Gus Sanchez: Writing as Therapy

Think back to when you were younger. You probably kept a journal, perhaps under lock and key, away from prying eyes. What was so precious to you in that journal? Your emotions, for sure; that journal helped you make sense of your pubescent emotions. You tried to unravel conflicted emotions of unrequited love, of not fitting in, feelings of awkwardness. Perhaps you even tried to quell suicidal thoughts.

That journal you kept was your therapy.

Writing is therapy.

Whether we writers spin tales of fantastical lands, or unearth new perspectives from years of research, we are engaging in a form of therapy that allows us to understand so much of ourselves through fictional and real lives. As readers, we come to see ourselves in the unreliable narrator of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, or the unnamed heroine of Sylvia Plath’s poetry; their creation’s struggles, and the struggles of the creators, are our struggles.

Art is the sum of the struggle. The best art, or, at the very least, the art we enjoy and respond to, comes from the emotional struggle. Think of the lyrics of Kurt Cobain or Elliott Smith. Think of Sylvia Plath’s poetry. Think of Hubert Selby’s bitter prose.

Go back to that journal, if you still have it – it’s probably tucked away in your old room at your parents’ home, and yes, your parents have read it. Read a few passages; the language may be simpler, the emotions rawer, but you can still identify with that thirteen-year-old you, the one whose parents don’t understand, the one whose friends offer pain and pleasure. What’s changed is you, physically, but you still need to make sense of the same conflicts and traumas. That’s why so many of us gravitate towards writing, as a means of cognitive therapy.

With the advent of social media, the avenues for self-expression are nearly endless, and, with that, the medium for us to express our thoughts, whether they’re trite or earth-shattering. When we read poetry on social media, we are reading therapy in session. And there are no bounds of confidentiality between patient and therapist to respect; the patient is also the therapist, and by sharing their words online, the writer is engaging in feedback that is both visceral and cognitive. How many times have you read someone’s words and immediately understood the pain they’ve shared? Countless times, of course.

When a writer tells you “writing is my therapy,” this isn’t a glib declaration. It’s a time-honored and valuable form of self-analysis. I chose to write to quiet my own internal criticisms, and to understand the cycle of obsessive thinking that has been a major part of my life. Needless to say, writing isn’t the best practice for mental health provision, but writing, or engaging in any form of creativity, is the salve we oftentimes need to soothe these psychic wounds.

Corporate drone by day, swashbuckling wordsmith by night, Gus Sanchez's work has been featured in several online and print journals. He is the author of Out Where the Buses Don't Run: Seven Years of Rants, Raves, Dirty Jokes and Bad Ideas From a Small But Loud Corner of the Blogosphere, a self-indulgent tome no one should bother to read. A native New Yorker, Gus now lives in Charlotte, NC, with his wife, his daughter, a bionic dog, and a vinyl record collection that's spinning out of control. Spinning...get it?

Instagram: @g.sanchez_writes

Christina Hart: Thoughts on Writing

Writing is not what you make it; it is what makes you. It is the screaming in your head, the strange beating of your heart, trying to tell you something. Sometimes it is only a whisper. It is waking up at 3 AM and jotting a few words down so you don’t forget them. It is too much to say and never enough time to say it. It is a million ideas and only two hands to get them all down fast enough before they fly away for someone else to grab onto. It is restless and demanding and tiring and imaginative and reckless and brave. Sometimes it is what you are too afraid to speak aloud. Sometimes it is the things you aren’t proud of. Sometimes it is what you wish it wasn’t. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, it is everything you hoped it would be. But more often than not, it is a violent ache in your rib that won’t subside.

 

However, it is what you make it on paper. It is how you explain it, how you express it. I think too many writers suffer under some grand illusion that you can simply jot down an idea and it will be something that will be remembered for decades, even centuries. The idea comes first; but it is your duty to shape it and mold it into something beautiful, something that demands to be remembered.

 

“Love hurts.” Fine, sometimes maybe it is just that simple. Maybe for some people, that’s enough. But where does it hurt? How does it hurt? How can you take an idea and recycle it and make it into something that is your own? How can you tell me all the ways in which love has hurt you, destroyed you, and shaped you into something different than you were before you felt it? How can you tell me about the way you felt that time when you climbed that ladder and there was no one to join you when you reached the top? When love had abandoned you and left you with a permanent reminder of what it means to taste loss? What can you teach me about suffering? About beauty? About the human condition? Can you tell me what loneliness feels like when you’ve wrapped yourself up in a tidy bow and no one stops to inquire what’s hiding underneath? 

 

Readers want to know. They want to feel something. They want to yearn or smile or cry or laugh. It’s their job to buy the ticket but your duty to take them on the ride.

 

We would be serving an injustice to our readers if we were too lazy to explore. If we were too bored to bother to try to make sense of the most intense things we feel and experience. If we were too scared to dig up all that shit we try so hard to bury.  If we were too weak to admit that sometimes, there is nothing anyone can say to take away certain pain. If we were too uninterested in getting to the core of our very being and what this writing thing is clawing at and trying to make of us. What it’s trying to make us say, and how it’s meant to be said, today. Now.

 

Clichés will be the death of this generation if we do not find new ways to say something, if we do not say anything at all but things that have been said before. If we say it all exactly as it has already been presented time and time again.

 

If you’re going to write something, make it worth reading twice. Make it worth remembering. Make it worth the reader’s time. Make it something they could never possibly forget because something about it shook their insides and altered their perception. Make them uncomfortable with the honesty hiding behind it. Change them, if not for a lifetime, then only for a moment.

 

Listen to the words calling you, begging you to play with them. Dress them in outfits they’ve never worn before. Don’t take the easy way out. Don’t use a lazy metaphor. Don’t think your readers won’t grasp certain things. Don’t doubt their intelligence. Don’t, for one line or second, think they won’t notice the lack of raw and utter truth.

 

And above all else, follow the craft, not the crowd. 

Christina Hart is a self-published author with a BA in Creative Writing and English. Her fifth novel to date, Fresh Skin, is available now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers. Keep up with her on Twitter, @ChristinaKHart, or on Instagram, @christinakaylenhart

Introduction

Hello and welcome to The Weekly ° (degree). Here, the Thirty West team will post a selected column donated from a submitter. Topics are generally open, and discussion is encouraged, however, if slanderous/belligerent/sexually deviant content is posted, we will delete and flag you from future contributions. Prose, long-form poetry, and critical essays are welcomed. Lastly, please include a timestamp before submitting. We are collecting metadata on how time effects topic choice. Thanks and hope you all have a great day! -Josh