7th February 2014
Writing is seen by many as a craft, but it is one that taps deep into writers’ personalities. Writers continually draw from personal experience to inform their work, using it as a basis for fiction, poetry and more. Using their memories in this way changes writers’ relationship towards them, and can have other effects on both body and mind, from physical healing to emotional catharsis.
In a survey conducted by Hour of Writes, 72% of people agreed that writing helped them to understand their own thoughts and experience, and 65% of people agreed that writing helped them to understand past events. The comment box on this question also provided some striking testimony of writing’s therapeutic role in people’s lives. With one respondent said “writing has saved my life and helped me cure my trauma,” one said, “writing has saved my life and the lives of others, like men I have worked with in prison,” and one simply stated, “it provides hope.”
The therapeutic benefits of writing have also been studied by psychologists. In their article “Emotional and physical benefits of expressive writing,” Karen A. Baikie and Kay Wilhelm describe the ways in which an applied course of expressive writing can lead to long-term benefits of reduced stress, improved lung and liver function, a feeing of greater psychological well-being, and reduced depressive symptoms.
They also found that expressive writing reduced absenteeism from work, improved working memory, lead to quicker re-employment after job loss, and altered social and linguistic behavior. In fact, after writing about traumatic experiences, the study found that participants started to use different words to describe them, showing that, through writing about it, participants arrived at a change in attitude towards the experience, often positive. By writing about the experience they helped themselves to understand it, and put it into context, so that it was less intrusive on their daily lives and psychological wellbeing.
Baikie and Wilhelm’s study was based on expressive writing, a type of writing that they defined with specific instructions: “write your very deepest thoughts and feelings about the most traumatic experience of your entire life or an extremely important emotional issue that has affected you and your life. In your writing, really let go and explore your deepest emotions and thoughts.” Whilst it is fairly incredible that writing in this way can produce a calming effect that can actually improve physical health, this was a study, and participants were pushed to reveal more and be more honest than many people may be comfortable with in writing for a wider audience or critique group, or in working on pieces that are not designed to be “expressive” as such.
The process is similar, however, in other kinds of writing, in that they involve taking experiences from life and understanding them in a different way, in the context of a piece of creative work. In the Hour of Writes survey, there were respondents who were adamant that writing was simply an end in itself: “For me, it's all about the joy of creating worlds with words--it's all about language, sentences, paragraphs. It's giving voice to something new,” said one respondent, with another echoing these remarks, “I like to play with words. I write because I enjoy playing with language."
Still, these responses were in the minority, with most respondents feeling that writing was integral to the way they processed their experiences. One respondent wrote, “Writing helps me work my way through all kinds of ideas. It is also my record of witness. At times my journal was my confidant, such as when my infant son died. Writing poetry, on the hand, is both an exploration and a satisfying craft - rather like science, now that I think of it.” This response encapsulates the varying ways that writing intersects with people’s lives; it can be a form of therapy that assists them in dealing with emotional trauma, it can be a place to explore ideas, and it can be a craft, to practice for the satisfaction it brings.
'What a wanker,' he commented ruefully. 'Bet he talks in an overly-loud voice at train stations.'
- NoelLH: Test note!
- Hour of Writes: Hello! The site is going public this week so no formal competition as live content may get lost in the process, but instead please write short pieces entitled 'A Small Story' in Notes and share them!
- shobhana kumar: quarter there must have been a hundred kites up in the sky that day— every colour and size filled the dark, blue sky. people set out their picnic baskets and brought out their Sunday's best behaviour and such. all was well until one little red kite teased and taunted the three-times winner. such impudence, it took just seconds to bring him down. kite-hormones surged and armies soon took their sides. strings were cut kites were felled as laughter died minutes before the winner was announced, a gust of wind thought otherwise. and so this year, there was no trophy to take home at all. talk is abound with plans for the next fest when kites will be painted like country flags. rumours are rife as to who might win against the sky.
- charlie: sometimes I think should go prison, because I could murder a cup of tea.... anybody?
- Hour of Writes: Hi Magnus! The notes don't connect to anything currently, but are in a state of aided evolution. You mark entries if you have entered the competition. The new title will be released last thing Sunday night / first thing Monday morning and you'll get an email when that happens! Writing this to test a bit of fixed functionality with editing existing notes...let's see if it saves...
Gathered inside the small box, on a sea of red
Oversized feathers in cap
Fur piled precariously.
'Turn the telly up so we can hear the silence.'
Momentarily, he falters, heavily plummaged hat hits the ground: sick, embarrassed.
The small scenes move from the dignified to the gaudy, but sad, always sad.
A young boy still in a war zone holds his breath under the insistent gaze of the world.
'I always observe the silence,' she proclaimed loudly.
'Oh for goodness sake!' She mutters as her phone sounds, breaking the two minutes. Fingers eager to check the contact fidget over the digits until the wake up tone is permitted.
All desperately hoping without hope
that there was a reason
to send a generation across continents
and spread their blood to feed the greedy soil.
Last Week's Winner!
Winning entry by Cara
For some people,
where they come from is a geographical absolute,
an intersected space of latitude and longitude,
My homeland is grief.
Its citizens are too numerous to count,
but we all feel alone.
I have sucked milk from its rivers
and its weight bows my body.
Our culture is founded upon
an ideology of worst case scenarios.
We expect bad things to come for us
because they have come for us before.
We measure the likelihood of our salvation
by the toughness of our hides.
The customs of our country
seem intolerable to tourists,
but none of us ever claimed to be content.
I don't plan stay here,
but it's where I come from,
not a place I will ever disparage,
ever apologize for.
When I move on,
no one who lives here will notice that I'm gone.
I will tell my new neighbors I don't miss it,
and most of the time, it'll be the truth.
Still, I'll always remember how to get home.
It's not that I plan on wanting to return,
but I suspect it will be inevitable.
The coordinates of grief are impossible to forget.
miraculously understand one another,
we watch a monkey’s empathy, cry with emotion then kick the cat.
It alternates with sentiment about mammals that
make money from abusing one another and we watch half,
then stop before we cry bitterly,
It’s interspersed with efforts to save mammals
For, I guess, one of the above purposes.
But on another continent someone’s having an election,
Trying to choose a safe form of freedom, fighting for the truth
On another continent they’re saying never, never again will we
Suffer, now we will be great, everything will be alright now, this
Human has his priorities in the right place, and his morals
More or less – another new dawn.
And all of this through social media makes her feel
Sick and trapped and depressed and that the only
Decisions we can make are what to click and what
To press, and what to watch or not to watch;
all our morals and actions have come to this;
and I long to be up a high mountain in thin light air
with only a few thoughts