Many of you know that I have lost some people very close to me over the last couple of years and I frequently disappear into reading as a way of escape or amelioration. When I heard about the sad loss of Christine Webber’s husband earlier this year it got me wondering if writing can provide a similar kind of therapy. Christine is the author of In Honour Bound and I’m delighted she has agreed to provide a blog post for Linda’s Book Bag on the very subject of writing as therapy.
I have been lucky enough to feature Christine here on the blog with another guest post about reality and fiction which was in celebration of her book It’s Who We Are which is available for purchase here.
In Honour Bound is available for purchase here.
In Honour Bound
A searing and sensual novel set in London in the 1980s – a decade where we believed that anything was possible, and past traditions could be abandoned if unwanted.
But, as the popular TV presenter and her cardiac surgeon lover discover, debts of honour in other cultures are not so readily forgotten.
Writing as Therapy
A Guest Post by Christine Webber
My latest novel, In Honour Bound, came out recently. This book is a re-write of my first attempt at fiction, which was published in 1987. And Linda has very kindly asked me to mark the re-issue by contributing to her wonderful blog on the theme of writing as therapy.
Vast numbers of individuals who never write a book use writing to get facts into their brains, or to prioritise what they have to do, or to assist them with problem-solving. And they recognise that putting pen to paper helps them in sorting their heads out.
During my years as a Harley Street psychotherapist, I saw at first-hand how noting down thoughts and feelings is really therapeutic for most people.
My particular interest was happiness, and how to increase levels of it in my patients. And I came to realise that the best way of doing it, was to encourage them to see that happiness can become a habit, just as exercising your body can. And I also learned that the habit can be strengthened by people actually noticing when they’re happy and focusing on that, rather than allowing themselves to be bogged down with aspects of their lives that are going wrong.
So, I used to ask my clients to write down five positive points, every evening, that had happened to them that day. These could be concerned with their own achievements, or being on the receiving end of someone else’s kindness, or something that evoked a laugh-out loud moment, or even just finding a seat on a crowded train. Anything really, that caused an uplift in mood.
This simple strategy was surprisingly effective. Obviously, some people are born more sunny-natured than others, but everyone can increase their own levels of happiness, to some extent, if they work at it.
Don’t take my word for it though. You’ll find that other clinicians and researchers have realised that writing down our intentions or actions can be a useful vehicle for change – because the act of writing seems to reinforce appropriate messages in our brains.
By the way, no one appears to be clear yet about whether listing this kind of stuff on your PC or other electronic device is as beneficial. So, my advice would be to go with the handwritten option if you want to be sure of maximising the good effect on your brain.
Writing In Honour Bound was a rather different form of therapy for me. As many of you know, my husband of thirty years died in March 2018. I’d begun the novel before his death. But it was afterwards that it became a real crutch. The story is quite heart-rending in places, and writing it while processing my own grief, loss and emptiness definitely made it very poignant for me and was the catalyst for many tearful moments. I didn’t cry much when not writing – partly because David and I’d discussed how we wanted to focus on what joy we’d experienced in our lives together rather than on what we were losing– but writing about my heroine’s pain enabled me to accept my own. Also, I felt her joy in her new love very keenly too. And that reminded me how – despite indifferent weather during our first few months as a couple – we always used to say that we’d look back on them as a ‘golden summer’. And we did.
I think that my own emotions as I wrote this new version of In Honour Bound enhanced the book in some ways and it very definitely released something in me that was better out than in!
So, has it helped me? Yes. Is it a better book than the one with the same title that appeared thirty-one years ago? I believe and hope that it is. But the reader, as ever, will be the judge.
(I’m so looking forward to reading In Honour Bound Christine. Your guest post has touched me deeply and I’d like to thank you for being prepared to write it so honestly for my blog.)
About Christine Webber
After a break of 29 years to write over a dozen non-fiction titles, Christine Webber returned to writing fiction in 2016. The result was a novel called Who’d Have Thought It? which is a romantic comedy about the change and challenges we encounter in mid-life.
Christine is a former singer, TV presenter, agony aunt, columnist and Harley Street psychotherapist.
Nowadays she is focusing on fiction – though she still pops up on the radio from time to time.