Writing as Therapy Misha Herwin


It’s often been said that if you want to get rid of unexpressed anger against a significant person in your life then write them a letter, don’t send it, but after due time either re-read and destroy, or just destroy. The feelings should then become manageable, just as writing about the loss of someone close helps to mitigate the pain. Or it can be a way of dealing with childhood trauma, or a difficult divorce, or to enable coming to terms with the diagnosis of terminal illness, either your own or of someone you love.

This month I was going to explore all this idea in depth. I was going to look at this genre of writing and try to understand whether there was indeed a therapeutic benefit for the writer or their readers, or whether it is simply that there is something in us that draws us to another’s pain.

The events of this past week, however, have well and truly put paid to that plan.  Visiting husband in hospital, he had been admitted with a heart problem, meant that there was little time to write but even if there had been, putting down what I was feeling would actually have made things worse. The one occasion when I did note down my fears left me distraught. It was far better to talk things through with my friends who were there to comfort and support.

As things turned out, Mike is home and better than he had been, but I’m no closer to being able to write about what happened. Judging from previous experience it will take time to process and even then I suspect that it will emerge not as memoir but in my fiction.

This blog has of necessity been brief. It would be interesting to know if any fellow writers have found writing as a therapy helpful. 


Debi said…
I've often read that writing about things that happened will make you feel better. It never does. It just causes me to relive them and be upset about them again. Maybe it's different for some people. It's best for me to put the feelings away and take them out later to examine them again in little bites.
Umberto Tosi said…
Here's wishing your husband continued and speedy recovery. It's been nearly four months since heart failure put me in the hospital, where doctors probably saved my life by installing several coronary stents. I set to writing all the more earnestly upon my discharge, realizing that life is all too short. For me, the act of writing anything, no matter what, is a barometer. I've since completed my now-published detective novel (editing/proofing/formatting/launching it to favorable recepting, thank you) "The Phantom Eye" and I am now 20,000 words of readable draft into its sequel. I recently overheard my partner, Eleanor, telling a friend on the phone. "I know Umberto is much better because he's writing." Blessings and best to you.
Peter Leyland said…
Yes, I've always found writing helpful as a therapy Misha, although sometimes it can take years for the right piece on a painful situation in one's past to emerge. There are many people nowadays using a form of creative narrative writing in order to deal with their unresolved issues. I think the art is in the skill of the writer, not allowing their story to become just a 'misery memoir' as they are known. That is the challenge.

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