This is a guest post by Diana M. Raab. Diana is the author of Healing With Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey (Loving Healing Press, 2010). You can visit her blog or website. Diana is participating in the WOW! Women On Writing Blog Tour.
Many published authors, including myself, have used writing as a catalyst for their survival during difficult times.
Some of them include: Anaïs Nin, Joan Didion, Reeve Lindbergh, Tobias Wolff, D.H. Lawrence, Isabel Allende, Vivian Gornick, Kathryn Harrison, Sue William Silverman, and May Sarton.
For us, writing has provided purpose and meaning to our lives. It gives one a reason to wake up in the morning and continue on with the day.
D.H. Lawrence, for example, sat at his mother’s bedside and while she was dying, wrote poems about her. He also began composing 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. I wrote my first book, Getting Pregnant and Staying Pregnant back in 1983 while on bed rest with my eldest daughter.
The book began as a journal typed on my Smith Corona that was mounted on 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.
My most recent book Healing With Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey also began as a journal and was recently published as a self-help memoir to help others battling cancer.
My background as a writer allows me to help and teach others while helping myself navigate through difficult times.
May Sarton and Anais Nin also used journaling to pull them through difficult times. In her book, Recovering, May Sarton chronicled her battle with depression and cancer. Anaïs 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 published diaries. As one can see, journaling can be a cathartic way to express feelings. 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.
At an Associated Writing Conference a few years ago, Dr. James Pennebaker, author of Writing to Heal said, “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 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.
Reasons to journal
To discover yourself
To vent frustrations and cherish 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
Don’t worry about grammar
Be honestly and write deeply
Write for yourself
Make a list of things which make you happy.
Make a list of what makes you angry.
Make a list of your accomplishments.
Write about your morning. Waking up, breakfast, the newspaper, the thoughts. Visualize a place you love and write about it. Give details.
What is your first memory?
Describe your childhood room.
Who are the people you love?
Describe a grandparent.
Write about books which have changed your life and why.