I have two lives.
As a therapist, I see people weekly in my therapy room. I listen carefully as they share their deepest secrets and their most terrifying fears and their hugest hopes.
As a writer, I write novels and articles and blogs and I run writing e-courses for people around the world. I spend my time putting words into rows and them rearranging them again and again and again.
What do therapy and writing have in common? Are my two lives really so separate after all?
One way of comparing these two activities is to think about what I'm offering. What are my clients and readers are receiving from my therapy and my writing? I hope that:
- My clients feel that I can make sense of what they're saying, and that if I can understand them, then I must have had similar experiences myself. Maybe they're not so unusual after all. My readers feel that I understand them, because my fictional characters have thoughts, feelings and experiences which happen to closely mirror their own. They're not alone.
- My clients come to believe that they can rely on me, because I am reliably present during sessions, because I start and finish on time, because I'm honest during the sessions etc. My readers come to believe that they can rely on me because I strive to tell the truth, and because I bring myself and my characters authentically to the page. They can trust me.
- My clients experience my reliably non-judgemental interest, regardless of what they're telling me. They learn that I want to get to know who they really are (not who they think I want them to be). My readers hear me write about my characters with rigorous honesty. I don't pretend that they're any nicer than they really are. They hear my character's truth, and this helps them to understand and forgive them. They start to wonder if they could be more honest about themselves in their own relationships. They can tell the truth.
- My clients feel that I can accept them, despite the terrible things they tell me about their character defects. My readers believe that if I can write fondly about my annoying or curmudgeonly fictional characters, then I must be able to care about my characters despite their faults. If my fictional characters can be viewed with compassion, then maybe they could be too. They feel loveable.
As I write this list, I realise that relationship is at the centre of both of my professions.
In therapy, our relationship allows the client to have new experiences of being with other people and to see how change is possible. In writing, my readers are invited to have a relationship with my character, and to read about my characters relationships and see how change is possible.
Of course, in many ways, these two roles of mine are very different.
As a therapist, my clients are right here in the room. As a writer, my readers are often half-way across the world and I might never hear from them. As a therapist, I am mostly listening. As a writer, I am mostly speaking. As a therapist, I am always thinking about what is most helpful to the client. As a writer, I am always thinking about how I can tell the truth, regardless of what people might think. As a therapist, in some ways I am a closed book. As a writer, in some ways I am wide open.
However, it's good to know that there is a great deal of overlap between being a writer and being a therapist. In both of these roles, I'm really just Fiona. I'm a human being, doing her best, and hoping to offer something of use to others. I'm trying to offer my love - to my clients, to my characters, and to my readers. To you, too.
Fiona Robyn is on a mission to help people connect with the world through writing. You can read her free e-book, 'How to Write Your Way Home' (and meet Lorrie with pea-green eyes) at http://www.fionarobyn.com/ebook.html.
Causes Fiona Robyn Supports