Friday, November 16, 2012

Writing as therapy

After the Writer’s Getaway this year my husband and I did some travelling around the areas in New South Wales where the ancestors I want to write about next, came from. I sat with some relatives I’ve never met, but had arranged to meet up with. I heard their stories and memories. I got a sense of their personalities.

Some of the small towns we visited; Lawrence, Brushgrove, Mororo, Midginbil, are places I’ve never been to before, and are probably smaller communities now than they were 150 years ago. It’s a strange and inspiring experience to wander in these places, to imagine the lives of  those who once lived there, and from whom I’ve descended.  

It occurred to me that researching for a novel is a fascinating journey, and also a very therapeutic one. Whether searching for facts about people, or historical events, or choosing an environment or particular era for a story, I’m sure we all, as writers, go on a very evocative journey, before we even start to write. 

We reflect on the ways people interact, how they change and grow, how they fall in love and develop relationships, how they cope with trauma and loss, how they achieve great things, and how God works in and through the lives of people. We try to step inside other people’s worlds; people who once lived or who are complete works of fiction, and we draw on our knowledge about how human beings function; what makes them do the things they do and respond to their world the way they do. We imagine ourselves in places and situations and relationships we may never have been, or we go back in our minds to what we have experienced and learn from it. Some may project forward to how things will be in the future, or imagine other kinds of worlds where love or hope or goodness may better be experienced.

Surely we can’t help but be changed ourselves by this process. These exercises of the mind and heart are not unlike those I would use in therapy with people who are stuck emotionally or relationally. Remember, imagine, re-construe. These can lead people to find release from the past, to find closure, to discover hope, and to make real behavioural changes in their lives.

This is surely what we offer our readers as well; an opportunity, not only to escape for a little while, but to imagine other lives, to discover new things about themselves, and hopefully to re-construe some parts of their own lives, and then to make real and positive changes; emotionally, relationally and spiritually.
So I think the writing experience from beginning to end, for writer and reader, is not only enjoyable, but also very therapeutic, a wonderful tool in God’s hands. One more reason to keep writing – as if I needed another reason to do what I love. 

There are three books available in my Turning the Tide series, for which I am doing this research; Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel and Tangled Secrets. The fourth in the series, Truly Free, will be released in 2013
Forgiving Michael, an earlier novel, is available to read on blog
Suzannah’s Gold, my first novel, is available on e-book


  1. Research is a fascinating part of writing isn't it?
    Your post reminded me of a recent visit to Rosanne Hawke's website where she shares some of the photos/history that inspired her writing of The Messanger Bird. I think stories built on history can bring to life and allow us a hold of what would otherwise be forgotten.
    Here's the link to Rosanne's site in case anyone else was interested:

  2. I do agree that research (though sometimes boring) does change us and speak to us and challenge us. Sounds like you've done lots of interesting travels of late and am glad it has enriched you greatly.

    Thanks for your interesting post Carol. And yes, writing sure is great therapy! :)

  3. Thanks, Carol--a very interesting blog. And thanks too for the comments from a counsellor's perspective. God bless!

  4. Thanks Carol,
    I love this post. It's wonderful to think of the therapeutic value for both writer and reader. I like the way you say the mind and heart exercises are similar to what you'd use with people in therapy. That, to me, speaks volumes about the benefit of a good story.

  5. Thanks Carol. Good points to ponder

  6. Yes, this post made me think. For you, going over fact and seeing where your ancestors came from would be therapeutic, and perhaps give you a deeper understand of them as real people.I have often ponders that as I walk this earth and go through so much in my life, one day I will be a forgotten part of some-one else life. Really our life time is as nothing once we are gone. The old clique that time flies, is a true statement. The great part about being a writer,is that our words and thoughts will live on for many years after we are gone. For that reason its important to leave a good legacy. Blessings to you.

  7. Glad my thoughts provoked some further thinking.

  8. I think we might all be surprised how much of our lives, our words and our actions become part of someone else's life - for good or bad. It's a scary but amazing thought, and makes me more and more aware of just how important our words are. When we write them we usually take the time to consider their impact and want them to guide people to better living and better choices. Perhaps we ought to be as careful with our spoken words.