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May 3, 2022

Writing saved my Life—it’s Where I Learned to Love Myself.

 

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“I think writing really helps you heal yourself. I think if you write long enough, you will be a healthy person. That is, if you write what you need to write, as opposed to what will make money or what will make fame.” ~ Alice Walker
~

The Call to Write

There are times when I feel like writing has saved my life. It has been one of the most constant threads in my life since childhood. I have lots of bits and pieces—some gathered, and others lost in a shoe box or old notebook.

I long to complete one of my book projects and blog regularly like I have in the past. In fact, I’ve had a pretty big hiatus from putting my words into the world over the last few years. I’ve literally been trying to get started here on Elephant Journal for over a year. The call to write and share my words is getting stronger once again.

So today, here I am!

I am always writing in some way, shape, or form. I believe that writing is a pathway to transformation and healing. It is an art and a creative endeavor. It can be a life path or career for some. It is a way to integrate, learn, teach, and manifest what is unseen into the seen so it can be received by oneself and others in meaningful and profound ways. It is a choice to write but one that comes from deep within my heart and soul. I often feel like writing is the key to everything else flowing in my life.

“I write in order to find out what I truly know and how I really feel about certain things. Writing requires me to go much deeper into my thoughts and memories than conversation does.” ~ Leslie Marmon Silko 

Writing Saved My Life 

I was serious when I stated that “writing saved my life.”

As an only child and teen growing up alone with a parent with severe mental illness, I lived in isolation. I did not have a lot of connection with family, friends, and community. Reading was one of my escapes, and writing followed suit. It was hard to keep a journal as that did not feel safe, but I was able to write poetry, plays, and short stories. It gave me an outlet for the thoughts and feelings that were bubbling inside of me, ones that I was not consciously aware of.

I often had to work hard to shut down my feelings to stay safe and survive. Writing provided me with a way to cope with the day-to-day experience of trauma and abuse. In fact, I wrote a whole imaginary life that I could put myself into to feel okay.

“Reading is like breathing in; writing is like breathing out.” ~ Pam Allyn

Writing carried forward from my difficult childhood and teen years into my adult life with poetry taking the lead. It was where I was able to begin to unearth some of those unexpressed feelings and memories. I found myself a community of spoken word poets, and it was in sharing at open mics that I began to find my voice.

In my 20s, I also began to journal regularly and later adopted Julia Cameron’s morning pages as a daily practice. I still do morning pages today, almost consistently! I’ve found that as I move through different healing phases of my life, and particularly when I was healing from trauma and addiction, writing was a powerful way to explore and process my experiences and emotions and to foster integration.

Knowing Myself and Reclaiming my Power

Writing became a safe place for me to get to know and love myself. When feelings or memories arose that did not feel safe to share with others, I was able to share them with myself through writing. This process supported building the courage to share my experiences of trauma with others.

At other times, I used writing as a way to process healing experiences and allow my emotions to move out of my body. It was a way to take ownership of my own life and to take back the power that had been stolen from me in my youth.

“Writing can be a lifeline, especially when your existence has been denied, especially when you have been left on the margins, especially when your life and process of growth have been subjected to attempts at strangulation.” ~ Micere Githae Mugo

Over time, my own healing journey led me to become a holistic and shamanic practitioner. Over the years, I’ve come to teach meditation, mindfulness, and other contemplative practices. Today, I view my writing as a way to share experiences, express ideas, and offer approaches that can help others on the journey of transformation and healing. Writing can open a door into how to practice and build a foundation in self-awareness, self-facilitation, and self-care. It is a framework that can support body, mind, emotion, and spirit.

Writing as a Transformative Process

Writing helps us to know ourselves in profound ways. Through prompts or journaling questions we can build a foundation that supports resilience and well-being. It can be used in so many ways—self-reflection, feelings inventories, gratitude lists, and creating a practice toolbox.

Over the years, I have led several month-long writing programs with specific themes such as “Writing to Heal Grief,” “Setting Intentions & Visioning Our Dreams,” and “Healing the Past, Embracing the Future.” Taking time to focus on a theme and write daily are things that I view as a type of inner vision quest. It’s a journey we can go on within ourselves, into the depths of our heart and soul, with writing as the vehicle. And it is in that journey where we find the “medicine” we need to heal and grow.

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” ~ Anne Frank

Processing Emotions and Experiences Through Writing

Writing offers a powerful tool for accessing and processing our emotions. One of my favorite writing practices is a feelings inventory or list poem. I simply write a stream of consciousness list about everything I am feeling in the moment or over the last day or week, depending on how I want to work with it. It could even be about a specific situation or person. This process, in and of itself, can create a release of these feelings or a way to begin to let them go.

An initial feelings inventory or list poem can also help to shine a light on where our inner work lies. Sometimes, I’ll continue by choosing one feeling to work with through additional list writing or I can find a healing practice that can help to work with difficult feelings or memories I’ve identified through my writing. Journaling can help to process all of this. One of my favorite healing stories emerged after working with this list process. It’s called “I’m Okay, Really!”

The topic of writing and journaling as a pathway for healing and transformation is one I share a lot. So stay tuned for more explorations here on Elephant Journal. I also see writing as a tool for building resilience and well-being. We certainly need to have lots of ways to build up inner strength and resources in our current, challenging world!

Here’s a post I wrote a few years ago on “Journaling for Health & Well-Being” with some practices for you to explore.

So to sum up my seven main motivations for writing, I see writing as:

1. A pathway for healing and transformation
2. A process for building resilience and well-being
3. A way to know, accept, and understand oneself deeply
4. An avenue for creative self-expression and self-exploration
5. A vehicle for teaching and guiding transformational and healing practices
6. A way to inspire others and oneself
7. An inner vision quest that helps to open the door to one’s soul path

I look forward to exploring writing and life with you here!

If you’d like to leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share anything my post stirred, or perhaps, why you write and one of your favorite quotes on writing, too!

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