I confess: The theories, history, tricks and nooks and crannies of psychology and therapy fascinate me.

I confess: Writing stories feeds me.  Always has.  It’s that simple.

Question: Are the two passions related?

I believe so.

This weekend I will be teaching a workshop at the Southern California Writers Conference.  The name of the workshop, offered Sunday morning, is “Character Therapy—and You’re the Shrink!”  I was sitting at home this evening noodling the details of this workshop, and that led me down the path of reminiscence, which had me running for my pen…well, computer.  To my blog.

Full circle.

I first became interested in psychology in high school, when so many of my friends were going down the path-to-nowhere of drugs and alcohol.  I recall one kid in particular.  He had wild red hair, an appealing round face full of freckles, and a soft voice…and yet by eleventh grade he looked old, almost withered, a peripheral character in his own story.

Why would such a nice kid shoot himself up with heroin, I wondered.  More importantly: what might make him come back?

My interest in psychology solidified when our high school guidance counselor aimed bleary, cynical eyes in my direction and said, “Forget it, Menasche.  It’s too late for you to turn your grades around and go to college.  You’ll never get into Stony Brook.”

Why would an adult give up on a sixteen year old? 

Why don’t any of us know exactly who will rebound, who will break, who will learn, who will fly?  How do we, as human beings, DECIDE to rebound or fly?  When is pain too much pain, when is grief immobilizing, when do we transcend our egos to find meaning?

How do we not only listen to people’s stories, but hear them too?

As a writer, I always wonder when the protagonist of my story will change, if she changes…and how that change might unfold, bit by bit--so subtly, so nuanced that I, too, believe in, as Stephen King says, “the truth within the lie.”

Yes, I studied psychology as a kid but I began studying books—novels, that is—even earlier.  So, for me, the two have always intermingled.  The art of mind defines the art of art, and vise-versa.  If that makes sense.

If it doesn’t, that’s OK too, at least until my workshop.  For any writers at the SCWC who decide to drop by, please bring a fictional character you would like to work on.  Be ready to peer under that character’s skin at his / her natural resilience.  Let’s examine the characters’ thoughts, potential, pain and conflicts, dis-ease, and hope. 

Let’s always celebrate strengths, real or otherwise.

On Sunday we’ll do some therapy on our protagonist, knowing that everyone benefits from the effort.  I’m looking forward to an enjoyable workshop and especially to seeing old friends.

Oh, and I DID get into Stony Brook, no thanks to that high school counselor.  He just got me all wrong.  He didn’t do his homework…

 

 




Comments

Betsy Marro February 18, 2013 @11:47 am
 

I was in the audience for this course and thought it was great. I walked out with one of the characters for my next book and a handful of materials and ideas that will help me flesh her and her companions out. Added benefit: it was fun! Glad I got to meet you, sit in and learn more about your work.

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