Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Celebrating Life Through Writing

I have traveled the journey from wife to widow, from journalist to author. Writing is a way to celebrate life.

This month I began sharing photographs of my family and John.  December, it seems, is a time to reflect on family and friends.  It is also a time to revisit the many benefits derived from writing our stories.

Writing is a way to heal and grow.  I hadn’t even heard that expression - writing as a way of healing, or realized I was doing it until I got halfway through my first memoir, Again in a Heartbeat.

Then a friend suggested I read Louise DeSalvo’s Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives. 

There are many things I have learned along this journey, but perhaps the most important is this: writing is a way to connect with our creative imaginations while exploring the intensity of emotional struggle.  This is especially true in the Circle where together we find our voices as women, writing our way into and out of the past so that we can be free and move forward.
It has been three and a half years since I wrote Again in a Heartbeat. My new project finds me - once again - deep into a love story.

Through John's memoir, Life With Honor, about his struggles with cancer, the military and the medical establishment, I am incorporating into my as yet untitled novel a male character who is John, speaking John's words. The story revolves around a couple in their early 40s who defy death through the power of their love for one another.  I won't give away the ending, but you might guess it ends differently than Again in a Heartbeat.

In the years after John's death, it was just the three of us.

By publishing John's writing as a way to reach the readers he never knew when he was alive, writing becomes a celebration of the man and his creative life. Publishing John's sorrow and hurt which he wrote so eloquently in his memoir gives him what DeSalvo calls "a posthumous life."  And it continues the healing journey for me.

Here are a few benefits derived from writing:

  • As a friend told me when she read Again in a Heartbeat – “You were not just mourning John, but mourning your lost dreams, your youth.” That acknowledgment allowed me to forgive myself. 

  • Writing is a way to embrace our authentic selves. So a huge benefit of writing is self-discovery; telling the truth and things we never dared tell a soul.

  • Writing is living twice. It takes us back to that person and in some ways – and I mean this seriously, it is a form of entertainment as we revisit the joy and expectation of another time.

  • I was a journalist so writing was something I did on a daily basis. I needed to write again after I left the newspaper. By writing books, I continue to develop and hone my skills and passion as a writer.

  • Through the testimony that is writing, we are opened to sharing, making new connections and giving others the courage to write their stories.

By creating a writing group, which became the Women’s Writing Circle, I found the support and validation that writing my story mattered. This encouraged others to write their own stories and led to new opportunities; editing, becoming a writing coach and teaching writing workshops.

What better gift to give ourselves this holiday season than the gift of writing? I hope you can join us this Saturday at Wellington Square for our holiday read-around

Note: Many thanks to Sherrey Meyer for running a portion of this essay earlier this year on her website Healing By Writing which is rich in resources for the memoir writer.


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