Tuesday, April 17, 2007

My Therapist's Tactics Work!

Mainly, my therapist, Karen, is helping me to reduce the stress in my life, so that I don't spend a majority of my time acting like a cornered lynx. If you know me at all, you know that I'm under a great deal of pressure. All that pressure causes your girl Flannery to flip out, lash out, weep, fret, pace, pick scabs, eat poorly, snap at people and make bad decisions. I've been to therapists before and they've usually been of the type to help me try to figure out what's wrong, which was useless to me. I know what my problems are; I just didn't know how to work through or around them. Usually, when faced with an obstacle I invent a rash and risky strategy and leap before I look. Sometimes that works, but usually, it just compounds my problems.

So I was skeptical when I sat down in Karen's office for the first time. I was preparing to waste time exploring why I was depressed, not how to move on. She started out by determining that I was under a lot of pressure and that we ought to start off by finding ways to reduce some of the stress in order to alleviate some of that pressure. In fact I was so surrounded by pressure, I really was having trouble determining what she meant. She kept saying, "Let's try to reduce your stress." I'd be like, OK, but I don't see how you're going to do that. My stresses seemed huge and out of my control: my work sucked, my commute sucked, my money issues sucked.

The things she told me to do at the first session seemed minor and I doubted that they would do me any good. But in the spirit of progress, I did try a few things and they seemed to work. They worked so well, in fact, that for the second session, I brought paper and pencil and took notes. I've been game to try just about any of her suggestions, but there was one piece of advice I was very reluctant to enact. Karen suggested I read a romance novel and told me it would be a nice way to keep my mind on romance and not lose sight of all that could be torrid/turgid in my life. I have to say, I am baring my soul here, so please be gentle when mocking me in the comments section. She backed up her advice by quoting studies that said women who read romance novels were happier in general.

I smiled and nodded and mentally tossed this idea right in my mental trash bin. I've read romance novels before. I used to work the midnight shift in a print room and I'd get so bored around 3:30 a.m. that I'd root through the drawers looking for anything to read, a pack of gum, instructions for assembling said desk, anything. Fortunately the day shift girl kept a stock of Harlequin romances in the drawer. In my experience, here is the plotline for ALL romance novels.
  • Priveledged woman is succeeding in life
  • Priveledged woman meets maverick cowboy/artist/Scotsman
  • They hate each other at first and/or they fall madly in love
  • They break each other's hearts out of stupidity or miscommunication
  • They both go back to safer lovers or decide to date that guy/girl his/her mother always favored and nagged about
  • A tragedy strikes
  • They realize they can't live without each other
  • They set sail/ride/fly off into the sunset
Sometimes you could encounter a priveledged man and a maverick woman, but the plotlines rarely varied from this formula. Frankly, I'd rather read the instructions for putting a desk together.

A week or so after she gave me this new suggestion, I found myself at the library with the girls. They were playing in the children's section and I told them I was going to dash over to the audio books to find some books for my commute. This is another of Karen's suggestions: to make sure I always have some book or music to escape to while driving. She also recommended that I make sure my car is my haven. Since I've followed those instructions, my commute has become a dream; it is my time to reflect, to drive, to learn, to be entertained. I now look forward to driving to work.

Anyway, I had to pick quickly since I hate to have the girls out of my sight in a public place. But this library is small and I could hear them over by the audio books, so I wasn't too worried about them. But I did try to choose quickly. I found a Hamish Macbeth mystery, The Death of a Maid, an Agatha Christie mystery, And then there were none, some old Sherlock Holmes radio shows, and, on impulse, Impossible, by Danielle Steele.

It took me a while to get around to listening to Impossible, but eventually I did. I won't go into the plot details here because I can already tell you are too smart for this piece of shit. It was so redundant, it broke all the rules of good writing (and not in a good way), it was predictable, it was clunky, it was stupid. I did not feel more romantic about my life at all. This book pissed me off, insulted my intelligence, and stretched my willing suspension of disbelief until it snapped in two.

But it did do something for me: I now know that my novel will be, if anything, better than Impossible. And you know what? Feeling superior is an aphrodisiac, so I guess in a way, this book did rekindle the fire in my writing loins. As for my other loins, maybe I'll try to find a romance novel with Fabio on the cover.

Unless you have any suggestions?


  1. I crush and smother you with my love for writing this post. You're so great for trying/going to a therapist.

    Currently I don't have stress in my life, but oh, is depression my lifelong frenemy. I would love to be able to write about it but he sits on my hands and doesn't let me.

    After reading your post though, maybe I'll be able to wrangle something out.

  2. Yes, get back to writing your book!I've been waiting for more.

  3. I could have told you that whatever you're writing is better and smarter than anything by Danielle Steele. :)

    You have 59 minutes left in your session. Tell me about your mother.

  4. You left out one key element of all romance novels. The maverick guy is always endowed with a huge, throbbing "manhood," which he uses to deflower the priveleged maiden and, amazingly, the fact that she's getting plowed for the FIRST time by an enormous "staff" without the benefit of any foreplay doesn't prevent her from having a mind-blowing orgasm.

  5. Tanya: Yeah, me and depression go way back. I don't let him get in my way anymore. I'm also not ashamed of him. Thanks for crushing me with your love; that always helps!

    Elizabeth: I've started the next chapter...

    Deadspot: XOXOX and I know. I'd forgotton that she wrote at the second grade level. As far as my mother goes, she's an awesome, over-achieving go-getter who loves slapstick.

    Beckeye: You're right, i forgot that bit. Sadly, though, that element is conspicuously absent from Danielle Steele's book. She was all, "...they made love at night and again in the morning, which was their habit." This book was all exposition. It was like reading a 300 page pamphlet on romance published by the IRS.

  6. I want the steamier parts of that book published herein: after all, it looks like he's givin' her some uppa' da BUTTA! on the cover, and I thought anal was a topic usually avoided.

    I listened to "Gone with the Wind" for 50 hours; that did it for ME for romance for the rest o' me life.

  7. My only experience with "real" romance novels was as a teenager, and to flip to the best parts and giggle/turn red.

    I've heard Lady Chatterly's Lover is pretty hot, and I think it might be considered a classic or something. It's too intimidating for me to pick up for some reason.

  8. I would say that you need to find a romance novel WITHOUT Fabio on the cover to ignite your "other" loin fire.

    I can't wait to read what you're writing Flann! I hope you'll share.

  9. Oh, and bring up his "Quivering Member."

  10. I guaran-damn-tee you your book will be better than all of Danielle Steele's put together!

    As far as romance suggestions, my mom reads mostly trash and I've been known to pick it up when I can't find any good assembly instructions lying about. She's fond of a series by Diana Gabaldon. I can't remember what they're called, but they do involve a Scotsman. And time travel I think.

    Your book will be better than those, too.

  11. I've read romance novels for years. I read several other types as well, but when I get stressed I read romance. Why? Because they are mind fluff, there is nothing to think about. Just a nice fluffy story that I can follow along.
    As for Danielle Steel, her writing has gone downhill. There are a few of her books I like Heartbeat is my favorite, Thurston House, The Rinf, and Secrets.
    As for other writers...how much time have you got?
    Email me if you want a list of really good authors.

  12. Amy: I've read LCL; it's not so intimidating. D.H. Lawrence is a mighty fine writer.

    Boob Lady: Just email me and I'll "invite" you to read the blog that has my novel on it.

    Megan: Thank you! I'm going to the library tonight and see if I can find something by Gabaldon.

    Raven: Thanks for the suggestions! I will definately pick some of these up.

  13. I will pass along Karen's tips to my wife if you don't mind. Please update her suggestions as the come.

    Additionally, that guy totally looks like me.

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  15. you are correct about the plot being the same 'ol stuff most of the time. I never read Danielle Steel, can't stand the movies so I figure the books wouldn't be much better. You could try something by Christine feehan or Lora Leigh. Basically same plot, but with vampires and/or shapeshifters. Puts a twist on things, lol. Love your blog btw.

  16. Grant Miller: I will gladly share my tips with you; I can only imagine the amount of pressure your wife must be under.

    Dale: I did enjoy that article! Thanks for sharing it!

    Anon.: Thanks for the suggestions I will add them to the list, though not the vampire ones. I hate vampires.