A Facebook group I frequent recently had a thread about being a poet and writing poetry. A number of comments shocked me. One person wrote that she used to write poetry but stopped and another commented that she used to write but felt now it was too late in her life to take it up again. Well, the 80/90 year old painter known as Grandma Moses started painting in her senior years! There are lots of people that age who write novels, poetry, etc. Another person said something along the lines that since he never was successful in getting published, why bother.

 

These comments were posted pre Boston Marathon bombing. As a professional writer I have an entirely different point of view. Writing both poetry and prose can be therapeutic. Therefore, I would like to share how anyone, no matter what age or profession, can benefit from taking pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard!).

Writing can be the most individual form of therapy that you can encounter. In today’s world, with all its terrors and disappointments, we need a personal and portable way to heal our souls. Recall what it was like to keep a journal as a teenager. It was your friend, your companion. How did you feel when you dashed off a letter to the editor, venting your inner feelings at something that offended you? Or that love letter you finally wrote, pouring out your heart and soul. Didn’t it make you feel so much better that you now expressed your love openly? All these are examples of how writing can be your personal therapist.

There are many types of writing that can give form to your feelings: Journals, poems, songs, essays, a letter to the editor, letter to a friend, letter to a foe (if done tastefully with words you won’t regret!), short stories, personal fairy tales.

The act of writing can:
* Be a way to vent, rage, “get it off your chest,” “let it all out.”
* Give you the feeling that you are being heard.
* Help you give form to nebulous thoughts and feelings.
* Be a process that can lead to insights if you do not try to control it.

After you have put your feelings down in words, you can choose to tear it up, save it to re-read, share it with friends, try to get it published, or post it on a personal Web site.

Here are some tips on how to get started in using writing as personal therapy:

1. Start small – keep a daily journal to record your thoughts and emotions. 
2. Move on to giving your thoughts and feelings more form through a poem or essay. 
3. Get out of your skin – try to write making a more global statement or from another point of view.
4. Write about the human condition – take your problems and place them in a larger perspective.
5. Write a short story having the fictional characters “act out” your problem.- a great way to try “solutions”!

It is the act of writing, not how much you produce or the quality that matters. Remember, you are not trying to become a professional writer. Write when you feel the need or when there is no one around to listen to you. You might feel that your writing is poor or that no one seems to get the meaning. However, if you feel emotionally relieved after writing the piece or it gave you an insight or a solution as you wrote it, than it achieved its goal.

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