Write A Journal - How To Use Writing As A Healing Balm
By Angie Sands  |   Submitted On October 16, 2010

Why write?

There are a lot of reasons why people choose to write about their life experiences; some find it cathartic after a harrowing event or loss of a loved one or other life challenge. Some have revealed to me that they 'found themselves' through their writing or they recognised patterns emerging in their life choices that they hadn't been able to see clearly before. Whatever the reason you think it is that you want to write in the beginning, many times, the rewards far outweigh what you would have initially considered. The writing process can at times be very confrontational and you may need to be brave and push through the deep-seeded pain your writing exposes you to, but the only encouragement I can give you is from my own experience. It will all be worth it, but for some, it's going to take a lot of courage to confront various emotions once more.

You may ask, how is it that writing can be so cathartic?

I found that when I would sit down to write, I would 'give myself' to the page, pouring out my heart and soul to my new-found friend and confidante. I became lost in the words, searching in my mind for the passion, the pain or humour in everything I was wanting to say. I have to admit, there were many times when I would be crying my eyes out as I wrote -- I could hardly see the page clearly -- or times when I couldn't read what I had written because no matter how many times I would read it I would always smile or laugh at the memory. For me, there was something consoling about being connected to those emotions and being able to move through them at my own pace. I remember watching Oprah one day on television and hearing her say that there are a lot of people who simply bury their hurt, pain and disappointment, but what they don't realise is that they have been buried alive and that they will always surface; somewhere, somehow, some day. Some people choose to write to put all the events of their life into some perspective. To understand themselves better. To perhaps realise that things may have not been as they had originally perceived. For me, I would have to say, through my experience of writing my own autobiography, I came to understand my mother better. But, I could also see from the patterns of the series of events that had occurred, that I had demonstrated an inner strength and resilience at such a young age. Once I had been able to identify with this for myself and later into my life with a deeper understanding, I stopped beating up on myself for the inadequacies I thought I had and recognised that I was not to blame. The realisation was a release and this is what I mean as the exercise being cathartic for you.

Establish goals for your writing.

People write their autobiography or personal stories mostly for themselves or their families and never really consider the option of publishing their private lives. My biggest piece of advice I can offer you, is don't let your decision to publish or not, interfere with your writing process from the beginning. You can easily make this decision after the fact, but if you have it in the back of your mind while you are writing, you will tend to censor your writing or leave pertinent facts out. This can all be cut out later as and when you choose. For now, you are preparing yourself to be as open and honest with not only yourself, but your newfound friend and confidante -- the page on which you write -- to gain the complete and in-depth benefit of your writing. To use your writing as a balm to your inner healing.

So, what are your goals?
In a nutshell, your goal is to sit down and write -- regularly. You should endeavor to set aside a location that you know you can go into your 'deep and meaningful' zone and, if you need the glass of wine to get you there, I fully understand. Don't worry about how long the book is going to be, how many pages you have written or how many mistakes you are making with grammar or spelling -- just throw it down onto the page. If you make your goals too grandiose or unachievable, you will stop writing and unfortunately probably stifle the momentum you need to see the project to the end. Become passionate about your project. Passion needs to be your driving force, because it will get you over the end line.

How do I get started?

Sometimes just getting started can be the hardest part. For me personally, when I was writing my autobiography, I had so many events running through my head it felt like a mangled mess and I didn't know how to unravel it all. Once I had decided that I wanted to write my story, I would jot down thoughts, emotions, recounts of events on anything I could get my hands on. Perhaps I'd be at the coffee shop and remember something pertinent that I wanted to talk about, so I would scribble it down on a nearby serrviette. This is all good, but probably the best idea is to get yourself a small notebook that can either fit in your pocket or in your carry bag that you can simply write things down easily. If you're writing an autobiography, simply start at the beginning and here's why. If you start from what you first remember or some details like, when you were born which you may not have much to say on or obviously won't remember anything, but it will help you in a few ways. Firstly, you will start to get used to sitting down and writing -- something. Secondly, by the time you really do get to 'the good parts' or those you really want to focus on, you will have more than likely found your 'voice'.

So, what does it mean to find my voice?
Your voice, is like your writing style. It's how you choose to express yourself. It's the language you choose to use. It's how expressive you are, it's whether you use a formal tone to your writing or whether you adopt a conversational tone or incorporate humour. When you find your voice, you become comfortable in the writing process and not only do you start to connect with yourself and the page before you, you also start to connect with your readers. What you will find, is that by the time you get to the middle of the book, your voice has probably changed. In fact, it's gotten better. It's probably more authentically YOU and it is not unusual in your next draft to go back and re-write the earlier chapters because of this. You may also find that what you write in the beginning phases you have not yet fully released yourself to the writing process. Perhaps you are afraid -- of what, you may not be sure. Perhaps you still feel inhibited by writing this way. However, once you experience the fruits of your writing in feeling better about yourself, more in control of your situation, a more open awareness of events; their reasons or outcomes, then you will want to develop your earlier sections further.

Getting back to how you get started

Once I had laid out all the various phases in my life; for me, it was the years -- from when my parents met to the current -- I then set up a folder with plastic insert sleeves for each of these 'chapters'. Then I put in a single lined sheet of paper in each one of the sleeves (I recall there was something like 40 chapters/sheets for me at the outset), so I could create bullet-point lists of pertinent details I could elaborate on when I got to that chapter. Remember what I told you -- don't worry if you have too many chapters or what the layout is going to be at this early stage! I also used photographs to prompt me as I went through making the initial bullet point prompters. If you become engrossed in the moment and start writing in a flurry, write on a separate piece of paper to insert in the plastic sleeves so as not to disrupt your bullet-point list. It's important that this stays clear and succinct because it will help you when you come to laying out the information you are going to enhance once you get there. These plastic sleeves are great for when you are out-and-about and end up jotting down on loose bits of paper, serviettes or whatever you can find at the time! This is where you keep them. The best strategy is to be out-of-sight-out-of-mind with all the additional information. You will find that your mind will become energised by the process and you will need to stay focused, which leads me to the next important point.

How do I stay focused?
With potentially so much energy and emotions being generated from your writing, at least by the time you get further immersed into it, it can be difficult at times to stay focused.
The easiest way for this to happen is:

1. When you sit down to write, DO NOT re-read and keep going over what you have written the previous session. You will want to change it, enhance it, re-write it and the like, but now is the time to THROW IT DOWN, meaning, just get it on the page. So, simply think of a thought and write. If you like, start a simple new page when you write and create a folder instead to keep all the numbered pages in, i.e. folder name: Chapter 12 -- include pages named 'doc one', 'doc two' etc.

2. As I mentioned above, when you write notes or vignettes about other incidences or events, do so, but file, set-and-forget.

3. Rely on your passion for the project to get you through. You really, really want it -- right?

4. Realise that this writing that you're undertaking is a process and it's a positive process. It may feel at times as though it is like salt being poured on an open wound -- particularly if you need to delve into some difficult times -- but in the end, it will be like a balm to your hurt soul. You just need to trust the process and stick at it.

5. Revisit your writing goals (the one's we talked about in the beginning), but don't pressure yourself. This is definitely NOT what it's all about. For me, I found that there were times that I had been writing that I was physically 'living out' the trauma that I was revisiting emotionally and I was actually very sick for a couple of weeks. I knew what it was and I guess I could have stopped the whole thing, but I was in too deep and it became even more real for me as I could feel the rebirthing of my mind, soul and spirit through the process. End of first draft -- now what?

When you've finished writing everything you want to say, put it away.

That's right, I said put it away. It needs to rest, to marinade as it were. You need to remember that you have stirred up so many different thoughts and emotions during this process and your unconscious mind is still working through it all -- at its own pace. Part of this healing process, is being able to purge your heart and soul, as it were and then to be able to revisit it at another time with a different perspective. When you next look at your work and re-read what you have written, you will see it more as a story about your life that you have been about to literally step back from, put it into perspective and accept it. Accept your choices, accept your lot in life.

This is where the healing really is.

So, don't look at it again for a number of months. However, when you do, it's time to consider what you would like to do with all your hard work! It's then, that you ask yourself whether you would like to publish and now and I'm going to talk to you about this next.

Do you want to publish?

There are a few tricky things to consider when you decide whether or not to publish your autobiography. First and foremost is the question of whether you want to use your own name. There are not as many pen names or pseudonyms used these days as there was in the past. For example, the author who was a female and chose a male pen name because men were taken more seriously as writers in her day. But, there is the question of the type of material you have written and whether this is something you want to put your name to. You need to ask yourself how you think you would feel if there was a review in a leading newspaper about your work calling it all rubbish. Would it offend you enough not to want to do it? Now, I'm not saying that will happen, but it does start to get very 'real' when your work is finally out there with your own name and it is all about you, the people you know and about your life. Some people choose to stand up and be counted for what their story is about because they believe it validates their lives.

 They have been survivors and they want their own experiences to act as a form of empowerment for others who may find themselves in similar situations. Yet still, some are embarrassed by having been so open and honest and although they are happy to purge to their quiet confidante -- the paper -- they are not so keen for it to be open knowledge. It really is a personal choice in the end so I can't guide you too much on this one, other to say that there are positives and negatives in both choices. For example, if you really want to forge a writing career, a pseudonym is great and yes you can still write with this, but you will have difficulty if you want to be a speaker on your book when it becomes confusing as to which name you are being marketed under, but it has been done. Unless you are a leading public figure, it is more than likely that a mainline publishing house will not pick up your autobiography and print it -- but I do know a few cases this has happened, but those involved their life stories were extraordinary. Some of my clients get to this point and they choose to change all the names in their book but still write under their own name. They feel accomplished and proud of their efforts and having their book printed is a form of recognition of this for them.
Now that you have decided to publish.

So, now that you have decided you do actually want to publish your book, let's have a look at some of the options.

1. You can go through the mainline publishing avenue, meaning that you will need to write (or have written for you) numerous query letters to agents and publishers. This can take a long time, is an arduous process and as I've said before, unless you are a prominent figure or have an extraordinary story to tell, there's no easy way to say it -- you're not going to be published this way.

2. Probably more realistic for you is to self-publish; which means that you wear the expense of going through the process of getting your manuscript printed and you then have various options available to you relating to its marketing and promotion. Interestingly, some mainline publishers do pick up self-published books as they tend to recognise the differentiation of those writers who really 'back' themselves and those who are just taking a punt. Some self-published authors go on to have elaborate marketing platforms they create themselves such as websites, blogs or social networking sites, which provides even more credibility to them as an author. There's no doubt that there are a number of publishers out there, in fact, it's a burgeoning market so all the more reason to be careful and read the fine print. If there's any advice I can give you, it's to be mindful of whether the printing or publishing house are locking you in to solely working with them with various distribution packages and the like. Additionally, I have had clients come to me literally in tears, realising after signing with a publishing house that they only get one copy of their book before having to buy additional copies back from the printer.

Get The Book: "Write Yourself Well - How To Use The Power of Writing For Growth & Healing" [Angela Sands]
Write Yourself Well' is a wonderfully positive book about how you can use writing, expressive therapy as it is more widely known, to literally heal yourself - body, mind and soul.
This is not a book about ignoring prescribed medical treatments from qualified professionals - whether that be from therapists, psychologists or medical specialists, but to be used as a valuable supportive tool.
Learning how to write yourself through issues that occur in your life, whether that be simply journal entries or an entire book, is a positive and proactive strategy of being able to 're-connect' with your inner self and unconsciously start to resolve and solve any incongruency.
Angie Sands is a professional contract writer with Smart Write (Smart Skills Online [http://www.smartskills.com.au] ) by day, and a passionate creative writer by night - writing about topics that interest, inspire and challenge her - and hopefully others.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Angie_Sands/795850

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