Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Writing Emotionally

by Bethany Maines

Just so you know, I’m writing this blog under duress. I have this great idea for a story where I give one of my characters a heart attack (literally) and instead I’m having to do other, actual work. The horror! How dare real life interfere with the creation of fiction? This is exactly the kind of feeling that leads to me receiving emails from my boss saying things like “For an illustrator, you sure type a lot.” Of course I type a lot! I’m writing a whole novel over here.  Sheesh.  Oh wait, you’re not paying me to write a novel? Rigghhhhht. Got it. I will attempt to remember that and to actually care. Fortunately, these days I’m more or less self-employed (I have a business partner who eyes me suspiciously if I start to wander off too much), but it’s still surprising how much the pursuit of a second career interferes with the first one.

Meanwhile, as excited as I am about my new idea, it occurs to me that many of my ideas lately have involved a strong element of hospitals, death and dying. I attribute this to the fact that my friends and I, in the last year or so, have been experiencing the loss of parents and grandparents at a rate that I think is rather alarming. However, my hair cutter described the issue with humorous sangfroid as just a light bulb problem. “Well, it’s like light bulbs, if you put them in all at once they all tend to, you know, go out all at once.” True enough, and I even laughed, but it’s always different when they’re your light bulbs.

They say that art imitates life, or vice versa, but I think fiction imitates therapy. I can’t afford to go see a therapist about my unresolved feelings about people dying and all life eventually ending, but I can make my characters suffer and come to some sort of emotional resolution for me. It works great, and it’s so much cheaper. Not to mention, that it let’s me indulge my God complex without a therapist calling me on it. It does make me wonder about other authors though. Shakespeare for instance – that’s a lot of killing and cross-dressing for one dude.  And what’s up with Beattrix Potter?  Can we say bunny fixation? But we love both those authors, so maybe mental issues are cathartic to read as well as write?  I guess I can only hope.


  1. Bethany, I had to laugh at this. Writing is most definately my therapy of choice. I work out all sorts of stuff in my books via certain characters and plot lines. It may not have anything to do with whatever is going on in my life, but the angst or the joy or whatever finds its way in somehow...

  2. Bethany, I hear you. People tell me all the time "you should write a cancer book". Why, exactly? I write to get away from my problems not run right into them so I understand your point about emotional resolution. I, too, have a day job that constantly interferes with my writing but until we hit it "big," I guess that's what we'll be doing? Great post. Maggie

  3. I, for one, find it amazing that you can write books, while taking care of your other lives. As a reader, I am very pleased. Someone said, and I don't know who, that we always are writing a bit of ourselves. I think that helps us.

  4. "Fiction imitates therapy" I loooove that!!! I think a t-shirt needs to be made with that line on it. ;)

    Great post! Good luck finding more writing time - it'll come back eventually. ;)