Writing as therapy.

1 Aug

by Biljana Likic


My sister keeps diaries, and she has all her life. It’s a form of therapy for her; getting it all out. It was also a form of frustration whenever she thought I read them (I still maintain that I never did). There would be times where she’d shoo me out of the room so she could have her alone time with a pen and journal.

I have to admit, I was a little bit jealous. I tried, by her example, to start a journal, but would always end up ripping the written pages to bits out of paranoia that somebody would read them. This paranoia was incredibly unfounded. I never wrote things down that were personal. In fact, I seem to remember one particular entry to be something along the lines of this:

Dear Diary,

Today, Daniel peed his pants! It was so funny.

Love, Biljana

Fascinating, I tell you. It was an embarrassing situation, but not for me. It was embarrassing for somebody else. Sure, there had been a time or two when I was little that I couldn’t hold my bladder, but you would never catch me writing about that in my journals. You would always find stories of what other people did, or which boy my friend liked.

And I would still take the pages, rip them up, and throw them out, scoffing in the process, and always feeling slightly self-conscious. Because even though the stories weren’t about me, they were still my stories.

It’s a revelation that came to me recently. My sister would write about herself in her journals, and I would write about others. Almost every story I wrote would be one I could relate to. Sometimes they’d be embellished, other times too plain, but ultimately, the reason my diary-writing was short-lived, was because after a while I felt like I was lying. The stories would suddenly have things in them that never happened in real life. It didn’t matter that they were little things, like saying that we ate spaghetti when really we ate pizza, they still made me feel like what I was writing wasn’t worthy of a diary because it wasn’t true.

It was around that time that I discovered creative writing.

Suddenly, lying became okay. I stopped feeling guilty about changing the details to make a better story, because when a whole story was fake, it didn’t matter. My early characters would have problems similar to mine, living out situations that I once lived through, and in themselves became to me what a diary was to my sister: therapy.

To me, writing a story is a way of writing a universal diary; something that anybody can read and say, yes, that’s exactly that, I feel exactly that shitty, or that happy, or that jaded. It’s a way of baring my soul without really baring my soul. Of discovering the reality behind an enigma and in that way, having one less person in the world that’s misunderstood. It doesn’t matter that it’s made-up. All that matters is the knowledge that having someone else feel what you feel is entirely possible. All that matters is reading that in the end, it can be okay; people do triumph. The time will come when we’ll be able to succeed, and the road will be easy, or tough, or hardly noticed, and we have all the coping templates we could ask for no matter which way life takes us.

You see, my biggest problem with diaries is that they take place in the present. I already know how I’m feeling right now. I want to know how I’ll feel when it’s all over; months from now; years from now. I want to know how I’ll feel in the future. Stories have a future you can explore. They are instant emotional gratification, a form of vicarious living. No waiting years and years before you can learn from your mistakes. They make you wise. They help you understand. Not just yourself, but people.

They help you understand people.

I find this incredible.


Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She’s going into her second year of university, where she can’t wait till she’s out so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog and follow her on Twitter.

15 Responses to “Writing as therapy.”

  1. Hannah August 1, 2011 at 12:54 AM #

    I don’t see why you can’t use both (other than personal preference of course).
    I journal like crazy, and love to do creative writing. Until I work out my thoughts on paper, I don’t have a clear idea of where my head is. This is true for many aspects of my life. (making lists, plans, notes for school…)
    In regard to writing, I can’t get into the head of my character if my own personal drama is filling up my head. I do not deny that where I am in my life influences my writing, but I don’t want to be author whose main character is always herself. I suppose I write to explore and be someone else. In life I have no control, but in my story I am God. (Okay, okay, don’t smite me.)

    I also find them helpful for writing realistic character growth. I am able to look back to see where I was, and how I got to be where I am today. Also I can I expect my character to be introspective if I do not practice that skill on myself?

    • Biljana August 1, 2011 at 1:24 AM #

      True, and very good point about introspection. I guess I didn’t really play devil’s advocate with this post and went solely on what works for me. Something that I’ve noticed is that I’m much better at discovering things within myself by looking at and understanding others first. I’m very good at being in denial about my motives, but seeing others do similar things forces me to be critical about myself as well. Like you said, I also write to explore others. Sometimes this leads to subconsciously exploring myself. 

      I feel like in the end, writing a character that is always me isn’t something I fear. People in general are all so similar in emotion and reaction that just because two people react in ways that are comparable, it doesn’t make them the same person. The people that would react differently are the ones that are most fun to figure out, yes, but as long as there are reasons, things can be understandable, if not forgivable.

      I completely get working out thoughts on paper. But still, I find that I’ll always write of another person experiencing what happened to me. Reading about them getting through it, even though I wrote it and know it’s not real, helps me way more than just writing down my emotions just to get it out. Nah, that’s what loud, annoying venting to friends is for ;).

      Hope this all made sense! Thanks for the great comment.

  2. Angela August 1, 2011 at 5:52 AM #

    I couldn`t agree more with this post.

    I also have trouble keeping a diary, because I`m too traumatized from the time I was five when I caught both of my parents reading my diary. I decided to never keep one again.

    • Biljana August 1, 2011 at 3:24 PM #

      Ugh I hate that! 😦 In the end I think that IS the biggest reason; I don’t believe that it’ll stay secret forever.

  3. Aurora Blackguard August 1, 2011 at 8:05 AM #

    I’m afraid pure laziness and absolutely no interest in my own life prompted the no-diary thing. And I have to agree with you, Billy. The idea of creating stories beyond what I have now is a lot more interesting than this life which, while I really wish was more interesting, is not. Plus, journals require so much more discipline than I’m willing to commit to something I’m just not interested in! Good post, Billy, as always!

    • Biljana August 1, 2011 at 3:26 PM #

      Yeah, there is the laziness thing :P. That, and I’d always forget. Or I’d retell it to friends and be really tired of the story so I wouldn’t want to write it down. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  4. Stacy Green August 1, 2011 at 10:45 AM #

    I don’t keep a diary, but I do have a journal. For me free-writing does a lot to keep me inspired. I write about whatever I’m thinking about: my book, a new idea, something I saw in the mall, something my kid said. Whatever. It just keeps me writing.

    • Biljana August 1, 2011 at 3:28 PM #

      I have to admit that I do write things down that I like, things like what you described; story ideas, pretty things, funny anecdotes. It’s when it becomes really personal that I tend to shy away. I think it’s because I don’t want to write what I’m feeling and unconsciously start to make it more dramatic than it really is. There has been a time or two when I had to check myself and remind myself that my life isn’t ACTUALLY ending, even though what I’m writing is tragic lol.

      • Stacy Green August 1, 2011 at 3:30 PM #

        I can see that. I’m not great at writing down personal stuff unless I channel it into my characters.

  5. savannahjfoley August 1, 2011 at 11:38 AM #

    I used to journal alllll the time in high school. It was all about my day and how I felt about it though. Totally not good practice for writing fiction, but I was obsessed with recording my life because I didn’t want to forget about it.

    • Biljana August 1, 2011 at 3:29 PM #

      That is one thing I regret; losing memories. Makes them sweeter though, no? 🙂

  6. sydneygirl90 August 1, 2011 at 9:39 PM #

    When I was younger, I would almost force myself to try and keep a journal. I felt that I was supposed to (because that’s just what girls DO). However, once I realized that I didn’t need to keep a journal, that it was okay to hold onto some of my feelings, that’s when I actually started wanting to keep a journal./diary. It was never consistent and it certainly didn’t flow (AT ALL). But, it gave me a sense of a friend who would be there to listen whenever I felt like it, not just because it was routine. 🙂

    • Biljana August 2, 2011 at 2:16 PM #

      Yeah, social pressure is always an annoying reason for things to start; it never feels real. I’m glad you were able to overcome them and do it because YOU wanted to, though. I never was!

  7. linda August 6, 2011 at 6:37 PM #

    Great post! I enjoy recording my thoughts and life events in a journal (when it occurs to me, and when I have time) but my best story ideas also come from transferring my emotional experiences to a fictional character. I guess I like both. 😛

    • Biljana August 9, 2011 at 10:59 PM #

      Thanks! Yeah, both is a solid compromise. I’m actually a touch jealous of those who can do both ;).

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