Friday, July 31, 2009

TO WRITE: Is There a Book in You?
After giving a talk at the recent national NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) conference about the healing aspects of writing in the treatment of mental illness, it happened again:
I was approached by several people who were interested in writing a book to tell the tale of their illness. Boy, do I know that feeling. I think that for some of us it's an innate reaction to the bizarre and hellish symptoms we've lived through and may still be facing. We want the world to understand us, to validate us, to stop stigmatizing us, and we want to process our own tale to make better sense of it for ourselves. I included parts of my own story in my book Writing through the Darkness: Easing Your Depression with Paper and Pen, and I'm now working on a memoir about the spiritual aspects of mental illness. It's healing for me, that's certain.

Whether or not you are inclined to write about yourself, many people feel there is a book in them that they'd like to write before they die. Do you want to record a family history for your grandkids? Detail all you've learned about a hobby or career? Chronicle a historic period you lived through?The following exercise is taken from Writing through the Darkness. Let yourself think big and go deep.

Play with this. . .
Imagine you were to sit down at the kitchen table and start writing or typing your first book. What would it be about? What would you really like to say to the world and leave behind in perpetuity?

Then consider this: What does your book topic tell you about what is important to you? Does your enthusiasm for writing about the ocean suggest you might want to spend more time at the beach? If you felt inclined to write a memoir, what events in your life would you like to get on paper?


Hannah G. said...

I really enjoyed this post Elizabeth (I'll be by more often...) especially your comment about creating something "to leave behind in perpetuity." It reminds of that famous quote: "Plant a tree, write a book, have a son."



FinallyPeace said...

This was good. I just began blogging this week, and my first post talked about how I wanted to write a novel about my life! Writing does help...the trick is taking the time to sit down and do it. I tend to get myself busy and push my sadness away (aside). Not Healthy, I know. Peace.

Elizabeth Maynard Schaefer, Ph.D. said...

Hi FinallyPeace,
Good luck with your book project! Writing really can help with the processing of our difficulties and our stories can help others. I try to remember that I can't wait for the right mood to strike, but to just do it, or I'll never get past page one. Keep us posted on your progress!

Anonymous said...

I think for me wanting to blog (or write a book) goes beyond the validation that it would create by having others read what I write. I think to me it's more about being able to reach the others out there battling depression and to let them know they aren't alone.

John said...

I wrote this book to help people cope with depression and help me in the process.
Shadowed Soul is a fiction novel about bi-polar Thomas Mitchell, as he struggles to rebuild his life with the aid of his blind wife’s seeing-eye dog. The compelling drama follows Thomas and his wife, Beth, as they embrace and endure the birth of their firstborn through the holiday season in New York City. Fears and anxieties that plague Thomas are personified in the form of the Shadowed Soul a demonic spectre who stalks Thomas’s every move. As his manic-depression escalates, his expectation for more problems is answered in abundance. His life goes from great to bad to worse. With the unconditional love of his dog, Thomas grapples with challenges as he chooses to rebuild his shattered life.
With the exception of the protagonist’s online pornography addiction and the demise of certain relatives, much of the journey through manic-depression is autobiographical. Set in the present, author John M. Spagnoli’s intention is to depict clinical depression in a way that provides a clear road map to leading a full life.

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Steven Clark said...

Writing a book is a huge catharsis, and can help you deal with the illness. It also gives you a sense of perspective. It helps explore that emotional part of your condition.

I had a go at writing one, a friend recommended I put it out there. Write even if it's just for you.

Trust me, pick up a pen and write. Do something creative, paint, sculpt. Whatever. It was one of the best things I ever did.

I've included a link to my effort.