Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Can Writing Save Your Life?

Why do we write? Why are stories so important? As a student of C.S. Lewis says in the movie Shadowlands: we read to know we're not alone. So is it the same for writing?

I think so. That's why I believe that everyone has a story to tell. And that we write and tell stories to understand who we are, in both darkness and light.

Sometimes we tell the wrong stories about ourselves, and we need to shift our perspective and change them. We can get stuck on the story that we are unlovable and will always be alone, or we how about the story that we are a victim of circumstances and other people - know that one? Those stories don't serve us, and we need to find stories that do.

As a child, I wrote to explore and manage my darker feelings, and I am so grateful that I was encouraged to have that as an outlet. I don't know what I would have done without it. My journals were a receptacle for my negative emotions: depression, jealousy, self-hate, rage. Of course, I experienced the lighter side of life as well, but I didn't need to write about that. In college I wrote avant-garde labyrynthine short stories - explorations of psychological trauma. After college, in my "acting" days, I wrote my own pieces to perform.

Sobriety at the age of 25 brought me to a new kind of hopeful writing. Writing was the only way that I knew how to "pray", to ask for help. Writing was my own version of getting on my knees. (I grew up in the church and had to change my perspective about what humility really meant.)

At that time I was also in graduate school, earning my Masters Degree in Drama Therapy. For my thesis I wrote a performance art piece entitled: Pandora's Hot Box - Lost in a Spiritual Supermarket. (Yes, inspired by The Clash.) Writing was therapy then, and continues to be so.

Even though the publishing business can bring up all of my neuroses, it is the process of writing on a daily basis that keeps saving my life.

Writing Edges was partly a way for me to come back to an understanding and gratitude for my own sobriety. It would be a lie to say that it wasn't part of my personal journey - yet it is fiction. And so it is true.

And the fiction I'm writing now is letting me explore, through my main character, the feeling of being in someone else's shadow and finding yourself despite that.

What about you? Where are you in your writing? Does the process help keep you sane as well?


Léna   xoxo


  1. Excellent essay today. I have never thought of writing as prayer, but what an idea! I am going to ponder that thought for a while.

  2. And the fiction I'm writing now is letting me explore, through my main character, the feeling of being in someone else's shadow and finding yourself despite that.

    I've been trying and trying to write that kind of story, but I always sink into getting too close to my real life and being afraid of offending people.

  3. Thanks Bookie! I'd write out gratitude lists and prayers as well as stories and hopes and dreams.

    Shira - just keep writing - don't worry about "offending" - that's what revision and editing is for. Your characters will become real and it will be more than just you.

  4. This is exactly what I needed to read today! I feel ready to tackle my book again! a Prologue and a chapter and a half in!

    A quick question: When writing a character (Granted, all characters are a part of you or you wouldn't have been able to make them) is it possible to become "to close" so to speak? I feel like my character is my exact twin in some ways and I am worried I might not be able to get to the end without getting to my end. This makes like no sense now that I have written it, but hopefully you get the gist?

    Thanks in advance!

  5. Hi Ian! Great to hear from you - first of all, congratulations on jumping back into your writing! I know you must be crazy busy with all of your school work.

    Second of all, you make complete sense - creating layers of character takes a lot of time. Since you are in the beginning, perhaps if you add a tiny detail to this character that is NOT you, then other details will grow organically. Whenever I'm not sure about where to go next in the plot, I add another layer to my character and this usually helps point me in the right direction.

    Have a great night!

  6. I like the idea of writing as prayer, too.

    I think I'm the opposite of you, Lena--I tend to only want to write when I'm feeling happy. But I'm trying to learn to write through sadness, too, because I think it's equally important.

  7. Thank you Lisa - you comment just jolted my thinking to another essay I can write - maybe not quite what you are saying, but exploring writing as wish fulfillment.

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