As a person often engaged in the act of writing, I know well the struggle and frustration of trying to express one’s thoughts through the written word. Yet, as difficult as it can be, writing can also be satisfying, offering an outlet for thoughts and feelings and emotions that can be kept in a journal for private reflection or shared with others. Writing is so many things: It is storytelling and poetry and history and memories alive on pages. Sometimes, writing is even therapy.
Write Around Portland is an innovative Portland non-profit, which thrives on the notion that writing can be a powerful source of healing. Since 1999, the organization has offered free writing workshops to isolated groups in the community, including people affected by HIV/AIDS, veterans living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, women affected by domestic violence, low-income seniors and many others. Volunteer workshop leaders encourage participants to unleash their voices on the page. Participants share their unique stories at community readings and in anthologies published by the organization.
Writing can be a healing tool for most people. Whether you are coping with a traumatic event, faced with a tough decision, or simply dealing with the ups and downs of everyday life, writing can be enormously helpful. Here are some ways to turn writing into a healing experience:
1) Write from the heart. Choose topics that tap into your emotions and include happy topics as well troubling ones. In addition to writing about things that frustrate you or make you sad, choose subjects that move you, make you happy, and make you laugh.
2) Try “freewriting.” You don’t always have to have a topic in mind when you sit down to write. Simply write about whatever comes into your mind without editing your thoughts or worrying about whether it sounds perfect. The idea is to let it flow.
3) Be honest. Emotional growth is hard to achieve when we aren’t honest with our feelings, open to admitting our own faults, and willing to at least try and see things from someone else’s point of view. These are things to consider when writing about personal experiences.
4) Try writing from prompts. Prompts are short phrases that help you focus your writing in a particular direction. Examples are: “I will never forget the day that. . .” or “I feel hurt because. . .” or “I am happy because. . .”
5) Write through the pain. When you have a painful experience bottled up inside you, it can be healing to get it out. Writing lets you do that in a safe, non-threatening way. It is a healthy way to express yourself when you may not be ready to actually talk about the issues.
6) Keep it safe if you don’t want others to read it, but consider sharing your writing, too. Discussing or sharing what you’ve written can often add to the healing process. Small writing groups allow people to grow as writers while simultaneously forming supportive communities. As Write Around Portland’s website puts it: “Writing and sharing stories helps us access our common humanity.”
For more information on Write Around Portland, visit www.writearound.org.
Erika is a writing mom. She lives in Milwaukie and teaches writing and communication courses at the University of Portland.
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