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She speaks the simple line while recounting the layers she’s had to heal while writing her first book to arrive where she is now, ready to embark on writing her second book. On the other end of the line while attempting to hold steady the vessel for her brilliant insights and wild creativity, I had witnessed what writing her first book demanded of her. As layers disintegrated, pain and muck and gore were revealed. No matter how difficult the journey, she never quit. In her healing, I see how miraculous the attempt to write one’s truth is.

She’s not the first writer I’ve worked with who has suffered enormous physical, spiritual and emotional challenges in the midst of writing her story. The push and pull of fear and courage needed to show up for hours on end preforming an activity with absolutely no guarantee of success often brings up every single one of our negative self-talk and frustration at our own limitations and bad critiques. Rejection and even innocent passing comments often exacerbate self-loathing.

The writer’s co-dependent comment led me to PsychCentral where Darlene Lancer writes that “…researchers revealed that the characteristics of codependents were much more prevalent in the general population than had been imagined. In fact, they found that if you were raised in a dysfunctional family or had an ill parent, you’re likely codependent. Don’t feel bad if that includes you. Most American families are dysfunctional. You’re in the majority!”

Following is a Darlene’s list of symptoms of codependents. You needn’t have them all to qualify as codependent.

1) Low self-esteem

Self-doubts about your writing, the fear you’re not good enough or smart enough to write a worthy book, especially not compared to other writers you know, distract you from writing your story and lure you to give up.

2) People-pleasing

You spend inordinate time rewriting scenes to please others in your critique group sometimes even when doing so requires that you give-up parts of your own unique vision to fit other people’s expectations.

3) Poor boundaries

You spend inordinate time rewriting scenes to please others in your critique group sometimes even when to do so requires that you give-up parts of your own unique vision to fit other people’s expectations.

4) Reactivity

You receive a negative critique from a family member, friend, critique partner, yourself and you “either believe it or become defensive” and stop writing for days, months, sometimes even for years.

5) Caretaking

You put everyone and everything else ahead of your writing.

6) Control

You resist taking risks with your writing and attempt to control your characters from sharing the real truth of your feelings and emotions.

7) Dysfunctional communication

“Codependents have trouble when it comes to communicating their thoughts, feelings and needs.” Writing then becomes a constant struggle between skimming the surface of your character’s emotional lives and digging for the truth. “You’re afraid to be truthful, because you don’t want to upset someone else.”

8) Obsessions

You spend all your time talking and thinking and worrying about your story, always shrinking away from writing those really big scenes, afraid of making a mistake

Many of the writers I work with are to some degree codependent on their writing.

Does writing bring pain to the surface or does internal pain drive us to write?

Martha Alderson, M.A., aka Plot Whisperer, is an international plot consultant for writers and the author of the Plot Whisperer series of plot books for writers published by Adams Media — The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master, The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories and The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing. She self-published Blockbuster Plots Pure & Simple and is founder of PlotWriMo. Her clients include best-selling authors, writing teachers and fiction editors, and Hollywood movie directors.