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When we use writing as a tool for awareness and healing, we find the outcome, the written word, to be useful, but frequently not as useful as the process of writing itself.

Personal writing of this nature is intentional writing.

Its deepest intention is to heal.

Like water flowing, effortlessly finding its way around and through obstacles, the healing power of writing uses words effortlessly to to transform pain, confusion and internal chaos.

Listen to the words of Gabriel Rico in Pain and Possibility, "Writing helps to direct your pain into a constructive act...thus transforming it.”

In writing to heal, words become vehicles, vessels for experience, containers to hold awareness.

To use writing to heal, to really listen to your heart speak and take good notes, it is therefore essential to be in touch as deeply as possible, as much as the limits of your awareness will allow.

Susan Borkin - from her book:
When Your Heart Speaks, Take Good Notes: The Healing Power of Writing

> related book: Writing From the Inside Out: Using a Journal for Personal Growth & Transformation

> photo and excerpt from her site susanborkin.com


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I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading for? ....

But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.

       Franz Kafka to Oskar Pollak, 1904  /  photo by Sheila Metzner from photography : page 2

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I consciously created a situation in this novel ["After"] where I reduced things to their purest, least complicated elements: two characters, a Muslim man, and a woman who had been widowed by Muslim extremists; and their interactions within a 24-hour time frame. 

I wanted to create a microcosm of what is happening in the world today, hoping that writing it might help me sort some issues out that had been troubling me. ...

One of my goals was to capture the anxiety that we now live with, and how that anxiety affects average, good people, causing them to behave in ways that they wouldn't otherwise.


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I also wanted to show the dehumanizing affects of objectification: the woman in my story is defined almost exclusively in the eyes of other people by her widowhood, when she lost her husband in an act of terrorism by Muslim extremists; her lover, an expatriate from Iran, is defined by his ethnic and religious heritage. 

Throughout the novel neither of the characters refer to each other by name, and they think of one another simply as "The Widow" or "The Muslim." 

Claire Tristram - photo and quotes from her site

....Claire Tristram. After

       
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Weekly Tips for Writers - by Erica Jong [excerpt]

True artists, whatever smiling faces they may show you, are obsessive, driven people -- 
whether driven by some mania or driven by some high, noble vision need not concern us here.
John Gardner, The Art of Fiction

What is the drive to write? The drive to make order out of a chaotic world, to impose your own vision on chaos, to play god with the universe, to discharge some inner tension that can only find its release through words?

It is all these things and more. It is also a life-saver to the one who is drowning in her own feelings. Sometimes I grab the pen to keep from sinking and sometimes the pen pulls me to the bottom of the ocean, bubbling my last reserves of oxygen, before it lets me rise again.

from Weekly Tips for Writers by Erica Jong [a page on her site] - November 17, 2003
photo ©James Kriegsmann from Erica Jong site   //  Sappho's Leap: A Novel - by Erica Jong

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In this dark and wounded society, writing can give you the pleasures of the woodpecker, of hollowing out a a hole in a tree where you can build your nest and say, "This is my niche, this is where I live now, this is where I belong." 

And the niche may be small and dark, but at last you will finally know what you are doing. After thirty years or more of floundering around and screwing up, you will finally know, and when you get serious you will be dealing with the one thing you've been avoiding all along -- your wounds. 

This is very painful. It stops a lot of people early on who didn't get into this for the pain. They got into it for the money and the fame. So they either quit, or they resort to a type of writing that is sort of like candy making.

Anne Lamott. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life 
photo by Scott Braley for barclayagency.com

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I'm tempted to say we're all very uncomfortable existentially or something in this life. ... 

I often think of Kafka's diaries, which I used to read at a certain point in my life, and how negative they are. 

He was using the diary as a place to put down, or get rid of, certain unhappy things. So we don't see the complete person in those diaries and we don't see the happier side of him. 

I'm just dwelling on that discomfort in certain stories because I want to make something of it.

Whereas there are ways in which I am very comfortable -- wasting time and so on. 

But I'm not choosing to write about them or make something of them. It doesn't feel so urgent, probably because those are very fulfilling times, and I tend to write about the more unfulfilling times.

Lydia Davis

from salon.com interview by Kate Moses, 1997

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Lydia Davis is a prose stylist of incisive wit. She has authored three collections of stories and a novel and has translated from the French numerous works by such figures as Maurice Blanchot and Marcel Proust.

Her most recent book, Samuel Johnson Is Indignant, consists of 57 literary miniatures, each exemplifying her economical renderings of our most ordinary thoughts and moments.

photo & quotes from MacArthur Fellows profile

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Active imagination aims not at silence but at speech, not at stillness but at story or theatre or conversation. 

It emphasizes the importance of the word, and thus the word becomes a way of "relating," an instrument of feeling.

James Hillman- from his book Healing Fiction

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If you can imagine Anne Lamott as a working-class kid from Jersey with a penchant for losers, you have an idea of Spike. She's a woman grown now and signs of wisdom are setting in, not that many years but a lot of mileage on the woman. 

As a writer, what she brings to the mountains of baggage in her life is not only humor but incurable honesty. 

I think of her as a voice of the younger generation, even though she's approaching forty, because she has no protective layer on her nerve endings, no cynicism, no been there/done that, no ability to dismiss anything as too freaking strange to bother with. 

She experiences it all wide open and then reports back.

Molly Ivins, nationally syndicated political columnist and 
author of book Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?

....Surrender (But Don't Give Yourself Away) : Old Cars, Found Hope, and Other Cheap Tricks
- by
Spike Gillespie

collects forty-six essays.... As Gillespie describes them, "There are odes to my good days and bad, to trips I've taken -- both real and metaphorical, to holiness found in unexpected places, to men I have not slept with, to learning to live sober.


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"Too, there are miscellaneous ruminations on my alter-ego, my inner-teen, the floor mat in my car, a dead squirrel in the road."

Binding these pieces is the thread of hope: there are moments the thread slips out of view only to resurface in some unexpected location. 

Sometimes it takes awhile, but Gillespie always relocates hope, discovering even in her darkest times that life is full of an embarrassment of riches. [bookpeople.com review]

quotes, photo from her site Spike Speaks

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But penance need not be paid in suffering... It can be paid in forward motion. Correcting the mistake is a positive move, a nurturing move.

....Barbara Hall. A Summons to New Orleans : A Novel

Hall drew on her own experience as a rape survivor in writing the book. 
She is executive producer of tv series "Joan of Arcadia" and "Judging Amy"

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Writing about your personal pains and passions, in spite of fears, is a big risk. Writing into the unknown is a big risk. So once you've jumped, you might as well let gravity have its way. Going all the way means taking some additional risks:

* When the writing wants to go off on a tangent, let it. The tangent may be the real story, or it may be a side trip that gives new meaning to the eventual return.

* Make bad things worse. (Your characters) need to hit bottom before they can pick themselves up and dust themselves off. You may want to intercede, but they need to solve their own problems.

* Take the right risks. It's tricky to seek risk for its own sake. The main thing is the willingness to take risk when the chance appears.

....Meg Files. Write from Life: Turning Your Personal Experiences into Compelling Stories
 / photo from her site

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But for me, the most important thing to say about using writing to address the silences of chronic illness is that to write gives us agency; we are not acted on by a situation, we are acting. 

That point by itself serves to defeat the authority of the illness. At last the ill person is able to affect himself and others by saying the things that have lived in the shadows. 

There is a peculiar feeling when you write, that you can say anything and it matters, even though you may change it later! 

As far as co-existing voices are concerned -- we can be shameless and courageous, timid and bold, whimper and shout, enjoying the freedom of all these voices at the same time!

Finally, we can let go of the boundaries of time and write from our intuitive knowledge, a place Tess Gallagher (1986) calls "deep time" (p. 93), where the past and future disappear and we feel totally present. 

Our usual story-telling intervals collapse and our state of mind is more creative, expressive; we are ready to be taken by surprise and let our intuition lead us. 

And again, perhaps most important, is that when we write we are no longer being done to: we are doing.
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from article Chronic Illness: Trauma, Language, and Writing: Breaking the Silence - by Peggy Penn, M.S.W.

....Concert of Tenses: Essays on Poetry by Tess Gallagher

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I took ballet from the age of five to fifteen... then my teacher died. She committed suicide because her husband was cheating on her. 

And it killed me, you know, because it was such a big part of my life. ... She was a beautiful person. ...

I started writing a lot of poetry, I guess, about that time, lots and lots of poetry. And I'd win little women's club poetry contests when I was a kid.

songwriter/singer Tywanna Jo Baskette

from puremusic.com interview   //   CD: Fancy Blue

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