Writing As Therapy - II

In an interview on NPR, Alice Sebold said emphatically that writing is not therapy and writing that is done as therapy should not be published.

Ms. SEBOLD: My feeling, and it's pretty, you know, rigorous, is that therapy is for therapy and that writing can be therapeutic, but therapeutic writing should not be published.

My job as a writer is to go through the therapy myself, and if I manage to get through it, and I feel I have something to share from that, to share it with my audience or my readers, but I don't write novels and seek to have them published so that I can get therapy from having written them. That's really the responsibility of an individual to do outside the context of their published work.
I agree with Sebold that the raw journal is not in most cases the thing to be published. But clearly, writing was therapeutic for her. She was writing her great bestseller The Lovely Bones when she got completely stuck. She had to write her memoir, Lucky, about her actual rape and recovery, before she could complete the fictional Lovely Bones. Something happened inside her there—perhaps not therapy but therapeutic.

For me, writing my story for others led to another level of healing, one that was possible only because I’d already done several years of intense therapy. Martin Moran told me that his book, The Tricky Part, took 10 years to complete. I doubt he could have come to the beautiful compassion shown in his book in a short space of time.

The relationship between therapy (or healing) and writing (for self or for publication) is complex and can't be captured in any short prescription.

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