Writing as a Coping Mechanism

Today’s blog is going to be a little different.  Rather than talking about points of grammar or editing, I want to talk about the power of writing.

It’s been a rough week for your friendly neighborhood blogger; I’ve experienced a deep personal loss that’s been very hard to come to terms with.  But, I’m a writer, and one of the way I try to deal with and understand the world around me is through writing.

Writing has many, many functions.  It’s a form of communication, it’s a form of art and creativity, it’s a way to express yourself.  The function I’ve been using this week has been therapeutic; getting words on paper can help us express fears and emotions, letting yourself feel their full effects, understand their power, and begin to come to terms with them.

Stress, trauma and unexpected life developments – a death in the family, a medical diagnosis, a sudden layoff or an accident – can wreak havoc on your mental state and your mood.  It’s easy to spiral down into a funk or a depression; very few of us have the tools to naturally accept and put into context these massive life events.  It’s a terrible burden for people.

The first thing I do, though, is sit down and write.  Nothing formal; not an essay or this blog post or anything of that nature.  I just sit down and start typing anything that comes to mind, letting my subconscious guide me.  It’s called “expressive writing” – writing about the thoughts and feelings that arise from this sort of traumatic life experience, in order to cope with all of the emotional fallout.

It’s a way of opening up.  It forces me to think about my experience and express my emotions in a functioning way—it forces me to begin to process things, and allows me to give meaning to a traumatic experience.  It’s not a magical elixir or a quick cure-all – the pain and the hurt are still there, and won’t go away just because I scribbled something on a piece of paper.  But the act of getting things on paper – even knowing that no one else will ever read them, that it’s just between me and the page – begins the process of healing, and accepting the changes.

Some people might choose to do something more structured; to write a story or a poem memorializing the loss of a loved one or something like that, or an elegy or an obituary, or even documenting a story of a happier time.  It almost doesn’t matter what is written, the very act of writing can help people come to grips with everything and begin to move forward.

Writing is powerful.  Writing is useful.  Writing can be a way to cope with even the hardest parts of life.

Write.

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