“It’s like a magic stick you’re holding in your hand.
You put your emotions on paper and just fly with it.”
“I want to be remembered as a victor, not a victim.
I feel like I can move mountains now.”
Michelle is the author of a book called Finding Me. She’s also one of three women who were imprisoned for years in a rundown Cleveland house. When I read a moving magazine excerpt of her story, two things leaped out at me: what a strong person she is and how writing kept her hope alive. As she put it, “I wrote every day. I couldn’t get enough. Poems. Songs. Dreams of how I wished everything could be different.”
We’ve all heard stories about the healing power of writing — the rainbow bridge it offers from pain and suffering to art and resilience. While many a memoirist can attest to this life-changing power, there’s also growing scientific evidence that the relief that flows from writing things down on paper is more than just emotional. Research by Dr. James Pennebaker shows that when people write about emotionally difficult events or feelings for only 20 minutes at a time for three or four days, their immune systems grow stronger. Beyond this, the release offered by writing increases the body’s capacity to combat stress, infection, and disease.
There’s also a link between therapeutic and creative writing. For example, Whitbread and Orange prize-shortlisted novelist Jill Dawson has kept a journal since she was nine. ‘It has helped me personally and also made me a better writer,’ she says, ‘because going over and over something eventually makes it clearer. A dream you don’t understand may make sense two years later. Obviously, it undergoes radical transformation before it becomes writing that you would want published, but it is a part of the process. You can find feelings by writing in this raw way that you can then explore using different events in a story.’
Who can explain the mystery of it all? How putting pen to paper or fingers to computer keys can unlock our minds and hearts — offer soul-nourishing solace even in our darkest moments? What a gift writing is — and how fortunate we are that it’s a gift we can fly with and give ourselves every day. Write on.