Sunday, March 16, 2008

Writing as therapy

Someone suggested to me last week that perhaps I had started studying creative writing in order to find expression for some of the stresses in my life which would otherwise remain bottled up. Actually I started writing seriously at a time when life was as stable as it gets here, and it was just a way of being able to fulfil a very longheld ambition.

But having now read When the Bough Breaks by Julia Hollander, I can see that writing the book must have been cathartic for her. A means of trying to justify to herself the decision to abandon her profoundly disabled daughter in hospital at the age of five months, as soon as a formal diagnosis was received. I can't imagine why else she wrote the book, as neither she nor her partner are portrayed in a very sympathetic manner. In publishing this memoir she has opened up to very public media scrutiny an area of their lives which perhaps should have been kept behind closed doors for now, if only for the sake of their other young children.

It is a very well written book, but an uncomfortable read, which at times is all too brutally honest. I'm not judging her actions, she was clearly unwell and under great stress with little support and none of us can second guess how we might have reacted in that situation. After all, unconditional parenting does not come naturally to everyone.

I have to admit though, that the only thing that made me read to the end was the fact that I know there is a happy ending for Hollander's daughter Imogen. For Julia Hollander herself, however, I'm not so sure.

Three notable things:

1. I bought three tops for £9 in the M&S sale yesterday. Two I love, one I'm slightly less sure of, but what a bargain!

2. The French Market was in town. It is always fun to browse around, even in the rain.

3. I've pre-booked for the new level three OU Advanced Creative Writing course which starts in the autumn.


Jen said...

Ooh, I must book my place.

Interesting, the many reasons people write. Sounds like an interesting book. One to borrow from the library, perhaps.

Anonymous said...

Writing is such a amazing way to express oneself. We can usually pick up on a person's character by their writing.

I have written my latest post involving the NAS's latest campaign, I Exist, focusing on adults with autism/aspergers. After writing it I realised how inspired it had made me feel towards writing an article on that very subject.

Crystal xx

Jackie Luben said...

I think writing is great therapy and when I wrote a diary throughout my teenage years, I'm sure it helped me get over many traumas. But writing fiction is quite different; it's as much a form of escapism as is reading fiction.

Unknown said...

I'm not sure I could read that book....well done to stick it through to the end.

Just to say it's your shout for coffee this week and next at the Novel Racers. if there's a problem let me know :-)

Lucy Diamond said...

I read an article by the author of that book - it does sound very moving. I am too much of a wuss to read books like that, but I can see why she would have written it - for self-justification as much as anything else.
I definitely started writing novels as a kind of therapy - struggling with a baby and toddler at the time, it was liberating (and fun) to write about a woman who managed such a feat even worse than I did!

Cathy said...

Jen, yes go on!

Crystal, I saw your post, it was great. Sorry I haven't been commenting much lately.

Jackie... you are right. Though I think fiction can be as therapeutic as life writing, but as you are writing at one step removed it is often less self indulgent.

Liz... I had the same doubts about reading the book. I only did so because I sort of 'know' the carer involved on a forum.

Lucy... I think lots of writers start novels when they have small kids. I thought about it but somehow never had time until they were both older and at school...

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