Diana Raab reveals her experience of writing as a process of healing and offers guidance on how others can use writing as part of their recovery.
We are all storytellers. Stories help us understand and make sense of our lived experiences, the lessons we’ve learned, and our dreams for the future. The stories of difficult life situations or experiences are often complicated, but they are stories that must be told. In fact, there is nothing much more important than acknowledging and writing our own personal narratives as a way to examine our lives, in terms of what happened, what it was like, and where we are now. Studies have shown that such writing allow us to change our perspective, which in the end leads to more self-awareness through deeper insights and thus to recovery. Writing for healing is very useful when recovering from trauma such as PTSD and certain illnesses. It is also helpful when in recovery from addictions. Sometime memories from our past experiences become blurred, and writing can help us organize our thoughts.
Some people find it useful to write as they move through a chaotic or difficult time; but, more often than not, a certain distance from the event offers a better perspective needed for healing and transformation. It took me more than forty-five years to write about the trauma of finding my grandmother dead from suicide. The distance provided the perspective I needed to understand why she chose to depart from this life in such a way.
If you write about something you are presently going through, you will more than likely be writing an account of the experience and chronicling the facts, whereas if you allow some distance from the experience before you write about it, you will have gained perspective and will more easily be able to incorporate reflections. The distance also allows you to have some control over the experience, rather than having the experience control you.
Since an early age, I have been using writing as a form of healing. After my grandmother committed suicide, my mother gave me my first journal saying, “This journal will help you move through the chaos of the moment and move forward into healing.” I have carried that message with me for more than five decades. At various stages in my life, my journal writing has also been complemented by writing letters, poetry, and short stories.
Whether you are affected by change, loss, or pain, finding the time and courage to write can support your healing process. Some people prefer to write nonfiction, while others may choose the modalities of fiction or poetry to help them express their thoughts and feelings. My advice is to choose the genre most compatible with your story, your sensibility, and your personality. In the end, this is what healing is all about. It’s fun to experiment with many genres.
Self-awareness may be thought of as having knowledge, understanding, and recognition of who you are. Knowing who you are means that you are mindful of your personality, your character, your motives, your strengths, your weaknesses, your passions, and your desires. Being self-aware means being able to identify what makes you unique, in terms of your thoughts and actions. Having all this information can be empowering because, when you know yourself, you are more likely to be introspective, which is an important element of healing and transformation. It could also be the springboard for deep, personal writing.
A large part of self-awareness is knowing yourself in a way so that you understand who you are and what or who inspires you. When entering into the creative zone, it is helpful to gather your muses about you, whether in the form of energies, photographs, or artifacts. Many writers have muses who inspire their creativity. In ancient times, when authors sat down to write they would invoke muses by calling them or singing to them. Many of my writing colleagues become inspired by reading the works of writers whom they admire. They might even call them “muses.” Others garner individuals who inspire them, whether they are teachers, lovers, spouses, or friends. Being self-aware during the writing process means that you in tune with the messages of your heart.
About the author: Diana Raab, MFA, PhD is an award-winning author, speaker, educator and survivor. She’s the author of 9 books of nonfiction and poetry. Her newest book is Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life (September 2017). Website: www.dianaraab.com. She blogs for Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, Thrive Global and Elephant Journal, and is a guest blogger to numerous other online journals.