This question was raised both directly and indirectly by two people over the last ten days.
I was discussing with one person a forthcoming presentation to a local professional group. I wanted to talk to the group about writing and the problems one has to consider when writing: namely voice and register. Before doing that, I intended to invite them to think about their writing: reports, notes, fact sheets and pamphlets. I wanted them to think about what they wanted to communicate and how best to communicate that information. My intention was to segue neatly into the approach I took in my recent book, Jumping the Loop, and the problems that I needed to deal with as I was writing. “What was I doing it for?” My interlocutor asked. “Well,” I replied, “apart from shameful self-promotion, I would like to think that there are people doing good work with good ideas that they might be able to share with a wider audience. Also, while various organisations put out useful pamphlets and fact sheets, they are somewhat impersonal and a therapist may want something that reflects their practice.” “Why write at all?” He persisted. “Why not?” was my first response and then after further reflection, “Because it is an interesting challenge,” I added.
After the conversation I realised that the challenge for me had been that I had made myself step back from what I was doing in my room to look at the ideas I share with people who consult with me, examine what seems to work and then attempt to translate from the informal verbal communication to the more formal and organised way of placing it on paper. This is what I did with my book on pain management, Despite Pain, and people have told me how useful it has been for them.
Therapists sit in their rooms with people who are struggling with some problem in their lives and things change. These therapists are not gurus but they are effective and their ideas could be of benefit to people who do not consult them directly. Granted there are many self-help books out there and I recommend a number of them to clients. I wrote my books because I think I offer a somewhat different approach to those books I have come across.
The second person raised the question more indirectly. She asked, after I had asked her opinion on the website, who did I think was going to read my blog or, indeed, visit this website? This was in part the question I had raised in my presentation. Who is the audience or reader?
I am clear who my book will appeal to. I hope that it will appeal to people who have to deal with depression, whether they are friends or family of the person with depression or the person with depression. I hope that the reader will be able to identify with the characters that I have introduced without necessarily reading the books that I have taken the characters from. The characters, I hope, will offer a mirror and challenge the reader to look at options for managing depression. In addition the book offers information and solutions to some of the problems associated with depression. As James Hillman wrote in his essay, What Does the Soul Want, “Literature has been friendly to us … giving us psychology in the fictitious.”
But why start writing a blog and who on earth will read it? The honest answer to the first part of the question is that it is about self promotion and to the second part of the quesion is I don’t know. Like the novel that sits in a draw in my desk and is occassionally taken out for a breath of air, I think it is about a challenge to explore another form of writing.
However, why write? It is, I think, about opening up ideas and sharing ways of looking at things, regardless of whether the writing is fiction or non-fiction.