When writing becomes healing
Perforated light box photograph by Daniele Buetti.
“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”
A couple of years ago, I wrote that I often felt like "a walking esoteric time bomb on the brink of combusting into golden matter.” In hindsight, I realise that this was essentially just a poetic way of saying I had chronic writer’s block, and repressed emotions. I’ve always been a deeply feeling human being, so curious about the inner and outer worlds. I felt like I had so much to say, and yet, when it came to expressing myself through words- whether during a discussion at a dinner party or by writing on the page- I froze. This was the result of developing a deep insecurity over time about feeling as though I had nothing of value- or anything unique- to contribute.
Instead of sharing my words, I kept searching for inspiration found in others' creative expression, thinking that surely if I could just fill up my cup with enough stimulus, it would eventually overflow with ideas. I’ve brought so much beauty into my life through this process, but when the words still weren’t coming, I realised that this alone wasn’t enough.
Then one day, I had a life-changing conversation with a dear friend, and she shared with me a chapter in Women who run with the wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. This tale, La Llorona, tells us that sometimes when the rivers of our creative self-expression aren’t flowing, it’s because the waters are stagnant or polluted. This rang loud bells of truth throughout my body, and led me to see that my words were all dammed up because I wasn’t acknowledging the emotional walls that were holding me back.
TJ Volonis, Repaired Heart (Kintsugi Study #4), 2015,
“I am broken the way most writers are, stories leaking through the cracks.”
And so I embarked upon an experiment. I started my blog, and instead of trying to come up with what I thought I should write about, I just started to muse upon my own stories. I wrote about the game-changing day I was silenced by a school teacher, and about my winding path to finding my “thing”. I reflected on my most recent heartbreak and what it taught me about freedom. And I explored my inner conflict around writing ‘self-helpy’ pieces because I didn’t want to accept the more woo-woo parts of myself.
As the words began to flow out of me so too did the tears. I discovered that writing is not just a way to share myself and my views with the world, it’s also an incredible tool for healing. Turns out I'm not the only person who has experienced this (shock, horror). In an article by the American Psychological Association, Writing to heal, research by psychologists James Pennebaker and Joshua Smith asserts that expressive writing's potential to ease stress also improves immune function.
However, they emphasise that simply venting our frustrations or emotions through writing or talking is not enough to alleviate stress. Rather, "...to tap writing's healing power, people must use it to better understand and learn from their emotions". It's only when we utilise writing to find meaning and new perspectives in our lives that the positive effects begin to surface.
Catherine Broderick, Anish Kapoor mirror sculpture.
“Your job as a storyteller is not simply to entertain... Your job is to let people know that everyone shares their feelings- and that these feelings bind us. Your job is a healing art, and like all healers, you have a responsibility. Let people know they are not alone…”
When we pour ourselves onto the page it becomes a kind of magic mirror... a tool for scrying into the nuances of our own being. Through its reflection we get to see those parts of ourselves that were previously hidden. It can be really difficult to make sense of our thoughts and feelings when they're swirling around like an amorphous mass in our heads. I've experienced numerous occasions where I start journalling, read back over it, and end up saying to myself, "wow, no wonder I feel overwhelmed!" In these moments, the sense of relief not only flushes out cesspools of emotion, it also somehow validates my experience and encourages more self-compassion. Some of my biggest epiphanies in life only occurred once I wrote them down.
And so by mining the stories of my heart, soul and life experiences, I found that I actually have a lot to contribute- whether that be my personal answer to a universal problem or simply a question to allow others to see their reflection. I believe that we all have something unique to share, and that our stories are in fact invaluable.
+ + Interested in exploring your own stories? Doors are still open for my MEET YOUR MUSE 1:1 mentoring program starting in 2 weeks, check it out here.
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