by Eve Dobbs
There is a famous adage that everyone has at least one novel in them. Different people will decide to open their notebook or laptop and start writing that novel for many different reasons. Some people choose to write because they have a burning desire to share their personal story; other more creative types simply have a desire to use their imagination and write to keep their creative juices flowing or to spark new ideas. For some though the act of sitting down and writing has a more serious and cathartic nature: some people choose to write because they find the act itself therapeutic.
Writing as a form of therapy is a relatively modern concept but one that is rapidly gaining recognition within the world of medicine and amongst mental health professionals. For survivors of trauma particularly, writing down your thoughts and feelings is considered to be a wonderful way to share and express emotions that it may be particularly difficult to vocalise. A recent study found that when survivors of trauma of people who had experienced difficult life incidents were asked to spend 15-20 minutes writing about those particular events on three separate occasions that they demonstrating significantly improved physical and psychological process then those who had been through similar trauma but were asked to simply write about something generic. It is clear then that sharing your inner most thoughts and feelings by writing them down can improve your physical and mental health and wellbeing, and can act as a form of therapy to help overcome significant trauma.
Writing After Addiction
Another group who often turn to writing either as part of their therapy or because they are attracted by the cathartic nature of the activity are those who are now practicing sobriety following an addiction to either drugs or alcohol. Many addicts, particularly alcoholics, wrongly assume that when they give up the substance they are addicted to they will lose their friends and that it will be difficult to replace the social aspects of an addictive lifestyle. However as well as the obvious benefits such as improved health and well being, there are several unexpected benefits of sobriety too, and one of these is the opportunity to meet new people and try new things. Many people form lifelong friendships with the people they meet in AA or in other support groups, and the clarity that accompanies this provides great opportunities for writing, either creatively or for sharing your own story. The cathartic nature of writing means that you can heal your wounds and repair any problems caused by your addiction simply by picking up a pen and privately exploring your thoughts.
Writers and Alcoholism
It’s important to note that many writers are simultaneously alcoholics. A whopping five of America’s seven Nobel laureates were simultaneously battling alcoholism. There are several theories about why this is, ranging from the fact that alcohol can help to bolster confidence and spark the imagination to the idea that writing is a very lonely and isolating career choice. However many writers who drink or suffer with other forms of addiction find that their output increases considerably (as do their talents) once they give up their addiction. Famous American novelist John Cheever was the first writer of his high standing to publically enter rehab, and he left the process a completely changed man. He took his experience of being in rehab and used it to write in a cathartic way, and the man who had previously taken several years to complete his work had finished his highly regarded new book within twelve months.
The act of writing itself then can act as a form of therapy, as a cathartic way to deal with your emotions and emerge reinvigorated and renewed. Whether you are overcoming significant trauma, facing a battle with alcohol or any other substance addiction, or simply struggle to share your emotions in any real constructive way, it is clear that writing is an ideal activity to turn to, and one that really could change your life for the better.