Thursday, April 16, 2015

Writing as introspection

Blogging has always been in some form or another a kind of introspection for me.  I never wrote for an audience, I wrote for myself.  It was all about finding a way to understand and explain myself to me, dig into my life, my feelings deeper.

More recently, I've found interesting parallels in my fiction writing.  By interesting I mean borderline scary.

Several months ago I went to see a therapist for the first time.  It's something that I'd wanted to do for a while, I hoped that it would be like an interactive form of writing...  me finding ways to explain things to someone else (like writing) but then having that person ask questions that might give me another perspective in a safe environment.  In case you hadn't noticed, I take my anonymity, my secrets, quite seriously.  The only way I could really talk to someone about anything, everything honestly was in a situation where I could trust their discretion.

Well, therapy was almost a waste of time.  The biggest reason I'd hesitated so long before finding a therapist was because I'm a smart, well read, intellectual individual (humble too) and I knew I'd need someone smarter than me to really get anywhere.  I know all that sounds strange but I'm really good at reading people, at finding patterns, at predicting and analyzing behavior.  If I was better at analyzing the therapist than they were at analyzing me it'd be like going to a financial adviser who was broke.  They might have an odd tip that helps but overall it would mostly be a waste of time.  I hope that explanation makes sense.

Anyway, this therapist was the type that I'd been so worried about, I didn't see her for very long.    She was a ditz, everything about her was awkward, I could read her like an open book and easily anticipate where she was taking the conversation and why.  She didn't ask the right questions, she didn't push me in any way shape or form.

The reason I said it was almost a waste of time was that she introduced a new perspective to a subject that I hadn't considered.  She asked about the novel I was writing.

As soon as she asked the question I understood where she was going.  She wanted to see what my writing would tell her about my mind, what I was thinking and feeling.  If you look at a novel like a psychologist might, it can tell you a lot about the writer.  Maybe not the specific story line or plot, but the recurring themes, the mood, the interactions between the characters, etc.

I'd analyzed writers like that often, though usually through blog posts or emails rather than novels, but as soon as my therapist asked that question it clicked.  I'd analyzed other writers through their work but never looked at my own in the same way.  All she had to do was ask and it was like the floodgates opened up in my head, all the little connections started being made.

I started reading my novel like I knew she would and what I found was scary.  There were all sorts of things in the novels and stories I'd been writing that reflected my own life, my mind, in ways that I'd never realized or intended.  My subconscious reaching through to tweak the words.  In that particular novel the main character was intensely lonely, isolated, but trying to play it off as though nothing was wrong.  He felt like a monster and that keeping himself away from the people he cared about was the only way to protect them.  That wasn't something I'd planned to include in the story when it started but the more I wrote the more it came through.  All things that I hadn't realized until I looked the story the way she might and saw how many reflections there were and how accurate at the time.

As someone who values his privacy, almost obsesses over it actually, my control over information and how people perceive me (anonymous blog, anyone?), it bothered me how much of myself went into some of the things I'd been writing without even knowing it.  But then, to some degree or another, isn't that was every writer does?

Now, I read everything I write more carefully, fiction or non, not to censor it but to better understand myself and where my head is at.

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