Some people use novel writing as a way to make money; they dream of striking it big and making millions of dollars. Some people use it as a relaxing hobby; they like to spend a bit of time each day winding down with an imaginative story.
But did you know that novel writing can also be a therapeutic exercise?
The Therapy of Writing a Novel
How can novel writing be therapeutic?
- Processing your thoughts and feelings. For starters, writing a novel gives you a chance to process your own thoughts and feelings. For example, if you’re stressed about an upcoming career transition, you could write about a character who’s going through the same things. Seeing things through a new lens, as if they’re happening to someone else, can help you clarify what you truly feel – and minimize the influence of any irrational emotions you might feel.
- Recounting your experiences. Writing is also a useful opportunity to recount some of your past experiences – especially challenging or difficult ones. Rewriting a traumatic experience through the eyes of someone else or documenting an important challenge you were able to overcome can make you stronger and more resilient.
- Partaking in a ritual. In the right context, novel writing can be ritualistic. You can use novel writing as a familiar activity, and a relaxing one, to unwind after a tough day. Rituals make us feel calmer and more comfortable, allowing us to destress.
- Doing good for others. In some cases, novel writing can help you do good for other people as well. If you reach other people with your published novel, your story may be able to help them cope or manage their own thoughts and feelings better. If you write your novel with a group, you can help others achieve their goals. Doing good for others makes you feel better about yourself.
Tips for Using Novel Writing as a Therapeutic Exercise
If you want to use novel writing as a therapeutic exercise, follow these important tips:
- Make plans to publish. It’s possible to print your book inexpensively online, so make plans to publish. Having a long-term goal to publish will make you take your novel writing exercises more seriously. Plus, if you publish, your novel can reach a wider audience – and possibly help you generate income as well.
- Forget perfectionism. Too many would-be novelists never make progress (or see the benefits of therapy) because they’re too perfectionistic. They don’t want to start writing a novel because they feel their idea isn’t good enough. They start writing, then stop, because they’re not happy with their first few sentences. You have to get over this if you want to succeed. Get something on the page, even if it’s imperfect – you’ll always have the chance to revise and edit later.
- Establish a daily habit. The best way to use novel writing as a form of therapy is to turn it into a ritual – a daily habit that’s practically unbreakable. The habit doesn’t have to be especially time-consuming or demanding, but it does have to be consistent. Consider setting aside just 10 minutes a day, around the same time each day, and commit to keeping it a consistent part of your schedule.
- Confront your inner thoughts and feelings. Much of the power of novel writing is derived from the fact that you have a chance to process your thoughts and feelings. To make use of this, you have to confront those thoughts and feelings. Before sitting down to write, take a moment to reflect. What have you been feeling recently? Which complex thoughts are plaguing you? What do you want to work through today?
- Consider writing in groups. It’s difficult to go it alone. Instead of writing your novel all by yourself, consider writing with a group of people. You can ask for support, lend support, and bond with other people as part of your therapeutic exercise. You don’t have to share all your innermost thoughts and feelings, but spending time with company can almost always make you feel better.
- Measure your results. Finally, consider keeping track of your moods and symptoms to see whether your novel writing exercises are effective. If you notice an improvement in your mood over time when you’re novel writing consistently, you’ll know that the strategy is working.
While novel writing can be therapeutic, it’s not going to make all your problems go away automatically. You’ll need to work hard to overcome your personal issues, and oftentimes, novel writing won’t be enough. It’s important to use a combination of self-care and self-improvement strategies, including eating healthy, exercising, building strong relationships, getting the right medication (if you need it), and talking to a therapist.