Tag Archives: fiction

Psychotherapy and writing fiction.

Somehow if I go away I do far more drawing.  The Peak District looked stunning with the hills streaked in snow, although my attempts to draw the sweeping landscapes were just that – attempts!   But I did like this one of my friend’s front garden. Untitled artwork 2013-04-03 (06.02.43-272 Now, back home in a familiar landscape, writing has taken over.  At the same time as the next episode of the Wednesday Group is taking shape in my mind, I am busy thinking about the links between psychotherapy and fiction writing.

The Wednesday Group involves creating members of a therapy group and exploring their lives and interactions, as well as those of group therapists. The context of the fiction obviously connects with my working life as a group psychotherapist but I wonder whether, if I was writing a completely different story, it would be all that different.

It is a cliché that in the process of creating a fictitious character they begin to come to life. …. but they do. Writer and characters begin to develop a relationship, and the writer discovers more through giving them time and attention. They reveal themselves, or that’s how it seems to me. When I first wrote about Stevie, the main character, I had a very sketchy idea of who she was. She gradually lets me see different aspects, tells me more about herself, and even acts out in front of my eyes. In many ways it is like getting to know a client; being patient, not jumping to conclusions, working hard to get a sense of what it feels like to be them, trying to see the world through their eyes.

Trying to see the world through another person’s eyes, and being able to hold onto our own vision is for me one of the central aspects of psychotherapy. What I understand about human development, attachment, psychodynamic patterns, thoughts and feelings, embodiment – the assortment of accrued information or even wisdom that I gave gained – this all has to be integrated with a concentrated attempt to sense how it is to be the other.

That is what happens in the writing too. I am trying to get a feel for the characters, looking at the world from their perspective, not mine. Of course, these are all people who live in my head or on a computer screen – rationally I can’t divorce them from my own experiences and perspectives. But it is the magic of creativity that liberates them from those confines and sets them free to be themselves. Then if I want to get to really encounter them, I can’t assume that I already know and understand them. There is always more to be discovered, just as there is more to the people in our lives and to us as well.  And as for that maidenhair fern I have been trying to draw, there is obviously far more to get to know there too.

Chris

Linking how you draw and the books that you read.

I’ve had some interesting feedback about the possible links between the books we like to read and how we draw. At my drawing class, struggling with the still life, I asked my two neighbours what sort of things they liked to read, and I could immediately see the connections. The careful and sensible collection of pots seemed to fit nicely with ‘Call the Midwife’, and a bold splat of shapes with ‘I’m dyslexic –  I only read magazine articles’. You may be sceptical – of course we all hear what we want to hear and see what we want to see. But I also asked Neil, the tutor, and it’s not too hard to join up his current reading – Haruki Murakami, magic realism – to these paintings, is it?

Then I visited one of my favourite blogs, ‘A Sketch for the Day’, and asked the artist what sort of books he read. He quite reasonably asked me to guess:  I see his sketches as very contained but full of narrative so, I went for short stories – and was right!

I was completely defeated by Norman Ackroyd though. I watched a BBC programme about him going out in a boat to sketch the northern most rocks off the Scottish coat – fantastic forms and tones, along with a great sense of space and wilderness.  Watching him at work translating these sketches into a copper plate etching, it was impossible to imagine that he ever picked up a book as he was so entirely engrossed in the landscape that he was recreating in the studio.

It’s important to challenge simple theories and connections, anyway.  They generate poor art, bad writing and threadbare therapy. Lives are far too complex, multidimensional, messy and unpredictable to describe in terms of simple links. One of my favourite psychoanalytic writers, the late Stephen Mitchell, talked about our lives as works of art.   I don’t have the direct quote, as I lost all of my books in a house fire 18 months ago, and haven’t replaced everything. But I described it like this in my own writing

Every stimulus or experience is fashioned and organised into a subjective world by an active organism. A self is created like any work of art, from the interplay between an imaginative process and available material such as relationships and contexts. The materials offer potential and constraints that the process must work with, but the product is more than the materials.

Chris