The Writing Cure by Sharon Dempsey.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
News flash – life’s hard. We all experience difficult times, relationship break ups, the loss of a loved one or periods of stress relating to work. Take your pick, there will be some catastrophic episode which leaves you reeling, unsure of how you will survive.
Throughout my own life I have experienced difficult times, caring for a child with cancer and then losing him at the age of six, was the most definitely the worst.
During the dark days, I have been known to self-medicate with words, both in reading other people’s words and in writing my own.
There is evidence to prove that writing improves our resistance to physical illness, decreases the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and helps our overall sense of wellbeing.
When son died I sought refuge in reading and writing. It was the dark aesthetic that I sought. I could no longer relate to a world portrayed as anything but a bleak hopeless, landscape. Later reading was not enough; I needed to write about my grief and pain to find voice and for what I had experienced. This is what trauma is: not the action of the incident but the aftermath of living with a disturbing, depressing life event. To voice my trauma, I needed to a broken protagonist. Someone who had been experienced the depths of despair, who had been physically and psychologically damaged. Declan Wells became that character. I needed Declan to be physically limited and dependent on using a wheelchair. He had lost his legs in car bomb, a product of the Troubles. But this was not sufficient; I needed to hurt him more. So, I killed off his beloved daughter; at a family wedding. There, that will do it. That was trauma. In writing about Declan and his experience of grief, I was able to draw upon my own periods of despair. My grief and my pain fed into his and in turn Declan’s suffering helped assuage mine.
In writing and creating a world where pain was inflicted physically and emotionally on my characters I experienced a shared understanding of that pain. I gained a recognition and acknowledgement in exploring the suffering of my characters.
Bearing witness to the lived experience of illness.
In my work with people affected by cancer I design and deliver therapeutic writing workshops. Our writers in the workshops write about whatever they want within a framework of prompts and facilitation. Cancer can often be the last subject we explore yet, we gain greater insight and emotional support from reading and writing in a therapeutic setting.
Shared writing and reading can improve well-being, create a sense of community and understanding. It is the shared experience of the living with an illness like cancer that is the basis of our work.
So next time life throws something horrendous your way, write through the pain. There’s hope and light on the other side.
Writing the Cure too by Sharon Thompson.
‘Write from the heart’, is probably the hardest thing to tell a writer. We think that we always do this. But, we don’t.
Words that I pour out onto the page and truly get lost in, have been accepted and published. Then why don’t I do this all the time? Because, it’s a hard thing to do. We shield ourselves, want to sound clever or worry constantly about what others will think.
My writing journey started in similar ways to Sharon Dempsey’s. Oddly, both of us have the same publisher, first name and we both watched our child die.
I want to protect our daughter, but she is the guiding light in my life. She was the brave one and she made me her warrior. People warn me that I sound crazy when I talk about an infant angel nudging me to start writing. I have to give up caring about that. The worst thing has happened and instead of lying down under the emptiness, Sharon and myself fight on. We’ve used our writing to survive, to move somewhere important and yes – to be content again.
In my writing group www.Indulgeinwriting.com we discuss all aspects of writing. A recurrent theme is writing to heal or wanting to bring true value and justice to our words. This is possibly the hardest task for us. Imagine, that being our true selves is the hardest thing to do. We share so much on social media and our personal story is asked for all the time, but we know that the depths of us is left in hiding.
I mostly write dark, historical crime fiction. My characters suffer and I write about taboos. I am not afraid of themes like abortion or assisted dying. I use profanity, write sex scenes and delve into the minds of bad people. When I get lost in the murky worlds I think of the quote ‘writers sit at their typewriter and bleed.’ For me, this means we bleed out our sincerity, we stop being inhibited and let out what’s meant to come.
My latest manuscript is called ‘The Healer’. It is about an abused girl in the 1940s, who must listen to her guardian angels to heal, survive and find happiness. What might my subconscious be doing here? Whatever happens, I am proud of this work. It poured out. I let it. It is on submission, but regardless of whether anyone accepts my main character, Molly; I was brave.
Sharon Dempsey is an expert in therapeutic writing. I’m not an expert, but I know how writing heals. Therefore, I am telling all those who are reading this, if your heart is telling you to write, do so now. Write from your heart.