What Does Writing Have to Do with Healing? Everything.
The past two years have been intense for all of us, on many levels. Some of us went through crushing losses and some of us found a newly discovered freedom during this crazy time. But what I’ve really noticed during the pandemic is that almost everyone has gone through some kind of healing.
Healing doesn’t come in only one form, and it can show up in different ways that can be surprising, to say the least. For people who are Highly Sensitive, and creative, healing tends to manifest in a pull toward artistic self-expression. For many of us, that means that after years of feeling creatively stagnant, suddenly we’re journaling again, or painting again, or writing poetry again.
This is because, for Highly Sensitive creative people, self-expression is something that we need to do, just like we need oxygen or water. But In the world before the pandemic many of us were trapped on a hamster wheel of working, commuting, and caretaking others, and so our creative pursuits got put on the back burner. In the past two years, we’ve been forced to come to a stop and consider what we really want, and what we really value.
So, it’s not surprising that artistic self-expression is something that’s reemerged as an important priority for a lot of people, especially those people who have always felt called to be writers.
Although our culture programs us with the (false) message that “real” writers are those who publish and get paid for their work, the truth is that being a writer is a matter of temperament. For some of us, writing is the way we make sense of the world. It’s the way we sort out our feelings, explore our inner terrain, and connect and communicate with others, and the benefits we reap from it have nothing to do with whether or not we’re professionally publishing our writing or getting paid for it.
Writing is one of the main tools we use for growth and evolution. And so, of course, it’s the first thing we turn to when we embark on any kind of healing journey.
If there’s one thing that’s come up over and over again, for the planet as a whole during these last two years, it’s healing. Some of us have realized we’re finally ready to deal with the unprocessed trauma in our past. Some of us have decided that we’re done being a people-pleaser and trying to be who everyone else wants us to be. It’s time to be who we really are. Some of us are still working through the grief of lost loved ones, lost careers, or the deep feeling of loss because life has changed forever with the pandemic and will probably never go back to the way it used to be.
All of this is part of the healing journey, and if you’re a Highly Sensitive person, an intuitive, an empath, and/or a creative introvert, chances are you’re feeling it on a much deeper level than most and you’ve felt the call to your own healing for quite a while now. If you’re also a writer, then writing is going to be a big part of that journey.
One of the things that can help you the most — and is also the hardest sometimes for this type of person — is finding a community of other like-minded folks who are going through the same thing. It’s incredibly beneficial to be part of a group of people who are all exploring writing as a tool for healing and growth, whether that’s a group that’s coming together to study Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way and keep on track with morning pages, or it’s an online meetup where writers can learn from each other as they begin to explore what being a writer means to them.
I was someone who discovered writing as a way to heal way back in 2006. I had been a serious alcoholic for seven years and when I got sober I started writing again. I met with a silent writing group once a week and poured my heart out on paper. I detailed everything I had gone through, what it all meant to me, and mused on what I saw possibly happening in my future. It was extremely cathartic and just what I needed to step into my new identity as a sober person, and ultimately, a writer.
I don’t think I would have been able to do it without that group. The weekly support and positive group energy carried me through when I didn’t emotionally have it in me to keep going on with it alone.
In today’s world, there are now many more options to pick from in terms of writing groups, and thanks to the pandemic, more of them are online than ever before. The best way to find your people is to sit with yourself and decide what matters to you. Ask yourself if you would feel better in a small, intimate group where you can get to know everyone, or in a larger group where you can remain relatively anonymous. Also consider if you would feel better in a group dedicated to a specific writing goal, like the completion of a memoir, or if it would feel like less pressure to be with people who are experimenting with journaling, with no decided plans on where to take it after that.
Once you know what you want and what would feel good to you, start exploring what’s out there. It’s okay if you’re nervous and you worry about joining a group as an introvert. A LOT of writers are introverts, so chances are that you’ll find people who are also introverted in any writer’s group you consider joining.
The important thing is that you experiment and give it a chance. It’s worth going through the feeling of being nervous about putting yourself out there, because a good writing group can truly change your life, and your entire existence as a writer.
Lauren Sapala is the author of The INFJ Writer, The INFJ Revolution, and one of the many teachers at Heal + Create, a virtual retreat featuring speakers such as Julia Cameron, Jacob Nordby and more. Heal + Create is happening Feb 2022. REGISTER HERE to claim your spot before tickets are sold out.