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Quotation of the Week: Steve Almond

“A generation ago, when ‘Annie Hall’ won the Oscar for Best Picture, talk therapy occupied a prominent place in our collective imagination, whether or not you partook. If you wanted to spend several hours a week baring your soul to a stranger who was professionally obligated to listen and react, you went into therapy. Today you join a writing workshop.”

Source: Steve Almond, “Why Talk Therapy Is on the Wane and Writing Workshops Are on the Rise”

(I may not agree with all of this piece, and I wouldn’t say that all workshoppers are would-be analysands. But there’s no question that I’ve been part of workshops where some of the folks in the room clearly wanted/needed to be in therapy. When I recall these individuals, I always hope that they have found the peace that seemed so sadly elusive for them.)

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  1. The Pulp Factory is a mailing list for people like me who write slam-bang adventure fiction. For the most part we don’t care about “relevent” or being “literary.” (They might happen, but only in service to plot.)

    About a week ago someone asked if anyone had benefitted from joining a formal writer’s group. The reply from those who tried was universal. NO! The above quote gives sums up their reasons for not staying in such groups.

  2. Hello Erika,
    This is definitely food for thought. And I agree up to a point. I’m not convinced that writing groups are becoming a natural replacement for talk therapy, but I have encountered people in writing groups that seemed to be there for reasons other than improving their prose or to sharpen a piece for submission.
    The symptoms are obvious. Time spent talking about themselves rather than the writing. Veering off topic into personal territory. Refusing to try suggested changes to improve their work or insistence that they have their own reasons for keeping it a certain way.
    It’s true that people write for a variety of reasons, and not every writer is planning to get published or make a career of it. It’s probably a good idea for group members to be clear about why they are meeting and working together so that everyone is clear about group purpose.
    I imagine it could be quite difficult to tailor comments and critique to serve the particular psychological needs of individuals, as opposed to just dealing with what is on the page. And what if the work on the page disturbs, upsets or offends other group members? A whole other can of worms . . .

  3. Yes, definitely food for thought! Thank you both for your comments.

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