Friday, December 16, 2011

The Power of Writing

Funny thing about writing a blog.  Days go by, sometimes weeks, and you have little to say. Then, all at once, things come up, and you have lots of things to write about.  This is my third post today, and it's an important one.

In my "It Gets Better" video, one of the ways I recommended that young people deal with the bullying they're subjected to in school is to keep a journal.  I suspect anyone who's never kept a journal, or written anything before, wouldn't understand why writing about how you feel is important.

Then I came upon this today, which illustrates, better than I could ever explain, the power of writing.  The quote is from "Butches of Belfast, and then some," written by Ivan Coyote, and published in issue #479 of Xtra!, dated December 15, 2011.     

Coyote writes:

Last month in Belfast.  Writing workshop in a quiet old pub and theatre on a brick-lined lane in the downtown core.  She walked in way early, wearing a flannel shirt, sensible pants and work boots. Didn't say much, but what she did say was that she came from a big family of storytellers, always with the stories them, but that she had never ever written anything down, on account of her terrible spelling and grammar.  And I do mean terrible, she said.

About an hour later, after we all talked some about the importance of everyone's individual story, I told them all to just write for 15 minutes.  Then I watched her, her shoulders set so fierce and arms determined, scribbling mercilessly onto page after page of a small lined journal, tears streaming unstopping and silent out of her eyes and down her open Irish face so hard.  I don't know anything about what she wrote, and didn't ask, but holy, was it ever a thing to watch.  To watch her write and cry like that.  I could feel her relief in my own bones.

In writing, there's always the risk you'll feel the pain, go places you never wanted to--release the terror and the torment.  Write it down.  Honor your story.  Honor yourself.  Whether you're a bullied teen or an isolated, lonely senior, your story has value.  Your words have value.  You have value.  Discover that today.

Write it down.  

(To read the full piece from Ivan Coyote, one of my favorite columnists in Xtra!, please click here.)  


  1. Sometimes I can feel myself holding in when I write. I need to be able to stop that.

  2. Ben, I was surprised to read your comment and had to ask myself, what prevents a writer from being totally honest when he writes, particularly if, presumably, he's writing only for himself (that is, no one else will ever see what you wrote).

    A couple of thoughts came to mind:

    1). You're not used to pouring out your emotions on paper. I've journaled for so long that it's very natural for me to hold nothing back. Plus, I've always believed that, if I was going to journal, I wouldn't withhold anything (otherwise, there's no point in journaling). I'd release it all, even if I didn't like what I released. Which leads me to my next point.

    2). You're scared of having to face whatever you write. Yup, I understand that, believe me. Sometimes, when something happens to me that I don't particularly like, I don't write about it in my journal the same day (unless I still need to work through it). But, sooner or later, it all comes out--everything. Because I want to document it. And because I need to get it down and release it.

    So my suggestion? Keep writing. Don't stop. You may hold back now, but I believe over time, you'll begin to trust yourself more. And you'll be able to face what you write more and deal with it better than you can now.

    Remember, what you write in your journal is for you only. No one else will ever see it. If you can't be completely honest with yourself, who can you be honest with?

    If you don't mind, keep me updated on how your journaling is going. I'd really like to know and to help you in any way I can.

    Thanks so much for leaving this comment and for your honesty. I know your misgivings are not unlike those a lot of people experience. Still, I hold firm that journaling will be the best thing you ever do for yourself, if for no reason than it will help you develop your writing style (which can only improve your writing in everything).

    Good luck.