Balancing Identities: Writer and Therapist

Ferns unfurling

Ferns unfurling

I’m finally able to call myself a psychotherapist. I earned my License in Clinical Social Work, and I am starting a private practice. It’s an exciting, nerve-wracking time, full of potential and joy. But one of the pieces I’m still wrangling with in my mind is how to make a life as both a therapist and a writer. Which piece do I prioritize when, and why. How do I create balance? How do I set aside time for both pieces of my identity?

I don’t have any good answers right now, but I’m going to try to create a process that might lead to some answers. Because sometimes process must precede understanding in order to lead to knowledge. My goal is to get up every morning and write. Or at least make time in the evening to think and write. I always feel more grounded and purposeful when I actually think with my hands and type. I love the unfolding of my mind: the way I touch parts of my experience that have remained wordless within my body when I finally sit and write on a keyboard. I like that sense of mental chaos falling into place — words shaping the mind’s process, the mind’s processes clinging to language and settling down so I can contemplate my mind’s life, my heart’s life, my body’s experience.

I find myself writing this post in part to acknowledge that before I knew I wanted to be a therapist (age 12) I knew I wanted to be a writer (age 6?). That both bring great meaning and satisfaction and surges of joy and terror into my life, and both are worthwhile. If I knew how to draw, I might draw a picture of myself with a pen in one hand and a mandala in the other. (I was trying to pick which representation of the human experience I should hold in my hand, and of course I considered holding a brain, but then I wanted to hold a brain and a heart, and then I wanted to hold the thinker, and then it got abstract and complicated, so I thought perhaps an abstract symbol of unity and integration would be the best option.) It gets complicated. But maybe these layers of complication are the richness of life. The delight of the unknown.

What next?

Last night I went through a major rite of passage. I sent my first full manuscript (a memoir) to a handful of friends for their loving and brutal critique. Lucky for them, it’s a short manuscript. Only 160 pages (which will be about 120 pages when typeset.) I’ve given them a month to read (and me a month to rest, or to wrestle with other projects of a non-confessional nature.)

Now I’m home, with my manuscript out in the world, wondering what to do with myself. Ta-da! Start a new blog. Yes!

For better, or worse, I have many options and many unfinished projects I could tackle. I’m almost tempted to put a vote button (if only I knew how to do such things!) down below and ask for a popular vote.

I have three options for my next project:

  1. Try to take my novella about Rapunzel and make it into a novel.
  2. Try to work on my short story collection.
  3. Try to work on my fairy tale collection.

(secret option #4, try to work on my devil story and make that into a novel.)

I’m not sure which project is calling to me at this time.

The screams that I hear loudest are those of my impending graduate coursework.  I definitely can’t get away from those responsibilities.

So I guess the big question will be, come September, will I still write?