Are there events in your life that you are hiding in darkness? Cramming to the back of memory and avoiding writing about? It's okay. Most of us have had times that were sad, frightening, or even embarrassing.
The problem is, it takes mental, emotional, and physical energy to keep stuffing them away. We work harder and harder at not remembering. That energy could better be used for our writing.
Ample research has shown that writing about traumatic events is therapeutic so the best treatment is just to write about it. Bring events into the light.
I can now support the research with my own experience. Recently I gathered my nerve (and my blood pressure medication) and began writing about an unhappy time in my life. Right now the writing is just for myself. When I read The Glass Castle: A Memoir, I cringed at what the author, Jeannette Walls, revealed about her life. My experiences are nowhere near as bad as hers, but I am not ready to share them with the world. That's okay. In this instance, it's the writing that is important.
As I wrote, my heart thumped, my feet got freezing cold, and I hunched closer and closer over the keyboard. When it felt like my head might explode, I got up, walked to the window and looked out at the new young mom on the block pushing her baby boy in his stroller. Her blonde ponytail bounced and his little feet kicked. I smiled. I breathed. I went back to the computer.
After it was all on paper, I felt better. Actually, I was surprised by how much better I felt. It's over.The computer had not gone up in flames, and I had not fallen onto the floor, curled into a fetal position, and sucked my thumb. I printed it, and in a short time, it became a piece of writing that I could look at objectively. Maybe I ate chocolate somewhere in this whole process.
I showed the writing to my gentleman friend and a trusted writing mentor. My gentleman friend hugged me and said, "You are a good writer." My mentor said I had a good start, but she pointed out places I could improve on the piece.
The next morning dawned sunny but foggy. What an odd combination for May. It was perfect for the way I was feeling. Those old events are still in my memory, but the pain is foggy and being burned off by the light.
Don't let old fears and memories hold you back. Write toward the light. It feels good.
I am not a psychotherapist, nor do I play one on TV, so don't give yourself a crack-up by writing about old wounds. Start small. Write one or two sentences. When you feel strong enough, write again. Or just let it all out on the paper in one smelly heap. Write: I wish things had been different, but . . .
Okay, after that writing prompt, you are going to need some serious chocolate. This recipe is from my young advisor's company cookbook, contributed by Jodi, who calls it Can't Let Them Alone Bars. This seemed perfect for today. You know how even though you have a hundred happy memories, your mind keeps returning to the one unhappy memory -- can't let it alone. Let's drown that unhappy memory in good writing and good chocolate.
Can't Leave Them Alone (Chocolate) Bars
1 package white or yellow cake mix (divided)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
Combine dry cake mix, eggs, and oil. Press 2/3 cup mixture into greased 9 x 13-inch pan with floured hands. Set aside remaining mixture. In microwavable bowl combine milk, chocolate chips, and ubtter. Microwave 45 seconds or until smooth. Pour over crust. Drop remaining dough by spoonfuls over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes. (I would probably add nuts because I like to have the Big Three: chocolate, butter, and nuts.)
For more writing tips, writing prompts, answers to questions about life story writing, resources, and fun stuff for writers, go to www.angelinyourinkwell.com.
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Photos by Carol Newman ©2010
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