Friday, 1 November 2013

Writing is my Therapy

‘Writing is your therapy.’ Alistair shrugged. ‘It’s how you make sense of things.’

     It’s stuff like that that makes me realise that I am exceptionally lucky to have him as my boyfriend. And yes, I do still call him my boyfriend, although we’re both in our thirties. Partner makes me think of either a cowboy or a lawyer, neither of which seem appropriate. But he’s right. Writing is my therapy. Whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, blogging or whatever, writing seems to be the only effective channel for me to express myself.

     For some reason, I am terrible at communication in all other forms. I’ve been called a coward because of it, because in real life I can’t always just grasp the bloody nettle  and say things to someones face. My brother once told me that people don’t like me because they think I’m fake, because I never like to express negative emotion.  Thoughts will build up inside me, absolutely consuming my mind, overwhelming me to the point where I can’t let go of them, but still I remain silent.

     Alistair gets really frustrated with me about this. When he finally got around to reading all of this blog, he found out all sorts of things about me that I’d never told him. Some of them were quite painful, some merely awkward (coughEdBallscough), and we did have a few rows about why I’d never shared these things with him before. But now, he gets it. He understands that writing is the greatest release I have and that it helps. That when things get to me, I just write the fuck out of them.

     Yep, I write the fuck out of things. I’ll find my thoughts running on the same groove for a few days, whether it’s good, bad or ugly, then, usually on the way back from dropping The Blondies at school, a key phrase or thought will come to me and it honestly is a lightbulb moment. ‘Yes!’ I’ll think excitedly ‘That encapsulates everything I feel about it!’ Then I get home, fortify myself with several thousand coffees and cigarettes, and hammer the life out of my keyboard for forty minutes or so. Then I hit ‘Publish’ (and sing out ‘And be DAMNED!’) and that’s it. I stop thinking about whatever it was that was occupying my brain. Until something else occurs to me.  And then I obsess over it for a few days. Then I write the fuck out of it… You get the idea.

     So when I was told that writing was making me a bad and neglectful mother to The Blondies, it seemed to me as though I was being presented with a choice: writing or parenting? You can’t successfully do both. And writing is so central to who and what I am, the very core of me, that I’d never considered being without it. To paraphrase Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird, until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to write. One does not love to breathe. And I felt like I was being condemned to a life of silent screaming in my head. If I couldn’t write the fuck out of whatever was plaguing me, then effectively, I was going to go into a downward spiral with only one outcome.

     So I had a mini breakdown. And I stomped about the house, cleaning and swearing, crying and self-harming (bloody idiot. I haven’t done it for years, it doesn’t help other than give a brief release from whatever turmoil I’m in), keeping well away from anything word related. But then I had my little epiphany and told me to get over myself. Writing and parenting aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, the simple act of writing myself into a happier place makes me a better parent, because I’m not being gnawed away at by persistent thoughts, feelings and fears.

     All of this week I have had The Arse. Because it’s half term, so with both Blondies here at home, I haven’t been able to write. Or rather, the only time I’m able to write is when they’ve gone to bed, by which time I’m knackered (not sleeping well at the moment), so when I look back the following day, everything I wrote the night before is a jumbled mess of fleeting impressions and sentences that suddenly tail off and don’t really… It’s frustrating, especially when there are so many things occurring to me that I really want to write about. The situation is not improved by Alistair asking hopefully ‘Did you get any writing done today?’ and me narrowing my eyes and snarling through thin lips ‘Fuck. All.’ ‘Oh. Ok. Sorry.’

     But today… Today The Blondies have gone swimming. And that means I have a window of at least an hour. And armed with my trusty fountain pen and notebooks, I am going to write the fuck out of things.


Steph said...

Glad you managed to get some time to yourself... sometimes being alone and just getting on with things in your own head is enough to make a difference. x

Lucy Benedict said...

I need alone time every day. If I don't get it, zoweee, I get grouchy. And I need to be alone to write.

I have been known to hide full bottles of milk in the spare fridge, so I can pretend we're out of milk and I need to go to the shop. Just so I can frame thoughts more clearly. Yes, I am that misanthropic.

Sam said...

Aha! You're right - having older children who go to school obviously does make a difference to you as a writer. This is what I was talking about - only having those couple of hours after they've gone to bed and trying to write, plus relax, plus wind down/switch off/be entertained/catch up on reading - its just bloody impossible right now! Also putting thoughts on paper IS therapy. I once stayed awake all night writing a letter (which never got sent) to my husband's ex-wife remonstrating about the bloody rude letter she sent him, laced with veiled threats and tenuous accusations (hers not mine). I was so bloody angry but writing my response helped me let it go.

Lucy Benedict said...

Sam, yep, I need that space to myself to think. Not so much with blogging, but with writing fiction, I need to be completely in the moment of what I'm writing about. A cry of 'Muuuum!!! I've done a POOOO!' isn't conducive to creativity. The few (terrible) blogposts I managed before this year (majorly depressed, working full time, children at home) bear no relation to how and what I write now, when I have space to write (and a totally awesome boyfriend who supports me doing that).

It's strange how many of us feel the same way about writing. It's just the act of getting the words out that makes me feel like I'm sucking the venom from the bite.