Tag Archives: dysfunctional families

The One Writing Skill You Must Have

by Lillian Csernica on December 11, 2017


Here we are in the holiday season. This time of year will stress out anybody, even those people lucky enough to have a “normal” family life. Writers often come from dysfunctional families. Writers often have mental health issues. Put it all together and the holiday season can be quite a gauntlet to run, between day jobs, holiday preparations, family gatherings, and the desperate struggle for time and space write.

My therapist taught me a skill that I will now pass along to you. This skill is designed to buy you the mental and emotional space you need to survive when you find yourself overwhelmed. Your mileage may vary, but give it a try. Three simple words:

Achieve literary distance.

How does one do this? Here’s my method. I always have my tote bag with me. At the moment it contains four notebooks, two manuscripts, one of those zippered pouches for pens, and a few other odds and ends. I take the tote bag everywhere. When life gets too intense, I pull out a notebook and a pen. If I’m stuck in a line, I spot the most interesting people and jot down quick lists of their notable physical and behavioral traits. If I’m in a waiting room, I might write a scene involving two of the people waiting there also.


The point here is to derail our anxiety by making our trains of thought switch tracks. Becoming consciously more observant puts us into a more objective state of mind. Sometimes what we really need is to get out of our own heads. By calling on the skills that help us achieve literary distance, we can at least get out of the Anxiety Attic and go hang out in the Creativity Corner.  When we deliberately shift our focus outward, we may very well lower our anxiety levels.

I know this works for me. I get all stressed out about being on time, getting everything done according to my To Do list, or I’m all knotted up mentally because of a conflict with a family member.  When I achieve literary distance, that helps me step back, take that deep breath, connect pen to paper, and re-establish a calmer, more flexible state of mind.


Make this skill work for you. If you like texting ideas on the Notepad function of your phone, go for it. If you need a blank journal with no lines and a few broken crayons, more power to you. If you just want to sit in a comfy spot and take some mental notes along with a few deep breaths, that’s good too.

Writing is our superpower. We can use it to rescue ourselves.





Filed under Christmas, creativity, Depression, editing, Family, Fiction, frustration, Lillian Csernica, neurodiversity, Special needs, therapy, Writing

Are We Having Fun Yet?

by Lillian Csernica on December 24, 2014

Here in the U.S. it’s Christmas Eve.  The gifts are wrapped.  The pies are baked.  The cats have been firmly discouraged from exploring the Christmas tree.

Now comes the hard part.  Relaxing.  Enjoying time with family.  Basking in that warm glow of togetherness.  I don’t know about you, but if I don’t keep busy, the Ghosts of Christmas Past will start floating into mind.  One common symptom of depression is recurring memories of past disappointments, sorrows, etc.  That’s a slippery slope.  If I don’t guard against those thoughts, I’ll end up riding a mental bobsled right down into the Pit.  I don’t want to go there.  It’s not that I want or expect to be all happy and chipper and just gushing with love for my nearest and dearest.  If I start acting like that, somebody needs to check my meds.  I just want to keep the peace.  Given that there are four other adults in the house (including Michael’s nurse) and we all have our issues, that isn’t as easy as it might sound.

Thank God for Christmas movies.  These are my favorites:

We pop one of those into the DVD/Blu-Ray player and two hours goes by while we share the laughs.  We don’t have to talk to each other beyond the occasional passing comment.

Dinner is a different matter.  Then we do talk.  We encourage John to share his thoughts on whatever the current subject might be.  Michael adds his two cents as well.  Then we clean up and scatter to our various computers, projects, books, or, on special occasions, maybe even a board game or two.  My sister gave John “Jenga Boom!” for his birthday.  The game never fails to make me yelp, which John and Michael both find highly entertaining.

If I sound gloomy, let me assure you that I’m not.  I’m just thinking out loud.  There’s a lot to be happy about right now.  In my previous post I mentioned the two stories that are due on 12/31.  They’re in!  I emailed them to the editor the day before yesterday.  She confirmed receipt.  I created those stories out of a handful of ideas and whipped them into shape in record time.  All this work during NaNoWriMo and now putting those two stories together makes me think I won’t need a New Year’s Resolution about productivity.  I know I can do this, and do it every day.  Garden of Lies is halfway written in roughdraft, so I’ll keep on plowing ahead.

The other day I was thinking about how many Christmases I’ve celebrated.  How many times I’ve put up trees, baked cookies, survived scouring the malls for the right gifts.  A lot of what happens during the holidays is familiar, so I don’t get all that excited about it anymore.  That’s OK.  There are still traditions that I love and I enjoy all the more now that my sons are here to enjoy them with me.  Decorating the Christmas tree, stuffing the boys’ stockings, and tonight’s treat, driving around looking at Christmas lights.  My neighbors are crazy.  I’m so happy we moved to this neighborhood.  These people really know how to whoop it up come the holiday season.

I’m tired, but that’s OK too.  The important activities have gotten done.  We’re ready for the quiet pleasures of Christmas Eve, and the rowdy joys of Christmas morning.

Wherever you are, whatever holy day you celebrate, I wish you good health, good fortune, and all the joys of the season.


Filed under Christmas, Depression, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Family, Fiction, Goals, marriage, Self-image, Special needs, Writing