Category Archives: Therapy

It takes a village to write a book

Here’s what happened when I joined a writers’ group a few years ago.  Wait a minute, you guys already know how this story ends.

If you’re interested (I know there’s some writers out there in the blogosphere who follow me), you can read how my writers’ group provided me with the fuel to write my book.

Just click here to link to the Women’s Writing Circle.  You’ll find my guest post and lots of great writerly resources.

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The lesbian discount

W and I might be vacationing in Provincetown, Mass., in July.

We don’t get a lot of alone time, so this could be just what the Lesbian Doctor of Love ordered.  (Think Melissa Etheridge with a stethoscope.)

Initially, we had talked about going to Boston or Salem, Mass., but W texted me today and asked what I thought about P-Town.

I texted back that it is one of my life goals to buy something from the Provincetown Women’s Bookstore.

Cue flashback swirls and trippy music.

Flashback

The year was 2002.  A guy named Bush was president.  Later on, this will seem ironic or like heavy handed foreshadowing.

I am participating in a therapy group called “Married to a Man and in Love With a Woman.”  I am married to a man.  I can’t fathom the woman part even though I fantasize about it.

During one of these therapy sessions, a fellow participant talks about going on vacation in Provincetown with her family.  She is surrounded by hand-holding, rainbow flag-waving gay people but unable to tell her conservative family about her girlfriend.

She tells us that the Women’s Bookstore in town offers a 10 percent discount to women-loving women.  “You just have to ask for the lesbian discount,” she explains.

The bisexual in the group asks if she would get a 5 percent price reduction.

The moment that I hear about the lesbian discount, I want it.  It’s not about saving the 10 percent (even though I’m cheap like that) but about being able to identify as a lesbian.

At the time, it’s something that I can’t even imagine.  No one knows I’m a lesbian.  Not my husband or my parents or my friends.  How could I possibly tell a stranger that I’m one?

The Women’s Bookstore becomes a mythic mountain of sorts.  A challenge to train for and to conquer.

More than a decade later, I am ready.

I know that I can confidently ask for the lesbian discount.

Somehow, I suspect that they would give it to me anyway.

Writing as group activity

Good morning, my flannel-lovin’ followers.  I thought I would take some time to talk about some of my favorite things — books and writing.  We’ll have to save some of my other favorite things — Joan Jett, 30 Rock, Heidi Klum and the chips and queso at California Tortilla — for some other day.

I’m still actively participating in my weekly writers’ group.  Every time that I write something about the meetings, W points out that I refer to it as “group” like I’m talking about group therapy.  She says it’s cute.  She pretty much thinks that everything I do is cute.  This is not a bad problem to have.

In a way, my writers’ group is like group therapy.  It is a safe place.  We share our most intimate life experiences.  We support and encourage each other.  We draw knowledge and wisdom from the other group members.  Bonus: It’s a whole lot cheaper than traditional group therapy.

Often, I find myself mentally and emotionally exhausted yet exhilarated from these group sessions.  It is not the physical pen-on-paper aspect of writing that wears me out.  Instead, it is the process of delving deep and transforming some of my life experiences into words that is so tiring.  In the end, it is a rewarding experience that is allowing me to take control of my life and to move forward with my life-long dream of writing a book.

Some of the members of my group belong to another writing group, and they have penned chapters or poems that appear in a published anthology called Slants of Light: Stories and Poems from the Women’s Writing Circle.  It is a wonderful collection of short stories and poems written by a group of very talented women.

Slants of LightI enjoyed the pieces on their own, but I was struck by the power of the anthology as a whole.  It made me think of my own writing group and how we are each made stronger by the other writers.  It might be because of a suggestion in a critique that strengthened a chapter or a chuckle in response to a humorous quip read during a read-around that provides the feedback and encouragement that a writer needs to keep pushing forward.  Even though writing is a solitary pursuit, we can, as writers, gain so much from our fellow scriveners.

I would encourage you to check out Slants of Light.  There’s something inside for everyone, including a very inspiring coming out story penned by one of my friends.  Plus, it’s a great way to support other writers who are honing their craft and working on getting their stories into print.  I know that I’ve been inspired by the mere act of holding their book in my hands.

You can order Slants of Light on amazon.com.

Writing group therapy

I have always been a loner.

As a child, I was drawn to solitary activities like reading, writing, drawing and a game for one called Electronic Detective, an 80s whodunnit game that was a combination between Merlin and Clue.

Party of oneI still enjoy solitary pursuits.  To me, a good book is as enjoyable as a good friend.  While I would much rather see a movie with W or eat a meal in her company, I have no problem catching a flick by myself or dining at a table for one.

There have been times in my life when it’s been just me.  Single.  Single mother.

During those lean times, I have had no one to rely on but myself.  I think that’s part of why I’m drawn to the steely toughness associated with being butch.  It is an exterior shield from life’s brutalities much like the protective sealer wax sprayed on a vehicle at the end of a car wash.

One of my weaknesses has always been asking for help.  Help?  Who needs help?  Not this able-bodied, flannel-clad butch.

And then I started going to therapy last year, and my therapist gave me a homework assignment to find something to do just for me.

Piecing together pieces of broken glass won't be my savior but stringing together words will

Piecing together pieces of broken glass won’t be my savior but stringing together words will.

The original plan was an art class.  I was going to learn to make mosaics.  But the thought of piecing together pieces of broken glass just wasn’t calling to me.

I remembered reading about a writer’s group that met at a local bookstore and decided to give it a go.  It was free and there was no form to fill out, so it was already beating the pants off of the art class.

I showed up that Tuesday and surprised myself by writing and sharing something very personal and emotional.  I had felt safe among the group members and confident enough in my writing abilities to take a risk.

For the next few weeks, I went to some meetings but not others.  It’s not that I didn’t like going or that I was super busy.  (Full disclosure: When I didn’t go, I laid in bed and watched old Dr. Phil shows and reruns of Sex in the City.)  I liked the people and the writing prompts and the writing that I accomplished within each two-hour session and the way that I felt after each group meeting.

The only thing holding me back was fear.  Because what if I committed to this group?  I would need to start working on a project of some sort.  Everyone was working on something — poems, novels, short stories, memoir chapters.  And what if I started something and it flat-out stunk like those detox foot patches that W and I tried?  What if I learned that a book is too hard for me to write?  Or that I’m not really a writer at all — never have been, never will be?

The funny thing was that the more sessions I attended the more confident I became in my writing and in myself.

Now, every Tuesday, I eagerly show up for group, notepad and pen at the ready.  I like being a part of something.  I like being a part of a group comprised of people who like the same things that I do — books and writing and writers and ideas and a clever turn of phrase.

I use our weekly meetings as a deadline to write another chapter.  I am plodding along.

We're all like this sometimes

We’re all like this sometimes

Last night, I e-mailed another chapter to the group for critique.  Right after pushing the send button, I started getting nervous.  I mean, what if it wasn’t any good?  Scarier yet, what if no one understood my words and they all found it really weird and strange?  The morning feedback has once again assuaged my fears.  I have learned that when I make myself vulnerable, people relate to what it is that I need to say.  For in the end, we are all naked tortoises lying on our backs, our soft bellies exposed to the world.

I think it is an ironic twist worthy of any good book plot: How a loner found companionship in a group of women engaged in the solitary pursuit of writing and found her voice.  It had been there all along for she sang in the shower and in the car and to her cats when no one else was around.  But it wasn’t until she was in the company of other like-minded people that she was able to sing out loud for the world to hear.

Yes, you can fail therapy

Failing GradeI told W last night in bed that I’m failing therapy.

“What are you talking about?  You can’t fail therapy,” she said.

“Well, you’re wrong about that,” I responded.  “I’m definitely failing therapy.”

She just looked at me and waited.

Me: So, I have therapy this Friday.  And, I told you about my two homework assignments.

W: Right.  Start eating more healthy.  Which we did this week.  Remember, we had salad?

Me: One salad doesn’t really cut it.  But, that’s not what I’m talking about.  I have until Friday morning to start dieting.

W: Ok.  You were supposed to sign up for that art class or something.

Me: Yeah.  Which starts tomorrow.  At 10 a.m.

W: (laughter)

Me: And, that’s how I’m failing therapy.

W: (laughter)

Me: I didn’t feel like calling today and signing up for the class.  And I don’t know that I’m that into mosaics anyway.  But I do have a back-up plan.  So that I don’t fail therapy.

W: And that would be?

Me: There’s a writer’s group that meets every Tuesday morning from 10:00 to 12:00 at that new independent bookstore.  It’s free.  I thought I might give that a try.

W: There you go.  That sounds like a plan.

Me: Crap.

W: What?

Me: I forgot about those deadlines for work.  And I have to pick Kid #2 up after school.  Tomorrow is not going to work.  Looks like I’m failing therapy again.

* * *

WritingSo, I’m passing therapy, barely, because I actually went to the writers’ group today.  I’ve been talking in therapy about doing something just for me like taking a class or joining a group or doing something like that.  My deadline is this Friday morning when I show up for my therapy session.

About the writers’ group: The instructor is using The Artist’s Way as a guide.  We worked on some writing prompts from that book and actually wrote two short pieces.

Maybe I’ll share some of what I’ve written here in this space at a later date.

For now, I’m going to hang with this writing group and see where it takes me.  I liked hanging out with people.  Especially people who like to write.

So, yay me for doing something that took me way out of my comfort zone and following through and actually talking in a group and not seeming all weird and wallflowery (I think) and for squeaking by in therapy, at least for a couple more weeks.

* * *

One writing prompt from today’s writing group and my response:

Ten Tiny Changes (small changes to make in your life)

1. I would like to eat healthier, especially by eating more fresh and less processed food.

2. I would like to learn how to cook some new meals/recipes.

3. I would like to ride my bike more.

4. I would like to spend more time reading.

5. I would like to take an art class.*

6. I would like to get at least one piece of writing published this year.

7. I would like to spend more time with friends (and make some new ones).

8. I would like to be out in nature more.

9. I would like for the TVs in my home to be off more.

10. I would like to volunteer for something this year.

* Apparently not a mosaic class.