Friday, January 26, 2007

TO READ: Writing Saves Lives
Many writers love to claim it: The act of writing not only helped my life, it saved my life. Author and teacher Louise DeSalvo begins her book Writing as a Way of Healing with this claim; poet, author, painter Natalie Goldberg describes "How Poetry Saved My Life," in Top of My Lungs; my students have made this bold statement; I use it in Chapter 1 of my book-in-progress, Illuminating Words: The Power of Writing to Ease Depression to illustrate one of the key aspects of my recovery from severe bipolar disorder.

In this week's edition of Newsweek (Jan. 22, 2007), writer Anna Quindlen's column is titled Write for Your Life. In it, she describes how the disadvantaged teens documented in the new movie Freedom Writers find connection and even pride when a young teacher gives them blank notebooks and says to write anything at all. Now I know that some writers, including Virginia Wolff, have said that a piece of writing is not truly complete until someone else has read it, but I disagree. I've seen it in my students when they report on their journaling; I've felt it myself. Even writing for oneself can be meaningful and healing.

"Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see in the making all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture, but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals," according to novelist Don DeLillo as quoted in Quindlen's article. I think he puts it very well. While writing intended for family, friends or publication is no doubt fulfilling and empowering, there is a place, a crucial place, for personal, private writing as well. And it even saves lives.


Anonymous said...

Today I realized that it has been too easy to forget to write regularly as life has brought many distractions since the holidays last year. My depression is hovering around again and interestingly last night I found myself seeking out my writing notebook to ease the sadness before I went to sleep. Yes, writing has helped my life not spiral down as deep as it once did many years ago. Writing out of depression does indeed work!!

Gwenny said...

To Anonymous,

I hear you. Poetry is my solace and just blogging my anger and fear and depression. (Although, I learned last week to lock it down, OMG, the drama.) What do you write?

Anonymous said...

To Gweeny,
The writing topics are infinite.
I write down my feelings or use Beth's ideas included here in her blog. Sometimes I compose letters to people in my life who aren't listening as a way to be "heard" but may not send it. So much depends on where I am emotionally but each and every time I stop to write...each and EVERY time I feel better as a result.