I don’t believe writing is a form of therapy.
I’m a little obsessive about protecting my privacy: my innermost emotions and thoughts and the events that trigger them. Feelings about work do not fall into this category because writing for publication is already a public act. I write alone, yes, but I write for a reader. Pulic-ation: get it? I write for an ideal reader in the hope that I’ll pen a bestseller and earn a million bucks, so there is little point in being overly protective of the array of emotions that follow the successes or failures of my work – in fact this blog is pretty much dedicated to detailing the ups and downs of my career path, with interludes into amusing anecdotes about motherhood (they amuse me). But when it comes to letting anyone, including my nearest and dearest, into the heartaches that shape life beyond work – the very thought makes my toes curl.
If I were a nut, I’d be a brazil nut, tightly coiled to protect my vital organs inside a thick calloused shell. To get into a brazil nut, you need to smash it with a hammer. Rarely does the nut come away unscathed. There are injuries, some slight, some devastating. Sometimes you may even whack your thumb trying to get in.
All people face adversity, I know that, and perhaps writers more successful than I are able to turn their personal tragedies into bestselling memoirs, or memoirs parading as novels (that’s a thing). Some people blog as a form of therapy. Some, in the face of personal adversity, want to share the trials of their lives in the hope of reaching out and alleviating yours. I am not that person (I’ve tried that, and the result was some blog posts I’m ashamed of). I usually just keep swimming, and glue a toothpaste smile to my face when I need to go out. Mostly, I stay on the couch with a good novel. I’m the world’s greatest escape artist, next to Houdini and that other British guy. Because while my writing does reflect my life in some obscure-impossible-to-trace-back-to-me way, I struggle to pen my personal tragedies.
And there have been a few losses in recent years. Losses I’ve buried. Losses I’ve hidden from friends and family. However, in March, something news headline-worthy happened, and not in a good “she won the Booker” way. That thing, and I’m not about to share, has really messed me up mentally and, for the first time ever, I cannot write. Maybe the March thing split me open and the accumulation of bad things spilled out and knocked the ink out of my pen, because shortly after the well ran dry. The muse ran off with the window cleaner and now the view is obscured and there’s no water for the garden. (See? How dire are these mixed metaphors? First the nut analogy, now this).
I’ve tried to write. I’ve started and abandoned so many blog posts there are more in the drafts folder than the published folder. I’ve hammered away at a novel and not made it past chapter three. I’ve tried my hand at a couple of short stories. Everything I write lacks heart or heft or forward motion. Writing feels like a pointless act, one which has little (if any) reward and zero purpose.
So, for the very first time I am embarking on writing as a form of therapy. For the first time, something I write will not be for public consumption. I will not be looking for an audience and millions. The ideal reader of this work is dead. I shall probably break out in hives: I’m itching already and I haven’t even written the first sentence. But maybe, just maybe, unblocking that will unblock my writing. I hope so. Otherwise, I’m unleashing demons and sending my mind into anaphylactic shock for nothing.