Friday, June 3, 2022

Writing as a Way of Healing Ourselves--via the "Radical Power of Personal Narrative"

Can writing save your life, or some part of it? Does writing allow healing, or a small step towards it?

Although those living with the effects of trauma may not agree, I have used writing in my life to mitigate and sometimes heal from the effects of cancer and other trauma. Recently I was talking with a songwriter friend who has read one of my novels and I mentioned a scene that was fictionalized from my own life--and how satisfying, indeed healing, it felt to get that experience on the page. It didn't matter that I changed stuff to keep privacy; it was still cathartic.

I know the research on this. Dr. James Pennebaker is a longtime proponent of writing as a way to healing. Watch his video here. Louise DeSalvo is the author of Writing as a Way of Healing and other books, following Pennebaker's theories with her own evidence.

More recently, Jim, a former student who is working on his memoir, sent me an interview from Northeast Public Radio with author Melissa Febos about what she calls "the radical power of personal narrative." (If the link doesn't work, go to and search for her name.) Febos is also the subject of a short piece in Poets & Writers on her book, Body Work, which they laud as one of the best books for writers. She speaks convincingly on the podcast about how writing has helped her in her own memoir work.

I wanted to share these links this week in case you are facing some personal demons in your own writing and life and are interested in trying out some of these theories.

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