Tag Archives: writers

blogging yourself home – the books

for the blogging yourself home workshop at MentalHealthCamp, i had referred to a number of books in addition to leon tan’s fabulous article on MySpace and blogging as a form of self therapy.

here they are:

writing from the heart – tapping the power of your inner voice, by nancy slonim aronie

love the friendly, welcoming, comfortable tone of this book. an excerpt from one of the many writing exercises she proposes:

which story in your life do you want to feel on a new level? write a story that begins with “the last time i saw …” write only the first page and leave it. go back later, and don’t censor anything. begin adding to it. be gentle with yourself. no one has to read this but you. each day for two weeks, add to the story. keep everything you write. don’t throw away any of it. save everything; you’ll need it for later. you may need distance to hear some of your best lines. keep writing from your heart. keep coming back to “i”.

writing from the inside out by dennis palumbo

from the jacket:

writer’s block. procrastination. loneloness. doubt. fear of failure. fear of rejection. just plain … fear. what does it mean if you struggle with these feelins on a daily basis? it means you’re a writer.

one of the treats of reading these books is that they are – guess what, well written. often they have intriguing chapter headings, like this one in palumbo’s book: “lately, i don’t like the things i love.” doesn’t that resonate?

with pen in hand – the healing power of writing, by henriette anne klauser

this book is written around klauser’s client’s stories, which really speaks to me. there is very little, “do this, do that” – she simply presents powerful, powerful stories and then comments on how they use simple yet impactful writing techniques. a story that touched me in a special way was by a vietnam vet who after years tells for the first time the tale of surviving the war and coming back to an unwelcoming home country.

i could tell you stories – sojourns in the land of memory, by patricia hampl

one of the things that this book did for me was to show me st. augustine’s confessions, written in 397 C.E., in a totally new way. “he was the first blogger!” i kept thinking. he describes himself as “a man who writes as he progresses and who progresses as he writes”. hampl goes on

not to write was not to think, really not to live.

the confessions are, among other things, the desperature gesture of a writer blocked from his work, seeking again the intimace embraceand healing intelligence of language.

here was a book, most likely written by hand in private, but intended to be read aloud y small groups of educated christians (and open-minded erudite pagans), a book handed around in a kind of samizdat circulation. it was greeted by the intense, if rarefied, buzz we might recogniaze from a coffeehouse poetry reading where aficionados know an original voice if they hear one.

finally three more books i referred to were ones that i had already mentioned here before. they were louise desalvo’s writing as a way of healing and james pennebaker’s opening up – the healing power of expressing emotions, mentioned in the post journaling for healing: 15 tips. james pennebaker is one of the leading psychologists writing on and researching the topic.

and then of course there is kimberley snow, whose book “writing yourself home” inspired the title of the workshop. i had written about the book here.

addiction and creativity

i’m back from kelowna, after a somewhat tense 6-hour drive (some stretches were a bit treacherous), followed by one hour’s worth of snow shovelling.  so i’m going to go to bed now and will cede this space to someone else, creativity coach eric maisel.  here he talks about his new book, creative recovery:

creative recovery, the book that susan raeburn and i recently wrote describing a complete addiction recovery program for creative people, just received a very nice library journal review. here is the review in its entirety.

“therapist and creativity coach maisel (fearless creating; the creativity book) and clinical psychologist raeburn illustrate how creativity both contributes to addiction and is a tool for recovery. in the first of three sections, entitled ‘preparing,’ the authors begin by expanding upon the biological and other risks for addiction and explore the abuse continuum. the next section, ‘working,’ is devoted to the foundation of recovery, awareness, which can be enhanced through creative talents, and addiction challenges, including an acceptance of the need to change. finally, in ‘living,’ the authors emphasize that recovery is an ongoing, lifelong process, and they expand upon and reinforce the role played by creativity, which provides an artistic outlet to express the hope, strength, and wholeness of continued recovery. including an extensive list of resources, this informative, insightful, and valuable book is recommended for large public and academic library collections focusing on addiction and addiction recovery.”

here is a brief excerpt from the book:

the short story “the bound man,” by the german author ilse aichinger, is a beautiful piece in the existential tradition. it goes as follows. a man awakens one morning to find himself inexplicably bound by rope.

instead of removing the rope at his first opportunity, as we might expect him to do, he decides to remain bound and to become a circus attraction, turning his accidental bondage into his trademark work. how strange! why would a person happily accept such bondage? it is similar to the question that franz kafka poses in “the hunger artist,” where a man, who also chooses to become a circus attraction, starves himself to death because he can’t find food that interests him. these authors are asking variations of the following vital question: “why do people carelessly, inexplicably, and even happily do things that harm them so much?”

one of the things that people do that harms them, but that they nevertheless hold on to as if they were benefiting from it, is to get addicted and to stay addicted. not for anything can you pry them away from their alcohol, cocaine, tobacco, internet surfing, video-game playing, overeating, shopping, or sexual escapades. tell them that they are dying: no matter. tell them that they are wasting half their life in front of a computer screen or in the aisles of department stores: no matter. remind them that they can’t have love or a real life if they use sex as a drug: no matter. point out that their liver is already not functioning, that their nasal lining is already perforated, or that their lungs are already black: no matter. what you experience as you talk to an addicted individual is that he or she is completely indifferent to your good arguments.

creative people, our best and our brightest, squarely fall into the category of people at high risk for addiction-people who accept the “happy bondage” of an addiction even though they might be expected to know better. it isn’t just romantic mythology that creative people are more prone than their peers to succumb to the lure of an addiction. it is a fact, and there are many reasons for this. as we proceed we will explain these reasons: why, in addition to the biological, social, psychological, and developmental risk factors that confront many people, extra risk factors confront the creative person. for now we just want to get on the table that the risk is significantly greater for you if you are creative. that is a fact.

if you are creative, at how high a risk for an addiction are you? consider what tom dardis has to say in the **thirsty muse: “of the seven native-born americans awarded the nobel prize in literature, five were alcoholic. the list of other twentieth-century american writers similarly afflicted is very long; only a few of the major talents have been spared.

in addition to the five nobel laureates–sinclair lewis, eugene o’neill, william faulkner, ernest hemingway and john steinbeck–the roster includes edward arlington robinson, jack london, edna st. vincent millay, f. scott fitzgerald, hart crane, conrad aiken, thomas wolfe, dashiell hammett, dorothy parker, ring lardner, djuna barnes, john o’hara, james gould cozzens, tennessee williams, john berryman, carson mccullers, james jones, john cheever, jean stafford, truman capote, raymond carver, robert lowell and james agee.”

you don’t have to be a creative superstar to run extra risks for addiction. our clients and patients fall everywhere along the spectrum from unknown to established, from “sunday painter” to world-famous, from someone who manifests her creativity by knitting to someone who manifests her creativity by fabricating monumental public sculptures. we work with individuals who don’t know what they want to create and who can’t seem to access their creativity and with individuals who know exactly what they want to create and who work obsessively to manifest their ideas and their intentions. what links all of these people and makes them more alike than different is their felt sense that creativity matters to them, that it is a part of who they are. if you can say that about yourself, then you are a member of this family-and run added risks for addiction.

here is the site of eric maisel’s books and services, and one of his blogs, the eric maisel creativity central blog.

interview with laurie r. king: madness and mystery

i am very pleased to present you today with an interview with bestselling mystery author laurie r. king. as you may know, i am quite the mystery fan so i was delighted when i was approached with the idea of being a stop on laurie’s virtual book tour.

IM: your book to play the fool attracted me immediately because the notion of the fool has fascinated me all my life, perhaps beginning in the 60s with the beatles’ beautiful ballad, the fool on the hill. then there is dostoevsky’s idiot, one of my favourite books. in the tarot, the fool is the archetype i feel closest to. it looks like one of the “fools” you’ve chosen as inspiration was st. francis of assissi.

one of the reasons why the fool is so fascinating is because in him (or her) we find a mysterious combination of spirituality, creativity and what we might call “madness”, “otherness” or some sort of illness or even mental illness (for example, dostoevsky’s idiot suffered from epilepsy).

so, laurie – to start off: could you please give our readers a very short introduction to the book?

LRK: to play the fool is a police story that also explores what would happen if a holy fool were to appear in modern-day san francisco.

IM: and what would you say about the combination of spirituality, creativity and madness? does that play a part in your book?

LRK: brother erasmus appears mad on the surface, but in fact his foolishness is a carefully constructed means of preserving his sanity–and of serving his fellow man. in a similar vein, he speaks only in quotes, but using the words of others is a creative means of communication, one that requires others to pay close attention to what he is saying.

in the world of shamans and mystics, there is a line drawn between there is a line drawn between mental illness and the embracing of lunacy or madness for a purpose. one could argue that all creative people are to some degree mad.

not me, of course.

IM: laurie, you mention mental illness. that’s a topic that runs through other books you’ve written, isn’t it? what’s your interest in it?

LRK: i loved one of the NYT reviews that said how laurie king is such a friend of the damaged and peripheral, or something of the sort. seems to me life in california is so full of quirky individuals, any novel with a breath of realism has to include homeless people, ex-soldiers with PTSD, devotees of alternative religions, bipolar individuals, gays and lesbians–you name it, most of us can be categorized in some niche or another.

and of course, writing crime fiction is all about what crime does to people, the ripple effects it has on all the lives around it. to deny those effects would be to create a two-dimensional whodunnit, interesting as an intellectual puzzle, but not perhaps evocative of real life.

IM: so the “damaged and the peripheral” interest you, and it’s important for your books to be about real life.

i’m curious about those “ripple effects” of crime. are you saying that crime can result in mental illness? if so, how do you portray that in your books?

LRK: what i meant was that the effects of a major crime spread out to touch not only the victim but the victim’s family, friends, acquaintances. however, yes, it can also have a long-lasting, even permanent mental effect. trauma reshapes lives, it leaves a bump in the road every time those involved pass over similar ground.

perhaps this explains why the mystery genre is so popular, that by presenting traumatic events fictionally, it enables the reader to grapple with them, and–this being fiction–to conquer them successfully, through the protagonist, every time.

even if the crime novel is not always a paradigm for personal change, at the very least it entertains and distracts. there are times when a person desperately craves escape–temporary, fictional, but valuable. sometimes a good novel is a place to crawl into and rest, and we all know that rest heals.

(this post can be found in the carnival of mental illness)