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Writing as Therapy

Next week I head out for a two week writing adventure, aka the beginning of my MFA journey. As this is primarily a blog about health and wellness (oh and running!) I will spell that out for you: Master's of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. I am going to be spending the first week at Wallowa Lake among 100 other writers. Many of whom are published authors or are working on their first book. The second week I will be a little closer to home, on campus.

Currently, I am reading and feverishly editing the first 25 pages of what I hope to be my first book. I say this not because of a lack of confidence in my book, but due to my knowledge that ideas shift and plans and visions change. This book is a story (what about? Stay tuned) that has personal essays weaved into it. One of those essays is about writing itself, see below.

Today I was writing in my journal, a thing I have done longer than I can remember, and I thought about a fear I have often as a non-fiction writer. What if I run out of things to write about? Is my life until now too short to contain topics to write about? Other times it seems there's an endless supply of thoughts and topics moving through my head, in those moments what is lacking is time to write.

I think about what writing has done for me. I think about all the people that don't do it; write in a journal. Their lives could be more calm, better understood- if they simply wrote.

Here is an essay I wrote, about writing, and my experience with it over the last couple of years.

Coffee Shop

Go back to the place where writing saved me. Back to the place where I sat and contemplated my life as a widow. The place where I felt dread, pain, fear. The place I felt sadness over the idea of my daughter losing her father.

These chairs, ever changing. The space, always rearranging. But the importance of its existence, irreplaceable. Here, I write.

I sit here again and I force myself to remember my frequent visits. Many tears shed in these seats. I filled not one, but two journals full of my worries. Now I scribble in the third.

Writing did nothing, and it did everything. The pages, like friends of mine. The kind that listen, understand, don’t give advice; often unsolicited anyways. The pages are silent. They are silent in a world full of noise. Our visits together, frequent. Often daily.

As I visit with my page-friends, I sip an almond milk latte, sweetened with vanilla stevia. Sometimes I enjoy a chocolate chip cookie. Never two days in a row; a rule I employ with resistance. The dreaded happens often– people stop by to say hello. It is rare that I come here unnoticed. I ask myself why I choose such a public location to write?

Likely I feel it as an escape. Running away from my home, my family, my troubles. Running away here after I already ran that day. Only so much physical running can a person do to escape. Writing is my therapy, and therapy often takes place out of the home. Until it isn’t, of course.

Covid-19 comes and my time here, in this seat, in the space with the beautiful water fountain heard below, where the latte is served, where the air is cool from the hot summer sun outside, is no longer open to the public. Many must work from home, study from home. And so I must learn to write from home.

Eventually, the doors re-open. My writing habits, still in practice, feel altered. I return to this place. I resume my writing. Writing continues to mend, calm, and spotlight my troubles. Writing didn’t cure my ex-husband's cancer– but it gave me a place to write freely about it. A place where people don’t reply with their sympathy and sorrows. A place where people didn’t tell me everything was going to be okay. Remember, writing doesn’t talk back.

Writing didn’t fix my marriage– but it gave me a place to be honest about how I felt. It doesn’t ask me to explain. It doesn’t ask me to justify. Writing, as it turns out, is more than my therapy. It is the companion I didn’t realize I always had. It lets me scream, cry, and celebrate. It has never judged me, nor will it.

I go back to this place and I realize the woman sitting in this chair is a different woman then the one who once relied so heavily on this place to feel at peace. I know now it wasn’t the space I needed but the pen and the paper.

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