Hold on a minute. Merriam Webster states there are two definitions for addiction. Here they are:
“1: a strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble). He has a drug addiction. His life has been ruined by heroin addiction.
2: an unusually great interest in something or a need to do or have something. He devotes his summers to his surfing addiction.”
Forget the first one. My post title refers only to the second. I’m addicted to writing fiction and you should be too. Gosh, that’s emphatic, assessing your situation without knowing your specific ailments.
On December the first, I announced I wasn’t going to blog anymore, at least for the time being. But, remember, I’m an addict. In fact, my addiction is two-pronged: an unquenchable need to write fiction, and the same desire to convince you to do the same. Why? Because writing fiction will transform your life. My website title and tag line says it this way: The Pencil Driven Life [g]ives you a mission & transforms your wounds, traumas, & mistakes into a life of meaning & purpose.
I’d like to share with you several points from an article I read the other day. But, first, let me address changes I’ve made. First, as stated above, the title of my website is now The Pencil Driven Life. This phrase has been around for a while because it encapsulates my life over the past six years. Until recently, this phrase was the title of my blog. Now, that’s changed to Write to Life.
In a nutshell, the Write to Life blog is intended to reveal the answer to “Why write fiction?” Catchy uh? Seriously, my blog’s title is meant to convey at least two meanings: you and I have a right to life. And, we can write our way to life, real life, which, ties directly to my website title, The Pencil Driven Life. This Life is all about reading and writing fiction, which, if we’re serious, will enable us to write our way to a wonderful life (note, I’m not saying you’ll become rich financially) of peace, contentment, and compassion.
One other change I’ll mention before we look at that article. I’ve created the Fiction Writing School. No, this isn’t a formal brick and mortar school. In fact, it’s not formal at all. It’s a site you can visit by clicking on the Writing School menu option (or, clicking here) anytime and find connections to five-star authors and teachers I’ve found to truly ‘know their fiction writing stuff.’ In addition, I include links to articles and YouTube episodes and channels I’ve found useful and important. Periodically, I’ll also include my own fiction writing advice or instruction. At least once per week, I’ll update the ‘School’s’ offerings. In a nutshell, the Fiction Writing School is intended to reveal the answer(s) to,“How to write fiction?”
Now, let me address that article I mentioned: “The Therapeutic Benefits of Writing a Novel,” by Jessica Lourey. I loved her story because it was my story. Now, I’m certainly not saying that the shock I encountered was anything as bad as what Jessica did: she lost her husband to suicide. But, living a lie for fifty-six years (not counting the first five years of my life) and slowly over the last six years learning the truth, isn’t a bed of roses. My shock, translated: being a diehard Southern Baptist Fundamentalist most all my life, then learning (albeit slowly) there’s little to any credible evidence for its truthfulness.
My intent in transitioning to the real benefits of writing a novel is simply to say, we all, you, me, and everyone we know, has experienced a shock (or two or three) that is hard to shack off and recover from. In a most accurate sense, every new novelist starts at the same place–we each bring wounds to the page. Plus, I think it’s safe to say, we all want things to be better, we each want a way to offload the pain we carry around like a saddle on our backs. In Jessica’s words, “I needed to get it out of my head or it was going to destroy me. Channeling it into fiction seemed like the safest method.”
Fictionalizing your own painful experiences is a way to unbuckle that saddle. Offloading what happened to you onto the written page and inside your imagined characters creates space in your own head for more healthy thoughts. This paves the way to healing.
Jessica says there are two key elements that make this possible, “creating a coherent narrative and shifting perspective.” In fiction writing parlance, these are plot and point of view.
Of course, you can write a novel about most anything, but, if the main purpose is to heal, or, at least, begin the healing process, then the novel will be about events and circumstances surrounding your own painful experience. We could call it “your wound.”
I like what Jessica says in this regard, “The power of this process is transformative. Writing fiction allows you to become a spectator to life’s roughest seas. It gives form to your wandering thoughts, lends empathy to your perspective, allows you to cultivate compassion and wisdom by considering other people’s motivations, and provides us practice in controlling attention, emotion, and outcome. We heal when we transmute the chaos of life into the structure of a novel, when we learn to walk through the world as observers and students rather than wounded, when we make choices about what parts of a story are important and what we can let go of.”
In a not-so-logical way, my first novel was transformative. As stated above, I reached the point I was ready to explode, not so much that I was angry at any one else, I was angry with myself for never questioning what I believed. So, I channeled my anger into a young adult book (probably thinking I wish I’d had this book when I was a kid, and hoping that every teenager would read it). My novel was an in-your-face type reply to the half-century I’d wasting believing a fairy tale.
God and Girl is about Ruthie, the teenage daughter of Southern Baptist preacher Joseph Brown. She is a good kid, and loves her faith, and her family. Then, during the summer after her eighth grade, she meets Ellen Ayers who’s just moved to town and, like Ruthie, will be a ninth grader at Boaz High School where Ellen’s mom will begin teaching Biology. Ruthie and Ellen fall passionately in love. That’s all I’ll say about my little story, but, you get the picture (God and Girl). Writing my first novel was no doubt therapeutic and began my journey to recovery and healing.
To gather every nugget available, click and read, “The Therapeutic Benefits of Writing a Novel.” Please read it once, twice, or three times.
Then, start pondering that novel anchoring your life to the bottomless pit of despair. You know it, you feel it every day. It greets you when you wake every morning (assuming you slept), it makes you stumble when crossing the kitchen for your first cup of coffee, it punches you in the gut more than once before mid-morning. I’ll stop, but it doesn’t.
What your painful wound needs is a way out, and you need it too. Could letting it escape through your mind and fingers, and gluing it to the written page, begin your journey to recovery and on to healing?
Think about it. And yes, it’s okay to reread “The Therapeutic Benefits of Writing a Novel.”