Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Book Doctor

Can Fiction Really Be Good for What Ails You?


My Best Friend sent me a link to a fascinating article on a fascinating site…

Bibliotherapy

Image Courtesy of Adam Ciesielski ~ http://www.freeimages.com/photographer/adamci-33882

First the site—Book Riot:

*We create.
* We always prefer the book to the movie.
* We riot as a team.
*We geek out on books, embarrassingly so.
*We’re leaders.
*We practice charity—we give two percent of gross revenue…to organizations whose efforts promote social justice in the areas of literacy, health, gender or educational equity.
*We miss our subway stop cause the book is that good.
*We are non-traditional.
*We believe in family (bookshelves and cats count).

And, the article—I Went to a Bibliotherapist and This Is What Happened.

A few excerpts:

“From Stephen Fry’s thoughts on literature and living with bipolar disorder to “fixing your life” with Virginia Woolf, people are seeing the tangible personal benefits of reading.”

It’s about time :-)

“You wouldn’t have a hard time convincing an avid reader that books are tools for life (not just escapist entertainment or exercises in abstract thought). However, there remains some speculation as to what bibliotherapy actually is.”

My New Oxford American Dictionary says “the use of books as therapy in the treatment of mental or psychological disorders” but do go read what the article says, since different folks apparently think differently about it

“One of the great things about bibliotherapy is its openness. The basic principle – that reading books helps you to ‘read’ your life, and so allows you to better understand it and to live it more fully – can be brought to many situations. But one of the downsides to this openness is that the practice is not highly standardized. You don’t really know what you’re in for if you consult a bibliotherapist.”

The author goes on to relate her experience with a bibliotherapist at La Bibliothèque Apothicaire, which is fascinating; but; I got to wondering how to apply whatever principles there are in Bibliotherapy to and by myself

So, anyway, the author reveals her issue to the bibliotherapist—“Well, I am finding motherhood un peu difficile.” (my poor translation—“a bit difficult”) and the bibliotherapist immediately starts reading to her from Women Who Run with the Wolves : Contacting the Power of the Wild Woman.

By the way, I Totally recommend that book—especially for men

Potent excerpt from the article:

“Most of us don’t realize that it has been decades since we’ve been read to. Unless you regularly hear sermons on a Sunday morning, you can go the entirety of your adolescent and adult life without anyone reading you a story, which is actually a terrible shame because it is lovely.”

Then:

“So as a follow-up exercise, I was asked to close my eyes and imagine a mother holding her infant….she got me to tell a story by asking questions: What are the they doing? Is there someone else in the room? What kind of furniture is there?”

And:

“Here’s what I found so unique about Katy’s approach. I heard a story, and then I told a story, and then we talked about how the two stories were related, and not once did I have to talk about my feelings. Not once. At times it felt less like a therapy session and more like a discussion from my undergrad lit courses….Yet those seemingly disconnected fictional characters can tell you so much about your experience of the nonfictional world.”

So, I do hope you’ll go read the whole article—really, truly worth it—but, for those who don’t have time, here’s the clincher:

“When I say I didn’t have to talk about my feelings, that doesn’t mean that the experience lacked emotional depth. Actually, it was quite moving. But that’s the thing about reading. Fiction has the benefit of allowing you to momentarily bypass the overwhelming burden of the self. It’s not about you. And yet it is. Bibliotherapy rests on the principle that the story will always be what you bring to it.”

At that point my wondering about the principles and techniques of bibliotherapy came clear—I’ve been doing it by myself for most of my life

Finally, I’m compelled to guide you to the About Page of the site of the article’s author, Bronwyn Averett, who is a Book Doctor
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Writing Paradoxes


Yesterday, I re-blogged a post from Roz MorrisThree Paradoxes of the Writing LifeRoz Morris - Author

Today, I’m going to comment on those paradoxes

First, though, let me tell you a bit about Roz:

She’s an extremely successful Ghostwriter.

She’s written three excellent books about writing.

She’s written two fantastic works of fiction.

She’s available for Speaking and Tutoring.

She’s a Book Doctor.

She has her own Radio Show.

I’ve Re-blogged her numerous times.

And, I’ve written about her before

So, let’s get back to Roz’s blog post—Three Paradoxes of the Writing Life.

Obviously, I recommend you actually take that link and read her post first.

Then, my ruminations about the paradoxes she raises may make more sense

Back so soon…?

Actually, I know most of you never left—that’s totally cool—plus, her post has many links to other posts she’s written—very helpful for gaining knowledge but it will take a bit of time to read them all—though, I am comforted that there are other folks out there, like me, who do lots of internal linking :-)

O.K., I’ll lay out the paradoxes Roz wrote about and see what I can glean from my experience

1. “We must produce, but never rush.”

For many years, I thought about writing, thought I might be somewhat good at it, thought that when Life stopped yanking me around I’d make a go of it

I began serious writing in my late 50s

Since then (I’m nearly 70 now…), I’ve written and published 5 books; but, I’ve had three blogs before this one; and, this one has over 1,300 posts (that’s somewhere around 500,000 words just in this blog…).

I suppose I’ve nailed that “never rush” part—started late, have no definitive schedules, willing to wait till my Muse screams at me

Still, I hope for about 20 more years so I can be even more productive; and, the advancing years will nearly guarantee I don’t “rush” :-)

One more word about Production:

Unless you want to be sucked down a miserable materialistic hell-hole, resist the urge to write the way and publish at the speed most of the “experts” tell you to.

Well…

If you really want to produce work that folks can read swiftly, that won’t rock their boat at all, and that will soon be completely forgotten, go ahead; but, hang on tight when that hell-hole starts sucking

2. “We learn from others, but teach ourselves.”

I think that learning from others first means a writer had better read as many of the books of as many “good” writers as possible.

Defining “good” depends on the kind of writing you want to do; but, if you’re not yet sure what kind of writing you need to pursue, my advice is to read the “Classics” (ancient and modern) and read authors that you think write well

Obviously, as you progress in your reading/learning, your conception of what’s well-written will change

Still, reading a massive amount of books isn’t, by far, the only way a writer learns from others—just wake up, get dressed, and walk down the street; or, wake up, and start watching YouTube—Life activities should be learning experiences (except for those who aspire toward severe depression…).

“teach ourselves”?

For me this is simple:

You sit down and write something—anything

Perhaps you then get up and do a few chores

You sit back down and read what you wrote and, perhaps, change it

If you really get into a stint of writing, you may have to do a bit of research

Just be sure to sit back down and incorporate the research into what you’ve already written

Keep this kind of activity up for prolonged periods and you just might become a good writer.

I can’t help but say, though, that a particularly good way to learn from someone else while teaching yourself would be to study Roz Morris’ books about writing.

3. “We make our own rules but recognise when we’re wrong.”

Obviously, if you’re just starting out as a writer, you may have a very small kit of “rules”; and, I certainly hope you haven’t “borrowed” those “rules” from the ever-present and exceedingly pushy “WebWritingExperts”

Crafting a story may be relatively easy—crafting your own endurable rules of writing is a labor of love.

If you’re intent on nailing down some rules for yourself, try starting by making sure you’re somewhat clear about Why you want to write

Hows are meaningless without Whys.

But, even my own all-time fav fiction writer, C. J. Cherryh, finished her short set of “rules” with, NO RULE SHOULD BE FOLLOWED OFF A CLIFF…

So, there are a few of my thoughts on those writing paradoxes.

Now, I heartily encourage you to go read Roz
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Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
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For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

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