“I write to discover what I think.” ~ Joan Didion

It is my experience as an artist and a teacher that writing “rights” things.  ~ Julia Cameron

I promoted writing long before I realized I wanted to write.  I always encouraged my high school students to write because, like Julia Cameron, I believe that writing “rights” things.  There are many “things” that cause angst and depression in us all, but especially in teenagers.  Their hormones are careening like a roller coaster.  A friend makes a snide comment.  A boyfriend breaks up with a girl right before 5th period class and she can’t stop crying.  So many “tragedies” at that age.  Writing usually helps.

I used to require my Spanish III students to read a one-page story about a man who wrote himself out of depression.  Briefly, this is the story:  This lonely, sad man decided to kill himself because he had nothing to live for.  Realizing he shouldn’t kill himself without leaving a suicide note, he sat down to write.  He wrote a short note.  Then he decided he should add one more thing.  Then another.  And another.  When he stopped he had several pages and he read what he had written.  At that point the said, “Wow! I’m really good at this.  I should be writing for the newspaper.”  All thoughts of suicide went right out the window.  No more depression, just enthusiasm for his future as a writer.

I learned first-hand what writing could do for me when my husband of 30 years told me he wanted a divorce.  I had sporadically kept personal journals in the past, but once I got his news I became committed to writing down everything that cruised through my mind whether I thought it important or not.  I have a treasury of everything that happened during those days.  Our words.  Our expressions.  Our visits to lawyers.  Our tears.  You name it, I’ve got it.  In the past I had held back and written only superficially about my feelings.  That’s probably why I never wrote regularly in those days.  I wasn’t being totally honest.  Being superficial was no longer an option.  My emotions were too raw.  I recognized I had to be brutally honest with myself if I wanted to recover.  And I very much wanted to be well and happy again.

I recently looked back at what I wrote during that time.  Some of it was garbage but some of it was powerful stuff.  I always labeled my entries with the day, date and hour.  I was amazed when I realized how often I wrote in the wee hours.  Sometimes I would write at 3:00 am, try to sleep for a while and then my next entry would be 5:15 am.  No wonder my doctor reacted in alarm to my confession of sleeplessness.  The point is, though, that I depended upon my writing to help me sort through what was important and what was not.  I started to realize fairly soon that D was going to do his thing and there was nothing I could do about it so I had to stop whining about it.  I knew that his OW had no place in my thoughts or my pages.  But the most important thing I came to understand was that family and friends and faith would get me through to the sunshine again.  And they have.

Today I am mostly happy and joyous and free and Life is good.

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5 thoughts on ““I write to discover what I think.” ~ Joan Didion

  1. It’s funny how the exact same thing happened to me, I have kept journals for years, but when my emotions were so raw I had to be completely honest and felt compelled to “say” things, both in writing and when talking to people, in a desperate attempt to exorcise the pain. I was unable to censor myself, tthe natural filters of reserve, manners etc…had gone up in smoke.
    Anyway, thnaks for this post, and I think you’re right, for many of us, writing somehow rights things.
    Take care!

    Like

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