The Power of the Writing Therapy Cycle

This post could’ve easily been about the tragic event that occurred in my life last month. It isn’t. Instead, it’s about writing and healing via fiction and how it continues to pay you back later. What this isn’t about is free writing, journaling, or writing poetry. All are worthwhile, but my focus here is on fiction.


Courtesy: Pixabay

I’ll also stress that I’m not a trained mental health professional! In times of great crisis you need to find the correct help for you.

Also know that I don’t believe in fate. I believe there are events we can and cannot control, but we always have the free will to respond. For a character, that’s called agency.

The Writing Therapy Cycle looks like this:

  • the initial event
  • negative consequences
  • coping mechanisms
  • finding silver linings
  • writing therapy
  • benefits to readers
  • any secondary event
  • writing therapy cycle payback

The Initial Event

I’ve had enough of profound trauma lately so I’ll use an event that’s rather pedestrian in comparison: my college degree.

In high school I received zero career guidance from either parent. I also had an awful guidance counselor who ignored my interests and skills, instead pointing towards business. College, though, didn’t happen then, but instead over a decade later. Foolishly, I took up the mantle of bad guidance advice and earned a hated business degree.

Negative Consequences

Simple. I struggled to find work because I was reluctant and unenthusiastic in every job interview. All I could think about was a lifetime of despised 9 to 5. Too, I had a generic degree because I devoted every elective to non-business classes to keep my sanity.

As time passed, it became obvious on my resumé that no one else had hired me after graduation. Also, by virtue of having the wrong degree, I wasn’t qualified for anything else.

Coping Mechanisms

None. Frustrated, I blamed everyone else and became a negative mess.

It required the best counselor I ever had three years after graduation to point out that I’d lied to myself. He also showed me it was okay to be the creative I was at heart. Five years after that, I saw him regularly for six years for a far bigger crisis.

Finding Silver Linings

Don taught me this and, yes, I love the movie Silver Linings Playbook.

So, was my degree wasted? No. For one, graduating boosted my self-esteem. I’d have seen that if I wasn’t so angry over the result. Don helped me take ownership.

Remember me avoiding business classes? Well, my insightful subconscious had me take communications, literature, and writing classes because I was passionate about them (they were also responsible for my highest grades … there’s irony there).

A clearer mind enabled recalling all the professors who’d urged me to NOT pursue the business degree because my true gift was writing. Yeah, you can’t make this stuff up.

Writing Therapy

Let’s leap ahead to 2019 and Zephtasha Barcaine in Case of the Cryptic Design. She’s a witch on probation who can never be a full witch again, yet clings to that path. The irony is, her skills, talents, and personality are better suited for what she’s already doing to survive on probation.


Courtesy: Pixabay

Thus, there are scenes like this:

“Zeph.” Haughly, already five inches taller without her heels, bent to meet her eye level. “This is your life, it’s all around you.”

“No.” Her hand went to her breast and the concealed key. “I’m a witch—”

“Who’s escaped that oppressive Coven Center and created a richer life for herself.”

Pulling back her shoulders, she shook her head. “No. This life is temporary. I’ll finish my probation and become a witch again.”

“A witch without a coven, Zeph.”

“I’ll … I’ll figure something out. I’ll go to Shorus Island. They’re less formal about, well, almost everything. I’ll go there. I’ll hide.”

In so writing, I went from accepting what’d happened to a deeper understanding. I learned even more about myself from writing that story because I had to construct the arguments and counter arguments.

Benefits to Readers

All of the above makes for a better story (there are other themes too). There’s character flaws, tension, and lessons the character learns. Drawing from my own experience made it richer. Oddly enough, I wasn’t aware of the theme until editing.

Of course, it goes without saying that this could help anyone who’s been through or is facing a similar situation.

Any Secondary Event

This means any later crisis, directly related or not. After all, the above theme is about a character in crisis needing to learn.

For me, that next crisis came in the spring of 2020. The pandemic was exploding. I’d lost my job. My financial situation was precarious. The local counselor I was seeing online was utterly failing me. Down I went, hitting rock bottom that May.

Writing Therapy Cycle Payback

Drowning while my seemingly indifferent counselor watched, I even compared her to Don. More indifference.

Remembering Don, though, sparked me to do for myself. One action was reading that novel. It lifted me, inspired me. Fiction can be a powerful force and that story made me believe in myself again.

It was the cycle. Bad events that began in high school led to helping save me decades later. There are so many benefits to readers, but there are benefits to us, too. Remember that when opening yourself up to your story. It’ll pay you back.


About Christina Anne Hawthorne

Alive and well in the Rocky Mountains. I'm a fantasy writer who also dabbles in poetry, short stories, and map making. My Ontyre tales are an alternative fantasy experience, the stories rich in mystery, adventure, and romance. Alternative fantasy? Not quite steampunk. Not quite gothic. In truth, the real magic is in those who discover what's within.
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