Novel Therapy

noveltherapy
I never thought I’d be a novelist, ever. And yet here I am, producing original characters and inventing extended plotlines!

Why I Never Considered Noveling: Impatience

I was supremely impatient as a child and teenager; my brain balked at the idea of writing about a character or set of characters for a long time. Not to mention that I was notoriously horrible at picking names for my characters, anyway. Something in me at that age rebelled against the whole process, even though I enjoyed telling stories and I enjoyed the art of writing creatively. But I stayed within the world of writing largely short fanfiction, because I felt as though I had to keep my characters contained in a pre-approved box to make them workable. Writing a completely self-produced novel, or even longer fiction at all, I reasoned, would feel more like work or a school assignment than a pastime.

I continued with this self-philosophy well into graduate school, because I struggled to write enough pages for my professors’ long paper assignments. While I enjoyed creative writing, I decidedly did not like long academic writing. Sometimes I felt that I’d said enough about my perspective on a piece of literature in just 4 paragraphs, and I didn’t need to beleaguer the point; yet, my assignment said that the paper must be 10 pages long. That goal, of a set number of pages I had to produce, was locked around my neck time and again, like a yoke. “See,” I told myself, “this is why I don’t bother with writing a novel. I won’t like the process, and it’ll be too long and too hard for me to focus on and be happy with.”

The Sharp Mindset Shift

I had not counted, however, on my teaching career disintegrating into flaming ashes under my feet. I had to utterly quit the teaching degree program and return home, not because of any family emergency, but because I had begun to suffer severe depression and even suicidal thoughts. If I had thought writing a novel would feel like a prison, teaching had felt like a lightless dungeon.

So, while I sat at home recovering, I began to poke around with a story I had crafted about two years before for an online role-play. I had written a bit of backstory for the character (about 30 pages), but after my teaching classes got started, I hadn’t returned to it (though I had wanted to). I had all but forgotten about it…and then, there it was, sitting in a writing folder on my computer. Now, I had nothing else to distract me from it, so I turned to this little slice of backstory…and I began to write again.

Hope from Within My Own Pages

As the character’s backstory spun from my fingers into the keyboard, I began to take heart from the sparkles of hope appearing within the story. The heartbreak of my teaching career was still a fresh wound in my back, in my side, but in this story, which was so open, bright, and sweet, there was light to be found. My own story, one I never thought would ever be, was beginning to pull me from the mire.

As 2009 ended, I had a story of about 50,000 words; now it’s well over 100,000 words and still going. I’m writing on my own terms–not by a schedule, and not holding myself to a word count or a page count, and I think that’s what helps me keep on writing. It’s something of my own design, something I can find solace in. (Plus, if I make it feel too much like work, that feeling will come out in my writing and make the novel very hard to read!)

Your Writing Can Be Therapy for You, Too!

I’ve found that the act of creating (whether it’s writing, music, or another art form) is soothing and joyful, returning me to a better state of mind. If you find yourself in need of a “reset button” for your mind, try writing; you might just surprise yourself with what you create. Who knows, you might have your own novel buried in your head waiting to be discovered!

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