Last week I was having writer’s block with my main character, Olivia Blake, in my book Killer Therapy (working title). I was writing a therapy session where she was trying to get a client to open up to her, and I couldn’t figure out what she would say. It was very frustrating, particularly because his lines were coming super easy. I read article after article about how you are supposed to deal with uncooperative clients, and it got me nowhere.
Eventually I called up my sister and read her the part I had already written and she asked me what my process normally is for writing Olivia. Well, my process is pretty straightforward, she is my id, so I just write me. I write all of my dark thoughts and amoral desires and she comes to life on the pages. However writing Dr. Blake is different. She is me, but she is also a trained psychologist, and so I try to imagine what the therapists I’ve seen over the years would say.
My sister quickly disabused me of that notion. She told me, “Jen, you may not be a trained psychiatrist, but you have given a lot of advice over the years. What would you say to this guy?” Wow. I hadn’t thought about it that way. For some reason I had this idea in my head that going to school to study psychology would have changed me in some fundamental way, and I had never thought about treating a patient might be similar to the phone conversations I have with my siblings where I use my knowledge and experience to talk them through their problems. I felt so dumb for missing it. I had even already written a few scenes where she counsels her brother and gives him advise, the way that I do in real life, but it hadn’t occurred to me to apply this to her patients.
I think I was also holding on to this idea that she had to be perfect at her job. No one is perfect at their job, at least not all the time, and sometimes it can be hard to be professional when someone gets under your skin the way this patient does to Olivia. After our conversation, the words just began to flow out of me like they normally do. My writer’s block was nullified.
I still hope that I will be able to find a real psychologist or psychiatrist look over the book when it’s finished and make sure that I haven’t made any super huge mistakes in my writing, but I now have the confidence to write her interactions with her patients.