How Do Writing and Healing Come Together for You? #7

by Matilda Butler on April 17, 2011

Writing and Healing LogoPost #12 – Women’s Memoirs, Writing and Healing – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler



Finding Healing through Writing Your Memoir

The article we are publishing today, by Jane Rowan, looks at the ways that both journaling and writing for publication contribute to the healing process. As with all of our writing and healing blogs we hope this helps you look as ways that you can use writing to find healing in your life whether you are writing a memoir or not.

Have you found that writing is healing? If so, we invite you to send us your story of how writing has been a form of healing for you. Some find healing through journaling. Others find healing through writing their memoir. Perhaps there are other ways that writing has been healing for you. Just email between 200-600 words (or longer if you contact us first) to: Matilda (at) WomensMemoirs (dot) com. We are interested in publishing your thoughts on writing and healing on this website — either with your name or anonymously, your choice.

WRITING AS THERAPY, WRITING AS WRITING

by Jane Rowan

I’d already been a passionate journal writer for twenty years when I first got an inkling that I might have been sexually abused as a child. I had a wonderful therapist, but I needed an everyday friend to hear my ramblings. I’d sit at my kitchen table and scrawl, no structure, no cohesion, just the outpouring of doubt and pain.

I followed Peter Elbow’s advice of “freewriting,” letting it come uncensored, pen flying, words repeating. Over and over I told myself, “It’s just for me. No one will ever read it.” I’d been censored for fifty years, repressed memories kept under the lid, so I needed to pour out unrestrained the pain, shame, and incoherence that had belonged to the little girl of long ago.

At times the journaling would soar into poetry, either the poetry of desperation or of joy, but I had to keep the clear intention that it was just for me, to allow the purity of expression.

After six years of this work I got the inspiration to write a memoir, the idea arising from gratitude for the process and joy at my new freedom. The new writing was clearly,startlingly, different. Having an audience in mind gave me responsibility for making a narrative thread, finding a clear voice to address the reader, and honing the craft to carry the story forward. It was hard, often frightening, work to bring the innermost feelings to the surface in this new way and articulate them for unseen others. It was delightful work to find dialogue, and difficult to pare and cut my burgeoning prose to shape the book with the help of editorial readers.


The result is my memoir The River of Forgetting: A Memoir of Healing from Sexual Abuse. I incorporated pieces of my journals into the book as quotations to give a sense of the inner turmoil, but I embedded them in narrative to give the reader the security of a story with beginning, middle, and end.

Now that the book is published I can see how writing it also served a therapeutic purpose, even though that was not my aim. Through the crafting process, I had to clarify, condense, and name the main themes of self-doubt, grief, mistrust, anger, and then trust, love, and letting go. Paradoxically, delineating and describing my intense confusion for others gave me confidence in myself and belief in my story.

To me the difference between journaling and writing for others is sometimes clear and sometimes blurry. However, I have tried to read some memoirs of trauma that are formed entirely of journal entries, and they felt frightening, swirling, dense, and unreadable. I believe that when dealing with difficult material, the writer has a responsibility to create a structure, a boat, that will hold the reader and bring her safely across the choppy seas. You could call it the ark of the story.

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You can find more information about Jane’s memoir at: http://riverofforgetting.com/

Jane blogs at: http://janechild.blogspot.com/










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