The Many Benefits of Writing

“It’s not until we are lost that we begin to understand ourselves.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

At last Saturday’s writing workshop at my church, we talked about the many benefits of writing. Among them are strengthening ourselves both emotionally and physically by writing and unburdening thoughts and memories that may have restrained us over the years from fully self-actualizing or healing. “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. ~ Joseph Campbell.

We spoke about the curiosity a writer cultivates through something as simple and mindful as a walk in the woods on a wintry day and then going home to write about it with an uncensored pen.

“Playfulness in writing plays an important role. Allow yourself to try new things, to shake off the inner critic and loosen up. I think you’ll find, as I did, that your creativity soars.” ~ Margaret Gracie.

Poet Mary Oliver made a whole career out of writing about her surroundings from a walk on the beach where a simple scallop shell caught her attention to the sounds of birds on a spring morning. “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. “~ Albert Einstein

Writing teaches us “stillness.”

Everything that’s created comes out of silence. Your thoughts emerge from the nothingness of silence. Your words come out of this void. Your very essence emerged from emptiness. All creativity requires some stillness. ~ Wayne Dyer

After we discussed the benefits of writing and more, we penned our memories of Christmases past and shared them in the circle. Here’s mine. As we approach Advent and the darkening of winter, a luminous path back to ourselves often resides in gratitude.

****

Evening darkness descends with the harsh high-pitched caw of a crow. Or is it a turkey buzzard? Amid cornstalk fields, and suburban lawns, these birds stake their claim to November’s dark days. I’ve seen a lot of them lately, foraging for food, cawing from the leafless treetops, strutting and bobbing along the sidewalk, black harbingers of approaching winter. The days loom long and lonely and the birds and I are one, creatures caught in a chilly winter world. Their cries are a reminder that he is gone, although the years stretched into what feels like a millennium since last I saw him or heard his voice or felt his touch or took in the scent of his apricot aftershave.

On our first Christmas Eve together, he said, “Let’s get a puppy.” Scrapping by on a teacher’s and a reporter’s salary— fairly good to make a life together—we hung glass icicles on the small pine tree in my apartment. “A blonde cocker spaniel. Our gift to each other,” he said. His offer of a puppy went right to my heart, lighting up a dark winter night.

I wish I were thirty again and his hand reached for mine. As I write this, I marvel at how words work as witnesses. He lives in my heart and on the page. Writing brings me closer to myself. Outside my studio window in the darkening night, the caws remind me more is behind me now than before me.

Perhaps when the mood strikes, I’ll string garlands of multi-colored lights on the azalea bush by my front door or put up a Christmas tree in my living room decorating it with holly berries, dried magnolia leaves, and hydrangeas… Downstairs in the cellar alcove, cardboard boxes filled with ornaments won’t be brought out this year, it’s just me after all. No fanfare, just me. The glass ornaments from Dresden, once belonging to my grandparents lay buried under dusty tissue, along with the silver glass icicle, and the bubble lights he insisted we buy which I hated.  I hear his voice. “Let me get you a puppy for Christmas.” I sit up straighter. Have I noticed the warmth of my house tonight, the yellow Labrador Retriever lying at my feet? When I do the caw becomes not a mournful dirge, but an invitation to stop and listen. To remember the touch of his hand on a Christmas Eve long ago and his words, “Let me get you a puppy for Christmas.”

Wishing all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with gratitude and joy… and writing.

Published by Susan G. Weidener

Join me as I share reflections, always with an eye toward the challenges and struggles we women encounter and embrace in both creative and personal ways. My memoir, Again in a Heartbeat, was selected as a 2011 editor’s pick by Story Circle Network. Its sequel Morning at Wellington Square has also achieved critical acclaim. A Portrait of Love and Honor, a novel based on a true story, is centered around a story of two people destined to meet and one man's commitment to honor following his years at West Point. In 1991, I joined the staff of The Philadelphia Inquirer and worked as a reporter covering news and writing feature stories until 2007. A native of the Philadelphia suburbs, I attended the University of Pennsylvania. In 2010, I started the Women's Writing Circle, a critique and support group for writers in suburban Philadelphia, which meets the second Saturday of the month at the Chester Springs Library. I live in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania with my Yellow Lab, Lily.

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