Editor’s note: Claire De Boer is a writer, editor, and mentor with a special interest in how story connects and heals us. She is also a certified Journal to the Self instructor. Visit her blog to download a free eBook, Soul Writing.
Until a couple of years ago, I was a fiction writer. I didn’t understand why people would want to write about real life when they could create something far more exciting in a fictional world.
Creating characters and placing them in whatever situations I crafted for them was liberating, exciting.
The real life stuff? That got the big thumbs down.
That is, until I discovered the healing power of writing my story.
It happened by accident, really.
I was writing a piece for an online magazine and at the time I was going through a significant depression in my life. Unable to concentrate on the topic in hand, I could only think about this dark empty place in which I found myself, lonely and isolated.
Every sentence I wrote was dry because I was trying to write in a positive upbeat way that wasn’t my current reality. Everything inside me resisted writing the truth because I didn’t want to admit to the way I was feeling. I was also ashamed to reveal myself to others.
Finally, I realized I had to write from the dark place or not at all.
And so it was, from the deepest part of my being, that my words began to grow—like buds blossoming into snowdrops from the cold, hard earth.
Connecting with my old story
I allowed my memory to glide back in time, to re-enter a scene in which I ran away at the age of four and had to be returned home by a neighbor who had been out searching for me.
I focused on the details:
- my mother sitting on the bottom step of our olive green-carpeted 70s stairs;
- coarse caramel-colored wallpaper climbing up the wall beside her;
- a radiator lined with drying clothes to our left;
- how she pulled me into her arms and squeezed me so tight I could barely breathe;
- the sound of saliva slipping down her throat as she swallowed hard.
In remembering these details, I felt the emotion again — the guilt and anger at seeing her cry once more.
And as I relived this memory, I barely noticed the tears slipping down my cheeks or the stiffness in my hands from typing so fast. But I do remember the way I felt when I typed that last period.
Relieved. Released. Unburdened.
I began to write about many different scenes and circumstances from my past in the same way, always focusing on what I could see, hear, smell and see, and the emotions that accompanied me as I re-entered those memories.
And I became fascinated with the process of writing as a form of healing.
Writing a new story
Writing our stories and sharing them is one of the most powerful ways to grow and make that journey from the head to the heart.
By writing our old story, we find ourselves in the midst of a new story, one in which we have the freedom to be our true selves.
Since writing my own story, my walk with depression has changed considerably. I have come to accept it as a part of my journey and to realize that healing and growth are available to me if I tune into my needs via writing.
It may not be the whole answer, but it’s a tool, and an extremely effective one.
Where to begin
The thought of writing the story of your past, the lights and shadows of everything that has shaped who you are, can be a daunting one.
I began with my strongest memories and from there, new memories revealed themselves to me. I also bought some great books on writing memoir and finding your story, which helped guide me through the process.
You are the only person who can tell your story, and it is only by writing, sharing and releasing it that you can begin to rewrite your future.
Have you ever written any of your story? What was the process like for you? Share in the comments.