Putting Pen to Paper: Writing for Release


I've done a good bit of writing in my life, mostly academic or technical, but it wasn't until 2013 that I had the idea to enroll in my first creative writing class. I was inspired to develop a regular writing practice after picking up Natalie Goldberg's classic Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writing Within.  Goldberg's writing style and instructive approach is inspired by her experience studying Zen meditation. Goldberg defines “writing down the bones," when she says: “…I want the students to be [writing] the essential, awake speech of their minds”.

Every now and then I'll share writing prompts to inspire you to pause and take some time to write. Studies show that creative writing (and other forms of art therapy) can actually decrease pain, improve mood, and provide a healthy outlet for painiacs. The key here is to do what you can and what feels natural. Turn off that inner editor; this is not a homework assignment that will be submitted for review. This is your chance to release frustrations, address concerns, find the humor in the daily challenges and obstacles, or just document your journey. 

I've found that writing can be one of the most cathartic things I can do for myself. The escape of losing yourself in the narrative can significantly change your perspective of yourself and the world we inhabit. As Natalie Goldberg so succinctly puts it: “To do writing practice means to deal ultimately with your whole life”.

Lately, I've also been inspired by Laura Deutsch's Writing from the Senses. I’ve decided to take today’s writing prompt from Deutsch’s book. Here it is: 

Sometimes I need to rest

Here’s an excerpt from my no-inner editor-just-write-with-abandon writing session I did inspired by the prompts above. I composed this passage in very late autumn, when the air was just turning towards winter:

Sometimes I need to rest. Feel the sun on my skin. Slow down to the point of when even a breath feels like forever. When a whole lifetime of thoughts, dreams, regrets, doubts, loves, wants, and beliefs drip away into the void. 

This can look different depending on the day or what I’m caught in the middle of. I may sit on my deck among the cracking and chipped terra-cotta pots and crawling vines of my container garden and close my eyes to listen for the residential hummingbirds of my neighborhood. Or I may keep my eyes open and look up at the small patch of sky. Noticing the shade and shape of the clouds overhead. sometimes, I rest while working. Finding the stillness in doing the dishes, perhaps, taking note of my hands swelling under the stream of hot water, bubbles foaming between the webby flesh of my fingers. 

There was a time when I did my hardest to avoid and put off resting. But now I see that it’s when I carve out the time to allow for the resting that I am then more productive and thoughtful in my more active moments. 

I’m on my deck right now. The dawn redwood is still holding on to its rust-hued leaves, what’s left of them anyway. 

In the summer, the tree presents itself so boldly. Draped in green and dotted with cones. Even its limbs look tired now. Its thin branches exposed and vulnerable. But it also appears still, and there is a serenity to the loss of its leaves. The prolonged release of them, like for any living thing, is only natural to want to grip on to our power, to assume control. But not for long, because the redwood will—very soon— let go of its last dried leaf and retreat within to its own place of rest. only to emerge again in the spring, a stronger, bolder, and more powerful version of its former self. 

So grab a pen and paper, or your computer, and start writing. 

I encourage you to share your writings, either with a friend, or online (in the comments below, or even in a chronic pain support group). It’s OK if you’d rather not share; that’s the beauty of writing. Whether it’s shared or kept private, it’s still out of your head and heart and into the universe. You've made something from the pain. Own it. Be proud of it.

Happy writing!