How Writing Heals
When life takes an unexpected turn, writing can be a beneficial, form of release from stress due to either emotional or physical factors. Many published authors have used writing as a catalyst for their survival during difficult times. Some of them include: Anais Nin, Joan Didion, Reeve Lindbergh, Tobias Wolff, D.H. Lawrence, Isabel Allende, Vivian Gornick, Kathryn Harrison, Sue William Silverman, and May Sarton.
For these writers and many others, writing has given a purpose and meaning to their lives. It has given them a reason to wake up in the morning and continue on with their day.
Writers Healed by Writing
D.H. Lawrence, for example, sat at his mother’s bedside and while she was dying and wrote poems about her. He also began writing an early draft of Sons and Lovers, his novel which explored their complicated, loving, painful and close relationship. Marcel Proust wrote Remembrance of Things Past while sick in bed with asthma. Flannery O’Connor wrote some of her best stories while dying from lupus.
Authors May Sarton and Anais Nin used journaling to pull them through difficult times. In her book, Recovering, May Sarton chronicles her battles with depression and cancer. Anais Nin used her journals to write to her deranged father who left the family when she was young. In Nin’s case, her journal entries became a springboard for a four-volume collection of her journals.
How Writing Helped Me
I wrote my first book, Getting Pregnant and Staying Pregnant: A Guide to High-Risk Pregnancies back in 1983 while on bed rest with my eldest daughter. The book began as a journal typed on my Smith Corona mounted upon a specially-designed bed table my husband built for me. After my daughter was born, I condensed the journal into a prologue and added research to create a self-help reference book for women having similar experiences. Now, more than twenty years later, the book is still in print and has helped many women cope with problem pregnancies.
Advantages of Writing
Writing provides an opportunity to vent both small and large issues, from problems with your boss to the death of a parent. It takes a great deal of energy to be angry at someone; it’s much healthier to drop it, as one would a suitcase full of trash. Holding grudges is unhealthy and certainly quite heavy! Once we are able to let go, it’s easier to gravitate to the joys in life.
Journaling is a cathartic way to spill your feelings out on the page rather than on the person. My attitude is: “Direct the rage to the page.” I have a writing colleague who says, “If it hurts, write harder,” and for years those words were posted above my computer, until they simply became a part of me.
Writing Dissolves Barriers
James Pennebaker, the author of Writing to Heal says that, “Writing dissolves some of the barriers between you and others. If you write, it’s easier to communicate with others.”
He does have one rule that he calls, “the flip out rule,” which proclaims that if you get too upset when writing, then simply stop. Pennebaker believes that there’s a certain type of writing which erupts when we’re faced with loss, death, abuse, depression, and trauma. Whether you’re affected by change, loss or pain, finding the time to write is critical to your healing process. Some people prefer to journal about their experience, while others may lean towards the fictional or poetic modalities to help them escape their own realities. Whatever your choice, once you try it, you’ll see that writing, in any form, can be healthy and empowering.
Some Reasons to Journal
- To discover about one’s self
- To vent frustrations and joys
- To record and remember events
- To fine one’s purpose
- To plan for the future
- To tap into your intuition
- To become empowered
- To build self-confidence
- To allow self-expression
- To uncover secrets, sometimes unknown to us
- To improve communication skills
- To improve mental health
Some Journaling Tips
- Date entries
- Don’t worry about grammar
- Write honestly and deeply
- Write quickly
- Don’t erase
- Write for yourself
Some Journaling Prompts
- Make a list of things which make you happy. Choose two to write about
- Make a list of all your accomplishments.
- Write about your first memory.
- Write about books which have changed your life and why.
- Write about an experience which transformed you.
- Write about someone who you admire.
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