Therapy in the Writing Process
Journaling has long been accepted as a useful tool in the therapeutic process. Traditional journaling can certainly provide benefits. It is a “safe” space to explore powerful feelings. It encourages reflection and honesty and can lead the writer to a better understanding of him or herself. I believe that journaling can be even more beneficial, specifically after a traumatic event, when it is expanded to cover the entire writing process. Each step in the process helps to promote healing in a different way and the completion of all of the steps will help the writer to move forward from the trauma.
Pre-write: This is the time to purge all of the negative emotions. Do not censor yourself. Do not worry about sentence structure or grammar; simply let the words flow. This stage is wonderful for helping to cleanse the mind of all of the poisonous emotions that can damage self or others if bottled up or inappropriately expressed. Stay at this stage until the anger has lessened to the point where rationality has returned. Feel free to return to this stage as needed.
Rough Draft: After you have purged your mind of the initial anger and hurt, it is time to start making sense of your trauma. Craft your preliminary version, focusing on organizing your thoughts and ideas.This is the time to begin to make sense of your story. Examine cause and effect. Consider different perspectives. Blend the raw emotion from your pre-writing with rational thought born from time and distance.
Edit: Read your draft. Edit for spelling and grammar. Revise your sentences and paragraphs until they are succinct and powerful. Read your draft again. The editing process allows you to find distance from your story. Each time you read it, especially as your focus is on the mechanics rather than the content, you will find that you become slightly more removed from the pain.
Publish: Don’t worry, you don’t have to have an agent for this or even research self-publishing. Rather, share your story with at least one other person. By sharing your writing, you are showing that you own your story. It is yours to tell as you wish. This helps to take you out of a victim mode and casts you as the author of your life.
Pick up the pen and write the rest of your story.