I didn’t start writing as a way to “heal.”
In fact, my earliest memory of myself as a writer goes back to second grade. I had written a story and showed it to my teacher, Mrs. Jones. In all fairness, in my memory, my story wasn’t entirely my own, but was “borrowed” from something I had seen on Sesame Street.
In any event, Mrs. Jones made me a “book” with yellow construction paper for the front and back covers and the “good paper” inside – the white paper with blue lines that was always reserved for our final drafts. She told me to write my stories down in my book.
I don’t know what happened to that book, but I do know that I’ve been writing ever since.
I got lucky. My very first publication was in the Los Angeles Times.
After that, most of my published personal essays were inspired by my teaching career and my interactions with my students. (You can check out a list of my published work here.)
But that was before 2010. For the past ten years, I have written more and more about my life with an autoimmune disease. In fact, I am working on a memoir-in-essays as a mother, wife, and former teacher living with this invisible disability.
And that’s why I recently read Louise DeSalvo’s Writing as a Way of Healing – How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives.
While I don’t know if writing is “transforming” my life, I do believe writing provides me with a different opportunity to teach.
This week, I’d like to share a few of the passages that I marked with my pinkish/purplish highlighter.
“… writing that springs from intensely personal motives can be useful to others. For loss is a universal human experience, something we all must learn to deal with.”
“Through reading, our imaginative faculties are nourished, enriched, expanded. This is why, for writers and would-be writers, reading is not a luxury but a necessity.”
“One reason, then, to write as we face these critical junctures in our lives is that illness and disability necessitate that we think differently about ourselves, about everything. We can write a new story for ourselves, to discover who we are now – what we’re feeling and thinking and what we desire. We can learn, too, what our bodies are like now, and we can imagine what will become of us.”
“Writing gives us back the voices we seem to lose when our bodies become ill or disabled. We want to speak for ourselves and our particular experience of illness and disability rather than have someone else speak for us. Writing helps us assert our individuality, our authority, our own particular style. All are seriously compromised by medical treatment and hospitalizations …”
“For illness often confers a wisdom about how to make ordinary life deeply and transcendentally meaningful.”