Writing As Therapy - I
I deeply believe in writing as therapy--and yet, I don't exactly. I've kept a personal journal for thirty years now, and it is my closest companion in many ways. It’s where I record my moods each morning, my memories of early abuse and my reactions to that trauma, my healing journey, my spiritual quest.
Freewriting (as taught by Peter Elbow ) opened up this world of writing-as-therapy to me. Freewriting is free association on the page, pouring out thoughts, fragments and feelings just as they come, coherent or not, repetitive and uncensored. When I first had memories of being groped by my father, the blank, nonjudgmental page of my journal was a goddess-sent release and receptacle. But I needed my therapist as well. My journal was wonderfully receptive, but the human contact and love began the true healing.
When I started to write my memoir about healing from abuse, after I’d done therapy on it for six years, I needed to change my writing style. As I reread my journals and transcribed excerpts from them, I could see how their rawness was perfect for my own healing, but it was not what the reader needed. In fact, I tried to read a self-published memoir that simply printed up excerpts from the writer’s journal of healing, and it made me feel nauseated. I wanted to love and respect that writer, but the actual stuff of her book was too messy and uncontained for me—it didn’t feel safe to read.
A memoir, unlike a journal, needs to be crafted.