OLD BUT GOOD ADVICE: WRITE ABOUT WHAT YOU KNOW
When I started writing silly poems as a young child then moved on to adolescent, angst-filled poetry, I wasn’t thinking about writing for an audience. All I wanted was to put pen to paper. In the first instance, I suppose I enjoyed the simple pleasure of creating rhymes, although I certainly wasn’t conscious of my motivation. In the second, I was looking for a way to express the anguish I felt throughout much of my teenage years.
As an adult, I realized that I wanted people to hear what I had to say and came face to face with considering exactly what that was. After trying my hand at novels, short stories, and screen-writing, I was fortunate to snag an agent who tactfully suggested that I write about what I know which happens to be, on a personal and professional level, the problem of emotional eating and how to overcome it.
But, I insisted, I want to be a fiction writer, someone who imagines the thoughts of other people living in other places. Quite frankly, the idea of writing about what I’d gone through decades before making myself miserable by dieting, binge-eating, and purging didn’t exactly light my fire, literarily speaking. Did I really want to dredge up all that ugliness? Was I sure I wished to expose my dysfunctional behavior to intimates and strangers alike? What could I possibly say that would be worth my time and effort and help readers improve their relationship with food?
As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. I found out I had plenty to say and that writing about my experiences coupled with my clinical knowledge was both pleasurable, publishable, and profitable. To date, I’ve written five books on eating and weight and have a sixth partially finished.
To be honest, I still yearn to write fiction, but I couldn’t have honed my writing skills without my non-fiction endeavors. They forced me to: think about characterization as I wrote case studies and summarized anecdotes from my clinical practice, consider my writing voice which turned out to be folksy and sassy, be mindful of pacing and of what ideas to include and leave out, and attend to dramatic tension as I weaved back and forth between theory and practice. Ironically, readers say they love my writing because they can tell that I’ve walked in their shoes. It seems they’re praising my verisimilitude and telling me they value that I’m writing about what I know.
About the Post Author:
Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed., is the author of five books on eating and weight, a psychotherapist, eating coach with a worldwide clientele and a national speaker. She is an expert on the psychology of eating—the how and why, not the what of eating—with over 30 years of experience treating troubled eaters.
Her articles and essays have appeared in Social Work Focus, Social Work Today, Eating Disorders Today, The Newsletter for the Society for Family Therapy and Research, The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Attitudes Magazine, and Positive Change and she has been quoted in Ladies Home Journal, The Wall Street Journal, Body and Soul, Berner Zeitung, Women’s Health, In Touch, Self, Shape, Weight Watchers, and OK magazines. Ms. Koenig has taught seminars and lectured at Simmons College School of Social Work, Boston University School of Social Work, Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, the National Association of Social Work, the Massachusetts Dietetic Association, the National Organization for Women, the Multi-service Eating Disorder Association of Massachusetts, the University of South Florida Department of Social Work, and the Florida Writers Association.
A graduate of Simmons College School of Social Work, Ms. Koenig practices psychotherapy in Sarasota.
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