Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts

Thursday, July 28, 2011

More Deadlines

It's Thursday night, and I have more writing deadlines. I'm late on my professional blog post at GoodTherapy.org (again), and I have a sermon to do for Sunday.

For the first 12 years of my parish ministry life, I preached about 46 Sunday sermons a year. I had time away for vacation, and occasionally for continuing education, or a bout with laryngitis, or a special guest preacher, but otherwise, I had a deadline every week. In addition, each year I had a half dozen Lenten sermons to write, a dozen or more funeral sermons to prepare, half a dozen wedding sermons, and a dozen or more newsletter columns to do. When I joined a staff for my last 8 years in the parish, the rhythm slowed to about every third Sunday plus the added services which I led. That's a lot of writing to the clock. That's a lot of writing, period. I know I learned to cope with this demand while an English major in college. What I remember most about my Major are the piles of papers I had to produce in every class. I was writing something, or some things, for some class All. The. Time.

I don't like that pressure. Never did. Even if I got good at it. So this is me, procrastinating, writing on my blog because I want to.

Writing well is not easy. It takes a lot of thought, and a pretty sharp mind. And a good deal of discipline. Just to be clear, I do have an idea what I'm going to write about on the GoodTherapy.org blog: I will be talking about how hard it is for family members to really listen to each other. And for my sermon, I will be talking about the OT story of Jacob wrestling with God as he makes his way back home to finally ask his brother Esau for forgiveness. So, I'm not a total slacker. I've got my central ideas for each project.

But whining occasionally helps me get back on track. And writing in my journal, or warming up on here. So tomorrow afternoon, after the gym, and my noon meeting, I'll be on the deck, writing my first drafts. Fountain pen to paper. Promise.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

TMI

One of my professional supervisors recently referred someone to my practice for couples counseling. A day or so later, my colleague got an angry call from this same person, wanting to know why he gave him my name. Did he actually know who I was?!

Of course, my colleague said. I gave you her name because she's a very good therapist.

I looked her up online. Have you read that newspaper column about the Church? he countered.

Well, yes, and I don't think there was anything in that column about the Church and child sex abuse that wasn't true, my mentor said. After some other choice words, the caller asked for a different referral.

I think that's what we call client "self selecting."
 
One of the risks of writing or speaking in public is that people may actually listen to you. Since most if not all of what I write would be considered persuasive speech, what happens as a matter of course is that some people will agree with me, and some people won't. And in that process, some form strong opinions of me as a therapist, or former pastor, or even as a human being.

And while occasionally it brings with it positive, affirming comments, it's the angry, bitter, divisive opinions that most often get shared with me. Before the internet, my audience was my congregation and those who received the local paper. Now, my published words are stored, copied and accessible for anyone who wants to find them online.

Being someone who likes people, ideas and happy relationships, it's a bit painful to hear that my name is being denigrated for an opinion that is factually true and holds church leaders accountable for their power over children. Am I willing to stand up for what is true, and advocate for change in the Church, for example, even if I get personally attacked? I am. But I will also have to grow a thicker skin, because some people who might have sought me out for therapy will turn elsewhere, convinced I can't serve them because I don't think just like them.

Too Much Information: does my writing give potential clients too much information before they contact me? Should a psychotherapist be perceived, as we once were, as aloof, private blank slates upon whom clients projected their lives for reflection and perspective? With all my words out there, that's not possible for me. I believe that I have been given an important opportunity to write, think and reflect on life in newsprint and online, and I'm not going to waste it.

If people who might become my clients think it's important to vet my ideas for their own version of truth and correctness, so be it. We probably wouldn't be happy together as client and therapist, anyway. I seek the light of God in every person I serve. If a client can't get their focus off of me and onto themselves, we won't get anywhere.

Best they find themselves a therapist they THINK thinks just like them. I guess that's what being online does for me: if someone believes their counselor needs to pass a political or religious litmus test to help them, they can test drive me without ever dialing the phone. And I'll just keep working to help those whose hearts open to include the unique writer, person and therapist I am.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Losing the Boundaries

I've been reading about blogging, and it seems that I'm not doing it right.

Those in the know about such things tell us writers, mostly in their blogs, that to blog is to create a personal online community, one which is thirsty for the writer's words and self revelations; writing that steps toward the daily Diary or Journal, and away from more sedate Opinion or Editorial. The most successful of blogs these days - and it seems to change every day - drone on and on about the personal trials of having a newborn, or looking for a job, or recreating the work place, or reinventing the government, or the economy, or the Church. Again. These exemplars are often writing on the fly, with nary a concern for punctuation, spelling, brevity, or privacy. It's all about capturing the reader, and capturing as many as possible.

You may have noticed that I'm not much of a rebel when it comes to the niceties of the published essay. I have spent far too many years putting words into sentences to drop punctuation or spelling for the sake of being current. In fact, I hate it when I find a mistake after I hit the Publish Post button. And having a couple of deadlines to meet (in newsprint and online) makes me very unlikely to post here too often.

But for this writer/preacher/therapist to blur the boundary between self and audience, to say more than is prudent, to share information that I've been asked to hold as private: that's a scary thought. 

To have good human relationships, in part, means to know that there is a real difference between me and you. And the differences need to have breathing room, space to breathe, and respect from each of us to flourish. If I blather on and on about just myself in this space between us, there isn't any room for you. If you trust me with personal, sensitive information and I write about it, I've broken your trust. Even if someone else wants to read about it for the drama of it all. Even if it seems entertaining.

So, I guess I'll be at the back of the blogging pack on this one. I won't write specifically about any of my clients. I won't share anything of my family without thinking several times and then asking permission. I'm going to stay away from the most personal in order to say more about the shared. I'm going to be a blogger who posts less frequently, does more editing, and points more often beyond my little life to the world beyond.

Call me a slacker. It's just how I roll. Or write. :-)