Therapeutic Writing

Therapeutic writing. What thought pops into your mind when you read or hear those words?

As an author, I often write to cleanse my heart and mind of painful things. I’ve found it therapeutic. So, I was not surprised to hear this discussed in a writer’s meeting.

Not only did the exercise help a young woman process the pain of loss, but those writings helped her form a scene in her work-in-progress, as her main character dealt with the loss of a loved one. In the finished product, the character’s emotions are raw, her actions and conversations, achingly real. Readers will fully engage with the scene and the character.

What about non-writers–ordinary folks looking for a way to ease their emotional suffering?

I’m not a professional counselor, but I would suggest it to anyone. When I journal my feelings, I’m not writing for others, so I don’t have to worry about grammar, spelling, or sentence construction. I just pick up a pen, or open a new document on my preferred electronic device, and start writing. I write out my pain, shout my anger, tell a deceased loved one how I feel. All the things I didn’t have the chance to say when they were still alive.

Then what? I keep it hidden away. Shred it. Burn it. It’s up to me. Most writers will definitely want to keep theirs, and remember the depths of pain and despair, so they can write from their heart and bring a scene to life.

But what if someone can’t, or doesn’t want to write? Talk. There’s an app for that. Find a free, or inexpensive speech-to-text program and use it. Sometimes, seeing those words in written form–repeating them out loud–promotes healing. Sometimes.

I love to go for long walks. And those seem to be the times when my creative processes are flowing. I have all kinds of ideas. So I get out my phone, open a note, and start dictating. Sometimes I throw them out, but many times, I find good material that I can use in my work.

Mom, please write down your memories! How many times have I heard this? One of my sons wants me to write down the stories I’ve heard all my life. Stories about long-dead family members. Stories that will be lost, unless someone writes them down. Telling those stories is a quick and easy way to store them. Then I can transcribe them or use a speech to text program to bring them into a word document.

This process is both therapeutic and healing for me, because some of these memories bring up old hurts and painful losses. Talking them out, writing them down, can help me deal with the pain and restore my hope.

Though I’ve barely tapped the surface here, I hope I’ve encouraged a reader or two, or at least given you food for thought. If you’d like to study it further, there are numerous articles written on the subject of therapy writing or journaling. It’s important that you resist guilt feelings over delayed or prolonged grieving. And never assume to know exactly what someone is going through (even if you’ve suffered a similar loss or trauma).

Everyone processes emotion in their own way. This is why I believe writing therapy is a good thing, because it is so personal.

How do you process grief?

(Click to Tweet)  Everyone processes trauma or loss in their own way. #WritingTherapy #journal

Who won last week’s book giveaway?

Congratulations, Sandra Ardoin! And happy reading. I hope you enjoy the book!







A Novice at a Writers Conference

You barely know what you’re doing. Walking up to the front desk or table, you sign in. Newby WriterSomeone hands you a few things you’re too nervous to look at, including a name badge that you promptly drop.

You’ve just arrived at your first writers conference and you haven’t a clue what comes next.

Following the drone of voices, you find yourself in a room filled with excited people. Many of them smile at you and introduce themselves. Business cards exchange hands. This will happen often during the conference, so keep yours handy.

After whatever opening ceremonies your conference offers, the keynote speaker is introduced. He or she encourages and challenges you. Sometimes they make you laugh. Often, they share their horror stories about how they got their start. Bungling, novice writers, swimming against the current. Somehow making it through all the jumble. It’s hard, hard work! But it’s worth it. Every excruciating moment of it, they tell you.

And you believe it.

mourning-360500_1280After the keynote, there are classes. You’ve chosen several that looked promising. By the end of the day, your head may explode. What? Did you really think it would be easy? There is so much to this thing! You’d never even heard about deep POV, or showing versus telling.

And as the day draws to a close, you realize…you’ve been doing it all wrong. Now you’ll have to go home and get out your work-in-progress, examine it for all the problems you didn’t know you had. But maybe not tonight. Tonight you’re tired, and tomorrow is another day of conference. Like the true novice you are, you have scheduled interviews with an agent and an editor.

And now, you know the truth. You’re not ready.

So after a sleepless night, you return to the writers conference. A fluttering tummy accompanies you. You force a few sips of coffee down and check your phone forty-five times to make sure you’re not late for your interview.

a4b6d-interrogationThe agent sits across from you, waiting. You’re so nervous, you drop your one-sheet and stumble over your words. It’s not the perfect interview you’d envisioned when you signed up for this thing. In fact, it seems a bit like an interrogation. But somehow, you make it through.

She smiles sweetly as she lets you down easy. Your writing shows promise, but needs work.

The interview with the editor is easier, because now you know. Your work is not ready, so why not use these few minutes to get to know this editor? Ask questions. Find out what it will take to get where you want to go.

If they tell you to abandon your dreams–find another way to express yourself because you clearly don’t have what it takes to get published–ignore them. Because that’s what writers do. We ignore the naysayers and keep plodding on, learning and filling our heads with writer-ly things. We swallow our disappointments, pull ourselves up and start over. Over and over again.

10610671_10204984726037483_7958217533026572582_nBy the end of the conference, you realize how much you still need to learn. But you’re stuffed full of hope and encouragement. You’ve made friends and connections. You have a fistful of business cards so you can connect on Facebook and Twitter. You now know how to connect on Facebook and Twitter.

The writers conference can provide you with all that and more. It’s an investment in your future. Continuing education.

If you were playing a video game, you’ve just received a key that will get you to the next level.

There’s a writers conference out there calling your name. You may need to save some cash to go, but it’ll be worth every penny. I’m going to two this year. Kentucky Christian Writers Conference in Elizabethtown, Kentucky (June 23-25), and the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Nashville, Tennessee (August 25-28).  I’ve linked them for you, so you can check them out.

Have you attended a conference recently, or in the past? What was your favorite part? My favorite memory is of a connection I made with a published writer who encouraged me to stick with it. Don’t give up. She made me feel that I had a purpose. I’m forever grateful.

If you were looking for news about our upcoming mission trip to Cuenca, Ecuador — I’ve delayed the post until Tuesday, June 28 so I can give you the most up-to-date news possible. There’s a lot happening! 🙂

Writing: Old Style

Are you a writer? Then you’ve known great moments of joy and dark moments of despair.

writing-1209121_1280What is it about writing that is so therapeutic? In ages past, folks spent hours physically writing with pen and ink. They wrote letters to family or long, illustrious entries in their journals. I imagine much of this was done in order to process life. If you look at their letters and journal entries–especially the more ancient ones–you’ll note the writing itself was like an art form.

Our handwriting today–not so much. My early training taught me better than my present skills. Sometimes, I can barely make out the items on my grocery list.

I blame it on non-use.

post-box-1207723_1280Do you still write letters? When I was growing up, we received an almost weekly letter from my grandpa in California. Now, remember, this was in the days prior to free long distance. They had to pay per minute to talk (scandalous, I know!).

Grandpa would write about his favorite baseball team–the Dodgers. Or he’d tell us about the latest brawl on the roller derby. As years passed, he talked about his experiences volunteering at a local hospital in L.A., where he met Betty White. This was a big day for Grandpa. Somewhere, there’s a picture of the two of them together. I’m not sure who ended up with that one.

Ancient word processing device
Ancient word processing device

By writing, those who don’t have computers can keep up with their loved ones, just as they did in ancient times. In the Old West, the Pony Express carried those letters, sometimes at great personal risk. Now we complain if the mailman is half an hour late on his route. We’re so accustomed to “instant send” we just don’t understand why it takes a week to received a snail post via regular mail.

post-403145_1280In my latest release, Carlotta’s Legacy, Rebecca Lewis must communicate “across the pond” by letter. It took weeks, rather than days. They could pay extra for airmail, but the letter had to travel across the ocean first, and that was by boat. So if they had an emergency, Rebecca would need to send a telegram. Though limited by word count, this was the quickest way to send an important message.

So consider yourself blessed. We can send an email or Facebook message from wherever we are to someone on the other side of the world, and receive an answer within seconds (or minutes)–longer if they don’t have WIFI in their homes. Still much quicker than a letter or a telegram.

Maybe too fast! Be careful out there…

Carlotta's Legacy(1)

AmWriting AmReading

pc-1207686_1280When I’m not writing, I’m reading about writing, or doing research for writing. One thing I’ve learned so far, writers never stop learning. If you stop studying and researching, your writing can become stale and boring. Like old crackers.

Part of the growth process for a writer is reading fresh, new fiction. I’ve done a little of that in the past couple of months by helping to judge writers’ contests. I’ve read some absolutely wonderful chapters by talented writers that make me downright jealous. But that’s not a good reaction unless it spurs me to push forward to write crisper, more entertaining fiction.

IMG_9611One thing writers don’t really want to mess with is their unique voice. But you can write different types of stories in new genres, and explore different angles of the art. I’m anxious to do that, to learn how to craft a better story. Because stale crackers are only good for meatloaf or feeding to the squirrels.

Writers–When you started your first novel, how did you go about it? Did you just sit down and write, or did you outline it or plot it first? I’d love to hear your stories! First novels are a little like first babies or first jobs or even first love. We have sweet memories we like to share.

My first novel — I sat down and wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I wish I could do that now! Oh the freedom of fingers flying over keys, not worrying about content, just slugging it out there.

So that first novel–have you published it? Or is it squirreled away like a couple of mine?

books-927394_1280How do you learn more about writing?

  • Take a course
  • Attend a conference
  • Read/study a writing book or course (on your own)
  • All of the above

If you could attend a course taught by the best of the best in writing–who would that be?

I’m asking these questions because I’m curious, but also–I’m writing a post and could use the input. So, if you have a moment, please leave me a comment below. Thanks so much!

Right now, I’m sitting in my favorite writing spot, hammering out this post–it’s late again! I’m at my dining room table, occasionally looking out the window at pouring rain and beautiful buttercups in bloom. So, my final question is: Where do you write? Do you have an office, or do you–like me–move around with a laptop?

window-1287611_1280Wherever you write, however you write, I hope your writing is successful. But most of all, I hope your writing fulfills you, because doing what you love is the greatest kind of blessing.