Writing as Therapy

I know I said a couple weeks ago that I would be posting about cartoons on Mondays during November, but my heart’s not there today. Sorry, everyone who was looking forward to hearing me talk about the Bubble Guppies. Please accept this GIF of Wednesday Addams dancing as a token of my contrition.

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Let’s talk about writing instead. Because writing is what makes me come back.

Why do any of us write? What keeps us at our keyboards, pounding out our words?

Those, my friends, are two very loaded questions.

We all have our own special cocktails of motivations and styles and messages that we are trying to express. Even if I create something that’s hackneyed and trite – which I tend to do when I read a really good book; imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all – it still reflects my interest in a particular idea or image. It’s something I identified as Good and wanted to make my own by, well, copying it.

Since I recommitted to blogging at the beginning of the month, I’ve been asking myself pretty often why exactly it is that I write. The night that I decided to do NaEmPoMo (my own special take on NaBloPoMo), I don’t think that I was motivated by anything other than a faint memory of what I used to enjoy about blogging. I knew in my brain that writing from my own voice is good, but my heart had forgotten the actual virtues of tucking myself into my words and letting my mind wander. And that makes me kind of sad, really. How often we find ourselves loving something so entirely one moment, only to become completely unacquainted with that feeling of ecstasy as time passes. Our minds are so quick to forget the things that are good for it.

But the point is that I recommitted. I’m glad that I did, if for no other reason than I’m starting to understand what it is that brings me back to words.

I used to be obsessed with the idea of connection, and I was convinced that connection was at the root of pretty much every kind of expression under the sun. We write so other people will read. We write so that the world becomes smaller and more manageable. We write to create a web of words that might tie us all together. And while I’m still convinced that writing (and art in general) serves as a solid testament to our social, relationshipial (thata word?) nature, I don’t think that it tells the full story of why I write. This is because the longer I write, the more I uncover the truth of my motivations. Being read is great; actually, it’s awesome, and I’d be lying if I denied that.

But what keeps me coming back is writing’s therapeutic properties. The sensation of being listened to and lauded for saying something in a way that no one has ever said it before is, for me, really fleeting. I can get drunk off the approval of others, but that feeling is not lasting. I eventually have to take a cold shower. These are all things that I just recently realized about myself. All this time that I thought I was writing to make a connection, I was just trying to win approval for my thoughts, my ideas, the whole Emily package.

I was setting myself up for disaster. Tides turn. One minute, you’re a darling. The next, you’re yesterday’s old news.

You can’t take 15 minutes to the bank.

The dormant kernel of goodness that actually had me coming back to my computer each day to write was the freedom I felt when I was alone with my thoughts. I could tour my headspace and see what I found. Often, the most amazing treasures I uncovered didn’t even make it on the page. They were – inexplicably – outside of words. I found that I liked myself and the words that came out of me even before I pressed “Publish.”

So that’s why I’m coming back. I owe it to myself.

Not to my family.

Not to my daughter.

Not to anyone else.

To me. 

NaEmPoMo resizeThis is the eleventh installment of National Emily Posts Month (NaEmPoMo). Connect on Facebook and Twitter @thewaitingblog if you just can’t get enough. (Do do do do do do do.)

27 comments

  1. oH my gosh…you just gave me the biggest AHA moment. You’re my Oprah. I don’t think I have ever sat down to really think about WHY I write…I mean REALLY think about it. But reading this, I recognized something that is true for me as well. It is the ACT of writing when I’m happiest. When I am alone with the words and playing with them, wondering how they will make others react. The actual reactions can, yes, be wonderful…or not so much. But whatever happens after you hit that publish button, none of it compares to that relationship you have with your work while you’re creating it.

    This is why you are an amazing writer, Em. Because not only can you do it, but you can get in touch with why you do it.

    Now I just want to scream your name the way Oprah would. :)

  2. I’ll scream your name the way Oprah would too. But only a virtual scream because I’m way too shy in person…which is why I write – I’m better expressing myself with my fingertips. It makes me happy. And I’m always happy reading what you write too. Em-mi-leeeee !!

  3. ^^^Totally agree. I guess you’re my Oprah too! ;) Seriously though, I’ve thought about this a lot lately too. Because I can go weeks without writing, and feel relief in some ways. But, I think it’s the relief from the pressure I put on myself to write something relatable to others. And, when I actually write just for me. Not because I haven’t written in 3 weeks and owe it to my readers, but just because I like to sit down and type on the keyboard and be alone with my thoughts….that’s amazing. I just read an article not too long ago that also says that writing has been found to actually release endorphins, so there’s that too I guess. But, I totally think you gave me an aha moment here too! I get the MOST joy with the process. Lately, I don’t even really look to see who has commented (which is totally bad form, I know) until days later. Used to be I was DYING to see who related to what I wrote. Now, I do it only when I feel moved to do it. I’m SO glad you’re writing again, because you’ll always be one of my favs. :) (And by the length of this comment, I’d say that I’m due for another blog post)

  4. I can completely relate to this – even though you have said it far more eloquently than I ever could. My writing is therapy because it allows me to organize my thoughts. To stare at the page with the words I’ve written and learn something about myself. And because I treat my blog as an online journal, if I don’t want to write about something then it forces me to reflect on it.

    I’m glad you discovered why you write – and that it has brought you back.

  5. If for “me” one day is not enough, try “for my children” on for size. I think my kids will enjoy reading my stories one day after I’m gone…..yours will to – trust me.

  6. That’s the best reason to write :) I hope you find your stride and are able to recommit to blogging the way that you want!

  7. LOVE this one, Emily! Just fabulous… and nail on the head for me. Of course, I need to correct you… you are hardly yesterday’s news! And, having shared a few fleeting, magical, days and cocktails with you, I remain a devoted fan. Glad you came back; it’s sad when you’re gone. xo

  8. Couldn’t have put it in any better words!!
    Writing is liberating, its is therapy yet its free and ours to navigate
    Amazing post!!!

  9. Exactly the spirit in which I wrote and published my two books; simply as a therapy. The success was in the writing itself. :)

  10. […] of my friends wrote a blog post all about writing ( https://notthehardestpart.com/2014/11/17/writing-as-therapy/ ). I agree with her views because I like writing. I like using my diction to convey stories either […]

  11. I. Love. This.

  12. I completely agree. Writing is therapeutic and it gives me a sense of accomplishment to know that I have gotten people thinking about a certain topic. Even if I just have 30 hits to a post, it makes me feel good to know that 30 people read my words. 30 people took time out of their day to think about something I wrote. It is an amazing feeling.

  13. I write for the same exact reason. I even have a blog called, “Writing Can be Like Therapy.” Yes, it’s an added plus when my blogs get liked or comments, but I do it more for me than anyone else. Writing is also a whole lot cheaper than seeing a shrink.

  14. This is the very same reason I keep coming back, too. I’m glad you came back, Em. The ‘sphere wasn’t the same without you.

  15. NotAPunkRocker · · Reply

    My last blog had 100 followers. This one has some more. It still shocks me when I see that people 1. read my words and 2. interact.

    Do I like the interaction? Yes. Would I keep doing this if I had nobody respond at all? Yes. I did it before, so in my mind it is all the same still.

    I am glad you are back though :-)

  16. Applause! Applause! Applause! And it’s not canned. I’ve never been anyone’s darling on the internet so I can’t say fame is fleeting from experience. But I can say the most satisfying moments happen for me before i hit that publish button. Nice to have you back!

  17. Writing is most definitely therapy and I agree whole heartily with this. Oddly, I too have just returned blogging after deserting my blog for a few months and have asked myself the same thing. Why do I write? And I write because I want to. Because I like words and language and I enjoy putting what I am thinking, my opinions, my feelings and memory’s, into those words….

    I love reading your posts, so welcome back and in reply to another if your posts, Peppa Pig is responsible for a lot if very wet shoes, wellies and clothing in this house because of “jumping in muddy puddles”.

  18. Thank you so much for this post. Great post! I agree with you. And that Wendy Adams GIF is hilarious! Glad you are back!

  19. Writing + therapy = me.
    I knew when I set out to make a blog that I wanted a theme, and it loosely became therapy but what it’s really been all along is just me. And even as I typed “just me,” I know that it’s not *just,* that me is a pretty deep topic.

    Whenever I’ve taken breaks from blogging, what has brought me back was that need, that urge to organize my thoughts, to process, to analyze, to understand.

    What I mean is that your post really spoke to me. And it had therapy in the title, so you had me at hello.

  20. Yes…of course sharing and connection is awesome. But if that was no longer available to me, then I would still write. I write because I understand myself better when I pour out my thoughts in the shapes of words. I look at them and arrange them like those fridge magnets – and clarity is mine. Or more clarity than before. Sometimes there are more questions than answers, but they are questions that I would never have asked. So :)

  21. I loved it. I found myself highly inspired myself. A recent blogger on spokeslilypyro.wordpress.com, I do find myself posting because I want other’s to read what i write. I find myself wanting to share with the public and have them appreciate a part of me that is so large so, beautiful that i love. However really, most of us write because there is somethisn inside of us that we want to express and that is exactly what i want to do. SO thank you for your wonderful post. I find it an encouraging reminder as to why i sit down and take the time to write.

  22. My thoughts exactly! Unfortunately, due to some recent deaths in my sphere, I am unable to commit to putting words to page. These events in my life have come back to hit me in the face – I have COPD & no matter how much I may want to live a long life, it’s just not going to happen for me. So right now I’m angry & sad, frustrated with the lack of help & my thoughts are just too dark to share. So I work quietly behind the scenes, trying to do what I can about making my remaining years the best they can be & through support of a Dying with Dignity cause, I may be able to affect change in how I leave as well.

  23. Bravo! So well said.

  24. […] a long time now, I’ve likened writing to therapy. It’s a cheap way to get my thoughts in a row, to temper the negativity of my life with the […]

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