Writing, like therapy, isn’t always exactly enjoyable

 In All About Writing

Before I left for therapy every week, my ex used to tell me, “Enjoy!” One day I laughed and told him, “Love, therapy isn’t exactly enjoyable.” After that he started saying, very seriously and earnestly, “I hope you have a good session!”

The thing is, although therapy isn’t enjoyable in the sense that partying, having a friend over for dinner, or swimming in the sea is enjoyable, there is something wonderful and good about it. More and more I find myself looking forward to sessions, as each week gets me closer to knowing myself – to knowing my story. Because that’s what therapy is, really: piecing your story together, making sense out of yourself and your life.

In his book The Body Keeps The Score, trauma specialist and psychologist Bessel van der Kolk writes about how through therapy, a person constructs a narrative from a fractured traumatic event. Through speaking about what happened to them, a person is able to form a coherent beginning, middle, and – most importantly – an end. I’ve watched myself weave this narrative, week after week, watched myself settle more comfortably into myself.

That’s the power of storytelling. Storytelling heals. It brings you closer to yourself. It solidifies the ground beneath you. It allows you to move forward.

The same year I started therapy, I had a piece of creative non-fiction published in the online magazine, Modern Loss. In the piece, I wrote about the injuries I’d suffered in the accident that also killed my mother, and the process of healing my body as I grieved this great loss. Writing that essay was far harder than I’d anticipated, but through that process, I came to a much better understanding of what the accident had meant to me, how it affected me – and what it meant for my life, now. I constructed a narrative. I wove a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Writing, like therapy, isn’t always exactly enjoyable. There is a joy to it, yes – the exhilaration when you piece together the right ideas, the deep immersion in those moments of flow, the magic of bringing worlds to life from within you.

But it’s hard, too. Finding just the right words. Knowing where to show and where to tell. Having to give up sentences, scenes, characters – kill your darlings, as they say – that aren’t serving the story.

In the end, when you’ve managed to take the mess of ideas, hunches, and vague connections within you, and weave them into a narrative with a beginning, a middle, and an end – that’s worth it. And with each story you write – whether it’s fiction or non-fiction – you get closer to yourself.

Whatever you’re planning on writing today, I hope you have a good session.


Free Story and Plot Webinar: 18 November

Free memoir writing webinar: 25 November

Saturday Memoir Writing Workshop with Joanne Hichens: 5 December


Aimee-Claire Smith lives in Cape Town, where she is studying English Literature and working on her first novel. She likes coffee and cats. You can follow her on twitter or Instagram: @aiimeeclaiire

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