe. I’ll learn it’s okay to be me as Marc Sullivan. I’ll be the best boyfriend as possible as Jesse Buescher. I’ll explore the fleetingness of perfection and to appreciate what I have as Kurt-with-no-last-name. And I’ll struggle with the volcano of pent-up emotion as Kara-also-without-a-last-name.

I’m them and they’re me, and slowly but surely we’ll figure out this thing called life.

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