Q & A with A(ndrew) & A(nn)

Long time members of the same writing group, Andrew Fruman & Ann Yu-Kyung Choi candidly answer three questions about writing and mental health.

This post was originally published on the 11th Floor Writers website on December 28, 2020

Question 1: What benefits does writing have on your overall mental wellness?
Andrew: It’s a release for what’s going on in my head. So it can be therapeutic, in a similar way to talking things out. There have been many periods in my life when I have been depressed, including recently, and writing has helped me during those times. And it doesn’t just provide me with an outlet, but does so in a creative and constructive manner.

Ann: I struggled with clinical depression in my teens and my twenties. All my counsellors and therapists advised me to write, so for the longest time I associated writing with pain. Every misery, every thought of self-harm and suicide – everything I could not tell even my closest friends – I buried in my writing. Even now as I write this my heart is pounding, but that’s okay. I’ve been in a good headspace throughout my thirties and forties, and now at 52, I’ve got a much better understanding of my mental wellness needs. This has allowed me to see that writing is simply capturing whatever my thoughts are at any given moment whether I’m working on a manuscript or journalling. 
Question 2: What value is there in writing when you don’t feel like it?
Andrew: I often don’t feel like writing. Maybe I’m tired, or I don’t think I have the right mental energy for it, but once I start going, it doesn’t take long for those feelings to change. Just sitting there getting the words out, pushes my brain in the right direction, and I’m always thankful I chose to persevere through my initial reservations.

Ann: Writing has become part of my regular routine just like any job. That said, there are different types of writing. I still journal but only when I’m feeling crappy. It allows me to clear my head since the more I’m able to communicate my thoughts, the better I understand where I am emotionally and mentally. Writing is different from talking to someone since we’re tapping into different parts of the brain. It requires a lot of mental and creative energy. We’re trying to bring order to our thoughts. I feel my brain hard at work when I’m trying to come up with the right word and phrasing or trying to synthesize complex ideas and emotions. Even now as I write, I feel focused and productive – which is a good thing when I’m not feeling in the mood to do anything else.
Question 3: How does being part of a writing community help you move past barriers or obstacles in the writing process?
Andrew: It’s hard to be your own critic. Whether that’s from a positive or negative standpoint. I find that’s especially true if I’ve been working on something for a while. So receiving regular feedback is necessary in gaining perspective on my work. Being part of a group also provides an encouraging support system, which helps make writing feel like less of a solitary pursuit. We all help each other and it’s exciting to see us grow together.

Ann: Being part of a writing community has allowed me to expand my understanding of living the writer’s life. Most of us juggle multiple writing projects, deal regularly with rejection of our written work, and balance family and other professional responsibilities. Being together for as long as we have has allowed a strong sense of trust to develop. We are willing to share and take risks with our writing because of that. This is immensely important because of the emotional vulnerability involved with sharing works-in-progress. I really appreciate the diversity of ideas and opinions that each person brings. It is also gratifying to witness and to be a part of others’ professional growth and success. 

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