In The Writer Magazine, you’ll find a department/regular feature called Write Stuff. Gail Radley, author of 24 books for young people (follow the link to some great titles!) as well as many articles for adults, has written “Writing to Heal” in the May 2017 issue. She takes on the idea of journaling as a way of creating healthier lives and also, for writers, richer characters.
Not only does she mention well-known writers who journaled and/or used writing as a therapeutic tool,, including C.S. Lewis, Sylvia Plath, and Ernest Hemingway, she also cites a scientific study done in 1990 which showed a group of college students who wrote about their most intense feeling about a traumatic event they’d experienced tested positively for a heightened immune system. (James W. Pennebaker, Opening Up, 1990. For these students, journaling became a way of self-caring, something Louise DeSalvo advises in her book Writing as a Way of Healing.
The two-page article is definitely a worthwhile read and will bring to mind several old adages such as “Don’t bottle it up-get it out”, and “Take care of yourself first”.
Several years ago, trolling my mind while trying to remember something I never actually forgot but didn’t recognize for what it was, I began to journal. Over time, bit by bit, I put the puzzle pieces together enough to understand much of how I developed from a child into an adult. Even when I thought I’d finished cobbling together these sketchy memories and making sense of them, I continued to go back and add to the temporary journal over the next several months.
I keep telling myself I need to hit the delete button while I still can. What I wrote isn’t for anyone else’s eyes. It’s not placing blame or holding a pity party but rather for self-understanding. Someday I’ll do just that, but for now I go back and re-read what I wrote and often come up with a new insight.
I’ve been asked how much of myself is in my characters and will confess to fudging a bit. But I’m there. My experiences are there, disguised to be sure, but who I am continues to influence how I write. We’re constantly advised to “write what you know”-and what do we know better than ourselves?
Several years ago, a speaker at a writing conference I attended suggested we look at our writing and try to discern an underlying theme. I literally felt like I’d been smacked in the face with what I saw between my lines. I needed to know more…to understand why…to take care of myself, finally, by bringing some things into the light and open air.
As a rule, I don’t journal, but occasionally I open a Word document and chronicle something I’m feeling deeply about. I may, however, give it a try again since reading Ms. Radley’s article. Journaling, for me at least, is much like trying to catch an elusive moonbeam. Idea, insight, or memory, the gentle ray of light illumines something inside of me.
May’s FREE READ is up at my website by clicking on I’ll Tell You a Story.
“Live Free and Be Happy” is good advice for us all!
And while you’re there, be sure to watch the trailer for my newest release
released in January by The Wild Rose Press
Here's one of the five-star reviews it's garnered!
I couldn't stop reading Ruthann's War, but I didn't want it to end either. This book is a clean, sweet and endearing story of true love. Interspersed in the book are some mysteries that also keep one guessing. This is not your typical predictable romance. Ruthann's War is truly a book to enjoy from beginning to end. (P.McAndrew)