Self-confessed loner T.L. Haddix talks about how writing can act as a catharsis.

tlhaddix-photoI’m a loner, an introvert. I can talk your ear off in certain social situations, but for the most part, I want to be left alone. I’m happy being a homebody.
I have my husband and my cats, and they are my confidants. It would be nice to have a few close friends, but I honestly don’t know how to maintain that sort of relationship. I’ve been married fifteen years, which astonishes me in retrospect, and I’m convinced my husband has to be a saint. The cats are good listeners, but they pick up on emotions. I don’t want to pour that negativity out to them.

There are times when I need to get emotions out that I can’t express to hubby or the fur-kids. I need to work through a problem that I am having trouble resolving, and I don’t want to burden my husband. He works a tremendous number of hours every week, and while I tell him everything, sometimes I give him the Cliff Notes version.

That is when I turn to writing.

The pen and paper, or word processor if I choose, doesn’t judge me. (Well, Word does. But that’s another story for another day.) It doesn’t get bored, it doesn’t turn its back on me. I can tell a sheaf of college-ruled paper the same woes and what-ifs a thousand times, and that paper will always take those words as if they were brand new. I literally hold it captive in my hands. I burn through ink pens faster than some people change underwear. I wear ink-stained fingers as a badge of honor.

If what I write is too personal, too intimate, too hurtful, I can set a lit match to the edge of that paper and send all those emotions and fears up into smoke. That ceremonial burning of pain is a cathartic process. I’ve used it more than once to get myself past a devastating loss.

Even before I ventured into full-time writing and publishing, I wrote when I needed someone to talk to. There have been a number of times when I thought about going to a professional, someone who is paid to help me work through issues. The problem with that is I haven’t been comfortable making that connection with anyone, establishing that relationship to a degree where I can depend on it. I’ve been burned too many times. I would never trust that it would last.

I don’t have the traditional anchors to turn to. I’m not close to my family like I was in years past. We grew apart. Our needs simply don’t match. There is still affection there, but it is a distant affection. It’s an affection filled with regrets. The dissolution of that relationship is an emotional chasm I wondered if I’d ever be able to climb out of, but I managed to. I left pieces of myself behind, but most of me emerged.

I put writing second on the list of the reasons I was able to rebuild myself.

Oh, my husband was there for me, even as I tried to push him away. He’s number one. But he couldn’t fix what hurt, and I couldn’t use him as a vessel into which I could pour out the rage, the grief, the anger. The pain. I guess I knew that would destroy our relationship, and some subconscious sense of self-preservation stepped in and saved me. It could also have been my guardian angel. Whatever it was, I was pushed toward writing. Shoved, truth be told, with a force that left me on the ground, scuffed and scraped.

So I wrote. I put my characters through betrayals that I didn’t know how in the world I was going to resolve. I exorcised my demons through fiction. I walked my characters through therapy, something I’d refused for myself, and through counseling them, was able to heal some of my own wounds.

As I finished writing the book that I was working on whilst going through the emotional turmoil of grief, I was exhausted. Mentally, emotionally, and physically. But I felt clean. I felt good. I felt free.

I write Romance and Romantic Suspense. For me, those will never just be words or genres. Those books are the embodiment of hopes and fears, crushed dreams and rising hope, and maybe – just maybe – a catharsis for someone else who needs them.

Firefly-Hollow-800The mysterious recluse … Owen Campbell holds himself apart from other people. Badly scarred from emotional wounds that have never healed, he doesn’t expect to find true love or happiness. He remains isolated in a prison of his own making, determined to not let anyone close enough to hurt him again. But his willpower is shaken to the core when Sarah Browning enters his world. The girl next door … Sarah Jane Browning is three years into her college degree when a call from home changes everything. Back at the family homestead in the heart of Appalachia, she’s forced to reevaluate her hopes and dreams for the future. Distraction from her heartache comes in the form of her parents’ neighbor. Whispers about “odd Owen Campbell” abound in their small community, and Sarah’s curiosity is aroused. When she breaks the rules and trespasses onto his land, what she finds is beyond her wildest imaginings. As Sarah struggles to overcome tragedy and loss, her burgeoning relationship with Owen is sorely tested. Will love conquer all, or will the secrets from Owen’s past tear them apart forever? Firefly Hollow is the first in a new Romance series by T.L. Haddix.

Taught to read by her grandmother, T.L. Haddix has had a life-long love affair with books. From childhood favorites such as the Trixie Belden series and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, to her current favorites from authors like Tami Hoag, Alex Kava, J.A. Jance and Lisa Kleypas (among many others), T.L. still finds refuge in the written word. A resident of southern Indiana, T.L. is hard at work on her next book, when she isn’t chasing after her three cat-children with her husband. She is the author of the Shadows/Leroy Collection, a series of standalone Romantic Suspense novels. Titles include Secrets in the Shadows, Under the Moon’s Shadow, Shadows from the Grave, and Hidden in the Shadows.

3 comments on “Writing As Therapy”

  1. Thank you T.L. for this very honest and real post. I know there are thousands of us who feel and do the same! Written word has always been my therapy. This post also reminded me of a book I just recently read, “Thinking Anew” by Gene Moynihan and Dick Quis. This book is all about using the power of writing to create a nonfiction masterpiece about you and your success going forward. It’s very much about putting your feelings, aspirations, doubts, and goals on paper on a daily basis! Its targeted towards those in crisis or those who just feel stuck and unfulfilled. Being creative is always a challenge (no matter what you’re writing!). Making these thoughts visible on paper has helped me feel centered and it turns out it has been a trusted form of therapy by practitioners for over two thousand years! Your posting really spoke to me and I think this book might really speak to you too! -hope you’ll check it out! Good luck in all you do!

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