wasn’t all that bad, actually. Just one
client with suicidal ideation, a couple with marital problems—not the
least of which is being homeless and raising four children—and one
positive methamphetamine test to contend with. Not to mention
facilitating two plan development meetings, developing a treatment plan
for one mom and her daughter, and writing my own progress notes. Oh,
and leading a therapeutic group of alternative teenagers who would
rather be doing anything else but attending group.
Nope, today wasn’t that bad at
I go home and encounter my sweet
child of two years running around a
floor littered with pieces of pretend food, cookware, and books. I
allow myself to be dragged to the couch to read most all the books
within reach, and then we eat dinner.
Afterward, I reach for my
laptop. Last night, before sleep caved in
on me, I told myself to remember to jot down something about a scene I
was working on. I’m trying to evoke those foggy memories when a little
pudgy hand pushes the top down of my laptop.
“’Puter away, Mommy. ’Puter
away.” She then grabs another book. “Read book?”
I’d be a monster to turn her
down. So we read some more, maybe play
with blocks or a puzzle, and then it’s time for her to brush her teeth,
take a bath, and dress for bed. My husband and I take turns with
bedtime routine, so I can sometimes sneak in a word or two while he’s
bathing her. I feel guilty at the relief I experience on the nights
he’s got toddler duty, but it means a precious few minutes of
uninterrupted thought, concentration, and actual typing.
After bath time, we talk about
our day—don’t worry, I don’t fill in my daughter about my day—and
then we pray and good-naturedly argue about who loves the other “the
mostest.” When her bedroom door gently thuds shut, with a contented
sigh I flop onto the couch.
For the next two hours or so, I
concentrate on my second occupation.
The one that doesn’t bring in a single cent but occupies a corner of my
mind continually. The one that’s like a scratch to my itch.
Writer by night.
I started out writing that
all-important autobiographical novel
(read: romance). The one where the main character looks, talks, and
acts like me. It was healing for me in a way I can’t quite explain to
others, and it kindled the passion I have had all my life for the
written word. I chose to write about a time in my life I deeply
regretted, and having the literary “me” make different choices, better
choices, was my way of apologizing to God, to myself, and to others I
encountered during that time.
course, after I finished this mere
230,000-word masterpiece, I immediately started another. I also began
to keep an idea notebook, the book ideas still rolling around inside my
head. It was during this process that I found tapping into my day job
as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist was the best fodder to
support my nighttime addiction of writing.
One in four people have a mental
disorder. This means two important things:
1) I have great day job security.
2) I have great night job material.
I began looking at fiction
through a new lens. I realized two
things: 1) The ugly truth that many of these disorders weren’t found in
Christian books (at least that I had read); and 2) the disorders
authors did deal with were mostly too stereotyped to be real. None of
those characters would have walked through my office door presenting
their symptoms as they were portrayed.
As a result of these epiphanies,
my nights have become more
productive. I generally take a disorder or common mental health problem
and work it into my manuscript. Sometimes the manuscript centers around
the disorder, sometimes it takes a backseat to romantic tension or
suspense, but either way, it’s there. It’s real. It’s neither
sugarcoated nor overblown.
Why? Because I base a lot of it
on real people I’ve counseled or
interacted with in some way. I never use identifying information, of
course, but the spirit of the problem remains intact, and brings a life
of its own to the page.
I mean, sometimes the real
experience is so good I can’t make up anything
Just as I get further into the
story—chapter seven already!—I
realize the time. If I’m not in bed by eleven o’clock at the latest, my
clients suffer for it the next day as I yawn and try to stay awake
during a session.
Reluctantly I close my laptop. I
have to check on the baby to make
sure she didn’t roll out from under her blanket. I track down the cat
to make sure she didn’t slip into the baby’s room before I shut the
door. Then I turn out the lights.
My brain stays awake a good
fifteen minutes after I lie down. Should
I have really allowed the hero to say that? What if he were to say this
instead? Then the heroine would have responded differently. That sounds
better. Much better, actually. He would totally put her off by feeding
into her insecurity. Yes!
I need to jot that down in the
morning before heading off to work...