Before I start this post I wanted to thank Frances from She Who Blogs for featuring one of my stories. I am really honoured.
You can read the story (which you may have already read) here.
Now onto the post proper.
This is the prompt this week for Magpie Tales.
Usually I write a fiction piece for Magpie Tales but this time I want to discuss something which is non-fiction.
I want to discuss writing as therapy.
I have a jar very similar to the one in the photo on my desk. It is also full of pencils. When I am jotting down my loose leaf notes I prefer to write in pencil.
Being able to write is a gift that has saved my life. I don’t mean to sound all melodramatic when I say that, but it is the truth.
I write when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m outraged, when I’m disillusioned, when I’m staggered by the beauty in the world.
Much of what I write is never read by another living soul.
Much of what I write resembles shopping lists, bullet points of things to do.
Much of what I write is the only way I can order my thoughts and imaginings.
I have suffered from depression for most of my adult life. I have tried every drug combination under the sun to combat the deep, dark, oozing despair that often envelops me.
I have spoken to countless therapists who turned out to be more fucked up than I was. Mostly.
I have held debates in my head as to whether the glass is half empty or half full over and over again.
None of those things help as much as getting it all on paper.
I can write about the misery, the fears, the tears, the need to hide, the need to stay in bed all day, everyday.
Or I can create a story where a character faces a challenge and overcomes it.
Or I can describe a sunset. Or a tree. Or the sound of birdsong.
If you feel down I want you to know that writing will help you. If not writing – painting or photography or a sketch in pencil. Do something creative. Make something from nothing.
If you write something and it just sounds like bile and angst and hate, go for a walk. Chew on your emotions. Channel them into a narrative. Then go home and write it out.
No one might ever read what you’ve just written, but you will feel better.
Accept your negative feelings but turn them into something positive.
My jar of pencils are as valuable to me as my computer.
And they are much, much cheaper than Prozac.
Expressing creatively changed me too. Well said my friend.
Yes, Selma I second that because it works for me too. Congratulations on bringing this up for discussion.
Your words hold so much truth…..and the is the reason most of us write….it is why artists paint, why actors act…..sometimes I think what is the point …..the point…well you know the point….best to you….bkm
Wow..a transparent Magpie that rings with familiarity!
I think it as important side of yourself to develop. It has given me so much enjoyment and actually taught me a lot about myself. I am thankful it is something I can do.
It is a great subject to discuss. It works for many people. It gives them something to be passionate about. I am all for it.
I couldn’t agree more. I think we would enrich our societies by putting more funding into the arts. There is so much joy to be had from creating things. Thank you for such an insightful comment and for stopping by. I really appreciate it.
Hi D.S. LEAR:
I think it rings true for many of us. Thanks for stopping by!
Serendipitous that I should read this tonight. Originally, I planned to run my own version of why writing is healing today. But then I heard about Magpie Tales. So I rescheduled my post and jammed out a Magpie Tale (which was a blast).
Anyway, somehow putting pen(cil) to paper lets me examine my thoughts – hold them to the light. And you’re so right, it’s freeing and healing, and cheaper than anti-depressants. Thanks for this 🙂
Mark Twain was famous for working out his frustration by writing letters he never sent, although some did get by the system, and actually reached the recipient.
We had a discussion about ‘letters we won’t really send’ on a journalism forum I belong to … here’s my contribution:
Dear Mr. Restaurant PR man,
Thank you for your recent email, and I’m sorry you had to wait three whole weeks before my review appeared in print. I’m also sorry that you were disappointed in its content, but my understanding was that I should write a review, not a paraphrase of their over-effusive brochure which, if you will permit me to say so, borders on a breach of the Trades Descriptions Act.
I note you have sent a copy to my Editor; as it happens, she agrees with me that the restaurant is a pretentious, overpriced gin palace, serving bland, mediocre food to a bunch of wannabee gourmets who don’t know any better.
I printed your email out, and it is before me as I sit in the smallest room of my house. In a few seconds, it will be behind me.(Sorry, Mr. Twain!)
May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits,
It’s strange that therapists don’t suggest this form of help. Good Magpie.
A good, direct, honest post. It’s interesting too because there is a quite a strong writing-should-not-be-therapy school but I always wonder why its members object to the suggestion of therapy so much (lucky them if they don’t need it…). Different people write for different reasons – it’s that simple – and yes, some of us write because without it we would find it much, much harder to exist. It doesn’t make our writing any better or any worse…it’s just one route.
Less side effects than Prozac too. Or does it..?
Hi THINKING TOO HARD:
Amazing that you were on the same wavelength. I find that happens a lot in the blogosphere. That is one thing I love about it. There are a lot of like-minded people hanging out who are really thinking about things. Great to hear from you!
I have written a few of those letters. It is odd that even if I don’t send them I still feel better. It must be the act of gathering my thoughts that helps. Love your letter. Brilliant 😆
Believe it or not a therapist I still see on occasion suggested I start writing this blog. She thought it would help me. It has. I am forever in her debt. I wish more people would consider it. Lovely of you to stop by.
I guess they believe the only function of writing is to write, that it should have no emotional benefits. I agree, lucky them if they don’t need it. On my darker days I have felt worthless, that I am good at nothing. I have forced myself to sit down and write a few paragraphs. When I go back to read them later – whether they are good or bad – I think ‘at least I have this.’ It is more than enough. It offers succour. Thanks for your very insightful comment.
I agree with you on that. Writing is therapy. Writing and creating and anything that stirs your brain can combat some of the unwanted emotions. Although I probably would be more likely be watching movies and doing something else at the same time. And also blogging about it also relieve some tension because sharing about your ups and downs also helps, even if with strangers.
Writing my blog has definitely helped me, not with depression as I am fortunate enough not to suffer, but with self esteem. I love writing a post I’m pleased with and then get a real sense of pride when others bother to read and comment on it. So yes, Selma, I agree writing is therapeutic.
Re: the idea that writing should not be therapy. I’ve heard that lots. But writing doesn’t need to be about ‘high art.’ I am involved in a form of therapeutic art called “expressive arts” and it’s not about the product – it’s about the process. Much of what I do in writing and with things like painting and collaging, other people don’t see. It’s not for others, it’s for me. BUT – I also believe that expressive arts makes me a better writer artistically. It’s freed me up, helped me foster my imagination and released inhibitions.
so true…i am a therapist and i encourage all my kids to journal or draw…a lot of arts therapy…because that is what has helped me as well. when the day needs brightening i can make a happy story where it all works out and somehow it give me hope…and somedays i let it go where it may until i am empty and content…great magpie!
Did I see your tweet about this? I didn’t make the connection. Creativity in all forms refreshes the soul. Excellent post!!
Hello! I was completely overwhelmed by your Magpie … in a profound way. Your bravery, your talent, your willingness to share emotion ~ amazing!
Oh how true Selma! Creativity in any form is a wonderful way to channel what’s inside out of you and it stops the build up of emotion and thought and allows things to flow through you rather than backing up and causing blockages and stagnation.
Really nice post!
Recently I wrote something about what writing does for me. . .
It’s a way to get the poison out of you, why not onto paper? It’s better than spewing it at someone, whether they deserve it or not. It is therapy in it’s own way. Letting it swirl and fester only makes things worse. I’d think it is the best form of “self therapy” even if it’s not sent. I’ve a load of posts that I’ve written in a rage just to get it the hell out of my head that will never be sent or published, but I feel better cos it’s not “in” me anymore.
I told my instructor yesterday I wrote myself out of my depression. He understood. The nice thing about pencil is, you can erase it if you want. And paper ALWAYS burns. 😉
I can relate to this! Whenever I’m down or angry, I often reach for the pen/pencil and let loose a barrage of words. I never throw the papers away, but I rarely reread them. You’re right – it does help!
So many can join you in what you say..we were meant to write, and even as a child, we doodle, we scribble..I always had a pencil in my hand..just a natural extension! Thank you…
Great Magpie- true words-
resonate with all of us-
who hasn’t felt better after ranting
or raving via pencil?
And paper does burn well!
You’re such a sensitive soul, I am not at all surprised you get depressed. Many therapists do suggest writing and other creative outlets for healing and it is very effective – that is why I started writing poetry – as a form of therapy for myself. Depression and anxiety are horrible things – keep writing Selma (less side effects than SSRI’s).
writing is often like therapy for me too. I’m just NOT AS GOOD AS YOU ARE!
How can I write without this box
Containing chips of sand ?
How can I write without this box
They could not comprehend
Luckily, I had nearby
Some paper and a pen……or a pencil
So very true Sel, for so many of us and expressed so well. Keep that jar (of pencils) handy. So much better than the ones that hold pills.
PS: I’m just stopping in to my blogs to post and visiting a bit. 🙂
A wise and touching piece! Very nice.
Selma – You’ve created a beautiful tribute to writing. Judging from the comments, you touched a universal thread running through many.
I write and watch movies or TV at the same time. I’ve always done it, so I know exactly what you mean. Writing definitely provides a release of tension for me!
You make a really important point re. boosting self-confidence. It does do that. Blogging, in particular, can really hone and develop one’s writing skills. I look at it as a free creative writing course 😀
Very well said. It’s true. Whatever you do in a creative sense helps you establish your voice and style as an artist or a writer. How can finding oneself through art not be therapeutic? For me, it’s a given!
I know exactly what you mean. I have worked with homeless kids where we made films about their experiences which I noticed was very therapeutic for them. Writing/creating is very functional in that it can serve us whether we are happy or sad. I am glad to hear it helped the people you work with.
I’m not sure I tweeted about it. Maybe one of my lovely readers did 😀
Definitely refreshes the soul. I like how you put it.
Awww. That is so nice of you to say so. I like to help people where I can and I think talking about strategies that ease depression are very important. I really appreciate your kind comment!
Oh, right on. If I hadn’t spewed out the stuff I had over the years I might have said or done things I regretted. It’s helped me from being arrested 😆
I completely believe you did. Not only did you write your way out of depression, you have actually given yourself tools for dealing with it if it rises again in the future. I like to see paper burn in the grate. It’s very liberating!
Exactly. Even though a lot of stuff written during a rant might appear unusable, there is occasionally a line or phrase that can develop into something else. I love that!
We definitely were. I remember doodling and playing around with words and phrases as a child too. I think it’s a natural thing to do. Thanks so much for stopping by.
Hi KATHE W:
It really does help. And it is much less damaging than screaming or shouting at someone. It has helped me time and time again.
I can’t handle the side effects of the anti-depressants. I feel less depressed but in a very numb, drugged kind of way. I also feel like I am a different person which is very unsettling. Not to mention the nausea. It’s writing all the way for me. And lots of walking….
Well, having read some of your book I can honestly say you are a very good writer. Don’t underestimate yourself. You have talent.
Amen. Thank goodness for that!
Does this mean you are returning to blogging? Please say it’s true. That would be amazing!!!!
Awww. Thank you so much!
I am delighted with all the comments. It is so good to know there are so many people out there who feel the same way. It’s invigorating!!!
Wonderful advice. Writing allows us regular time for positive and negative expression–an outlet so things do not remain bottled up inside.
Over to Frances’ place to read your story…
I know how dramatic it sounds and people always think I’m execrating when I say this but writing really did save my life. It continues to save my life everyday… Life is a long freefall and we all need a parachute. Some have Prozac, we have writing 🙂
The positive and the negative is important. In my mind I am able to achieve some kind of equilibrium by writing about both. Let it all out, I say. It’s good for you!
You know, it doesn’t sound dramatic at all. I totally relate. You put it so well – writing is my parachute. Hear hear!
what unique perspective…
I know little about this until your mention…
Hi Selma, I can really relate to your post. At least once a day I do some therapeutic writng. Sometimes in the morning, sometimes at night. Sometimes both. Some (writings) I throw away, others I keep -some to be revised and rewritten.
Anyhow, here’s a reading list for you and your readers of books that in one way or another explore writing as therapy
The Complete Artist’s Way: Creativity as a Spiritual Practice by Julia Cameron
The Healing Fountain: Poetry Therapy for Life’s Journey. by Geri Giebel Chavis and Lila Lizabeth Weisberger
Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives b Louise DeSalvo
The Writing Life by. Annie Dillard
Finding What You Didn’t Lose by John Fox
Writing Down the Bones Freeing the Writer Within by. Natalie Goldberg
Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry by Jane Hirshfield
Your Mythic Journey: Finding Meaning in Your Life Through Writing and Storytelling by Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
Poetry Therapy: Interface of the Arts and Psychology by Nicholas Mazza
Writing for Your Life: A Guide and Companion to the Inner Worlds by Deena Metzger
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Chaos or Creativity by Marion Woodman.
I’m glad I could fill you in on it!
You had the disappearing and reappearing comment there for a minute. Don’t know why that happens. I completely agree about writing letting things flow. It really is an effective way for dealing with emotions!
Your comment got lost for a bit there. Once again – I do appreciate the effort you put into your comments. I have read quite a few of those books. I knew you would be an advocate for writing as therapy. It really does help, doesn’t it?