Wednesday, July 16, 2008

TO WRITE: How Does Writing Save YOU?
I make a big claim in my book: Writing saved my life.

Other things saved my life too when I was going through years of life-threatening depressions: Medical treatment (a supportive psychiatrist, lots of meds, lots of ECT, experimental transcranial magnetic stimulation, hospital stays) also saved my life. . . and good people (my husband, my mother, a couple of great bipolar friends) saved my life. Without all three, I'm not at all sure I'd have made it.

Author Alice Walker has also been rescued by writing. She says, "Writing saved me from the sin and inconvenience of violence." Clearly, writing can aid many of us in surviving of life's most difficult trials. Some use writing to touch their spiritual core, some use it to recover from pain, others use it to plan their recovery.

Play with this. . .
Writing continuously for 20 minutes, reflect on why you write. Go deep. What would your life be like if you never did any personal writing such as journaling or crafting poems for yourself? Even if you don't find life-altering reasons for writing, you may find that writing helps you organize your thoughts and plan your day, or perhaps writing allows you to calm and soothe yourself after a difficult experience.

After you've written about writing's importance in your life, go ahead and give yourself 10 more minute (at least!) to write on what you need to write on today. . . . What's happening in my life? How am I feeling? What do I remember? What am I looking at right now? Have fun with this, and remember, this writing thing can help in very profound ways.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

TO READ: What If Writing Hurts?

A reader commented recently that sometimes writing about difficult experiences or issues left her feeling as though she were reliving that awful time. Is this ever true for you? What can you do to make your writing experience both productive and positive? Lots of suggestions follow.

First, let me reiterate my three "rules" for writing to ease depression (These are discussed in more detail in Writing through the Darkness). Boiled down, they are:

1) Write continuously for the whole time you've allotted yourself. (10 or 20 minutes to start.)

2) Write for yourself. (Perfection and careful arguments are not required.)

3) If a topic feels too threatening, don't write on it today.

About #3: As you write more often, you'll learn to challenge yourself while still retaining safe boundaries. If something feels overwhelming, wait. Write on something else less charged for now. You may want to talk to a therapist or close friend about the issue and digest it before trying it again next week or next month when it feels less scary. Trust your instincts and be safe first.

Other thoughts on writing on tough issues (Again, loads more on this in the book). . .

-- It's most useful to write about both thoughts and feelings in a single session, not just one or the other.

-- Try writing about the event in the form of a story: A character runs into a problem; the character tries (perhaps several times) to solve the problem; the character somehow solves it or resolves the situation (even if that means deciding to wait for now).

-- Don't let yourself ruminate endlessly on one particular problem if you're not making progress with it. Let it go for now and write on other topics and come back to it in a week or a month.

-- Talk with a therapist about the issue to see if you can break the logjam in your thoughts and find some new perspective.

--Always try to end a tough writing session with even a few minutes on a positive topic -- try three quick minutes on the most relaxed you've ever felt, what you would do with $100 if you found it on the street today, or the most soothing image you can imagine.

Good luck, and remember to follow your instincts and make caring for yourself the number one priority with your writing.