Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Writing as Therapy

Today I welcome Karla Brandenburg to Terry's Place. Karla is the author of contemporary romance, with a hint of the paranormal.

It has been my experience that many writers begin the process as catharsis. Something traumatic happens in their lives and writing is a way to deal with what they’ve been through. For myself, I started writing as an angst-ridden teen. Back up. Amend that. I actually wrote my first story when I was VERY young (when I was first old enough to put a sentence together – yes, that young). I actually sent it to Random House! Writing was a way to express myself, but I didn’t make another serious attempt until my teen years. Even I realized, by the time I’d outgrown all the angst, that the stories I’d written weren’t very good, but as a quiet, introverted kind of person, it helped me to deal with things that I had trouble expressing.

As I got older and more vocal/outspoken, I didn’t need the outlet quite so much, but expressing myself “on paper” was still easier. I also had a vivid imagination – always. The stories continued to come and I still put them down, just to empty my head. They were less personal, more observational by that time. My imagination conjured up all sorts of stories about the people around me, people I’d never met and didn’t know. You might think of this as people watching at the mall, in greater detail.

How many people have you met who said something to the effect of, “Wow, you should write a story about all your experiences!” to you or to someone you know? The fact of the matter is that for most people, it doesn’t translate well, partly because the story isn’t over yet (so there’s no ending), and partly because while you have lived it and experienced it, someone else might not be even remotely interested (or might have a more dramatic story themselves). Don’t get me wrong. Certainly, there are some people who have very interesting lives, but consider what I’ve already told you about myself. Do you really care that I wrote a children’s story when I was five (that didn’t go anywhere)?

For me, writing has value. Not just for the stories I can weave, but to empty my overactive imagination. Like most authors, I also have a day job. The job is seasonal, so when it’s busy, it’s VERY BUSY, which limits my creative time. This year in particular, I’ve been spending more of my writing time cleaning off my shelves than I have starting something new. I have some old stories that I never marketed. Because my creative time is at a premium, I’ve been “cheating” by revisiting these old stories and developing a marketing plan. Cleaning them up. Writing synopsises (synopsi?). Sending out query letters. And I’m noticing something interesting – which brings me to the topic of this post.

Writing is therapy. Even though my angst-ridden teen years are over. Even though I’m as happy in my life as a person has a right to be. I still have a head filled with imagination, and even though I’ve put down several story ideas for future reference, without having a new project that I’m throwing myself full into, my imagination is poking and prodding and reminding me that it needs an outlet. I go to bed at night and my dreams are vivid and active. There are song writers that keep notebooks beside their beds so they can capture those unreined imagination moments, moments that evaporate with morning’s first light, but I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of most of those songs. I do keep a notebook beside my bed, but not to capture those wild dreams. I use it to capture those moments when my stories creep into my sleep and resolve an issue that I’ve been struggling with.

I love writing. Always have. As much for escape as catharsis. To my mind, the cathartic stories I’ve written are usually so much drivel, but I love the freedom to escape into my imagination and take someone on that ride with me. And what I’ve (re)learned this busy season at work is that for me, those escapes are essential to a good night’s sleep - imagination therapy.

I do believe it’s time to start a new project!

You can find Karla’s book at Amazon.com (or other on-line booksellers), or ebooks in all formats here. For more information, visit her website at www.karlabrandenburg.com Watch for her newest book, Living Canvas, which is expected to be released next month.

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Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Nice post! I think writing is cathartic for all of us, really...therapeutic for some and just a stress reliever for the rest of us.

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth, I totally agree with you and Karla. I started working on my next Mapleton Mystery yesterday, and the overall sense of calm that hit reminded me that there's more to writing than putting words on pages.

Kathy said...

Good post Karla. I have a question to you plot out each story or mix of plotting and panstering?

What do you do when the story bogs down? DO you go back and find the point it began to drift or do you toss it out and begin fresh?

Karen C said...

Interesting post - good food for thought.

Karla Lang said...

Kathy, i do a combination of outlining and flying by the seat of my pants. When I find the story is stuck, I don't usually start from scratch, I figure out where it went wrong and try to fix. That is also the point that I'm likely to do an outline if I don't already have one. The one I'm preparing for publication now is just such a story, I've been in and out of it for five years trying to fix the "broken" parts. I finally dedicated some quality time to it over the past couple of months and now I'm really happy with the way it turned out.

Karla Lang said...

Elizabeth, definitely stress relief!