I know a lot of writers use their craft as a form of therapy, myself included. I explore my dreams, desires, fears, and phobias in my fiction. It’s a safe way to stand on the edge of a cliff and look down into the abyss without having to worry about falling.
I recently read a quote from Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Avengers) that sums it up nicely:
“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of.”
I think that’s one of the wonderful aspects of being a writer…being able to explore all the thing I’m not, that I’m afraid of, and to draw strength from this. I know that I put a bit of myself into every story I write. Sometimes it’s just a fragment, sometimes it’s a hunk, but there’s always something in there. I’ve also used my fiction to work through issues and problems. I found strength in them to make changes in my real life.
For example, I used to be bullied by a family member. Mostly verbal, but there were a few physical altercations. I was never brave enough to stand up for myself. I allowed this to happen over and over again through the years. But one evening I was thinking about the situation, how I felt, all those pent up emotions inside my head that were tormenting me, and an idea for a story developed. I wrote the first draft over the next three hours, a flurry of words and emotions splattering on the page.
When I was finished I remember sitting back in my chair, my fingers and arms tingling from the uninterrupted tapping at the keyboard, and I felt both physically and emotionally spent. But I also felt better. My story was my therapy. My main character said and did the things I was afraid to say and do, but getting it out and having them say it made me feel better. I also felt empowered. I was able to see myself from a different angle. After that, I decided to make a change in my life. A positive change. And I’m happier for it.
I’ve also used my fiction to work through pain. I wrote a story that helped me come to terms with the death of a family member and the death of a friend. The stories were completely fictional, the settings and characters bore not resemblance to reality, but I was able to work through the grief and the confusion by having my protagonist deal with similar emotions. Both stories were difficult to write, but in the end I felt better for having written them.
Writing is an art form, but it’s also so much more. It’s a safe haven, it’s a therapy session, it’s a way to express ourselves, to explore our emotions. In fact, I think that writing – specifically, fiction writing – is the most powerful form of art. I’m not dismissing other art forms, but I don’t think they give the artist quite the same amount of power and depth of emotion. Words can convey things much more thoroughly and precisely than painting or sculpture or dance. The only one that comes close is songwriting, in my opinion.
Words are powerful and we can become better people because of them. Use them to your advantage. I think it’ll help you to be happier and stronger.