Communication Made Easy — Speaking, Editing, Writing, Marketing, Networking Answers

A picture may be worth 1,000 words, but words themselves are at the basis of all communication. Whether we are communicating for business or personal reasons, our spoken and written words matter. These posts will address issues and answer questions related primarily to business communications, as they affect writing, credibility, marketing, and networking.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Writing as Catharsis

I was reading the AP newswire again today, about Lauren Terrazzano, a reporter for the Long Island newspaper, Newsday, who writes a column called "Life, With Cancer." She was diagnosed with lung cancer two years ago at the age of 36, and began her column in October 2006. Terrazzano recently was informed that she has perhaps 2 or 3 months to live.

With her writing, she is accomplishing two things ... well, many more than two things, surely, but two significant things. She is giving outlet to all the myriad emotions surrounding what I can only imagine is a most intense experience - but she also is giving a voice to all the others who share that experience but do not have the venue, perceived talent, or ability to hang their cancer stories out for the world to see.

Terrazzano comments on every facet of the disease. She discusses Elizabeth Edwards' most public battle, sharing her first wedding anniversary with her husband, the insensitive comments people make everyday to those living so gracefully with this insidious disease. I cringed to realize that I, too, had at one time made such a comment. It's just so easy to be flip - or insensitive - when you're not in someone else's position.

Writing is, for Terrazzano, no doubt therapeutic. As it is for many who write.

My dear friend, Rebecca Joy, shared with me a blog in January by Christine Kloser, about her miscarriage experience. In it, she talks about the excitement of expecting her second baby ... and the utter devastation that accompanied losing that child. In a marketing column, no less!

And I have personally seen writing work to help people heal. For the last two years, I have hosted an event called "The Birthmother You Know." It is a spoken word event during which birthmothers, women who have placed their children for adoption, come together to share their stories. Some have written poems, short stories, essays, stage plays ... letters they never sent. We will reprise the event again this year - but are still working out the details. Last year, though, we had a gal who shared her story publicly for the first time since giving up her son more than five years ago. She talked, rather than read, and as she talked, she cried. And the entire audience cried with her ... because even though our stories were all so enormously different, she captured in her raw honesty the element of adoption that rings true for every birthmom I have ever met ... the agony of saying goodbye, even if it is the "right" thing to do.

Interestingly, all of these examples involve women.

Certainly, men also use writing as a healing tool. Lynn Nelson, an Arizona State professor of English, in a talk about the pen truly being mightier than the sword, reads and speaks of his own personal childhood traumas and violence. Soldiers returning from battle often use writing to try to release, categorize, and understand their wartime experiences. Convicted criminals often write for a similar release, whether it's owning up to what they've done, or dealing with the ever-present violence they experience within so many prison walls. People who have survived every kind of trauma use - or could use - writing as a means to reconnect with their souls.

There's a fallacy that's been circulating for a long time, now - that in order to be creative, one must have experienced drama, tragedy, poverty, mental illness, or some other equally epic societal ill. This certainly is not the case. Happy people can be just as creative as those who live in a chronically depressed state. Writing, however - and all forms of art, for that matter - can have a dramatic and healing influence.
Whether we write to share, or squirrel our scribblings away in journals never to be seen by any other than our own eyes, the process of getting the words out of our heads and onto paper helps us dissociate from them. It makes the words, memories, images slightly less powerful, because they now live on paper, so they need not live so vividly in our minds. It's as though once we take the action of putting the thoughts, feelings, memories into actual words - whether in a journal book, a blog, an online journal, articles, a novel, or any written form - we give ourselves permission to release those words from our memory banks. We free ourselves to feel, see, do, and experience new things.

Writing can help us heal, if we let it. All we need to do is pick up the pen or sit at the keyboard during an unencumbered time, and allow the words to flow through us.

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