Most of you know that I’ve been focusing on my studies in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes, and it’s something I’m passionate about. It feels like there’s a variety of things I’m passionate about within writing, and even as I write this, I know that I should be getting started on my next novel, or maybe starting a presentation, or a dissertation write-up. And yet I’m here, blogging.
People have asked ‘why blog’ for a long while now. Is it about connection, reaching people you wouldn’t normally find? Is it simply the fact that as writers and professionals in the modern world, we are expected to have a landing pad, a sense of who we are in the internet universe? Or is it cathartic, regenerative expression that allows us to get on with our day? A little of all of these, I believe.
I’ve been exploring for a while now how blogging can make people feel better. Certainly, quite a few bloggers I know are dealing with ill health, stress, anxiety, and writing their feelings down (and the connections that follow from those blogs via twitter and comments) not only feels cathartic, but powerful in being recognised in the big wide world as ‘normal’ feelings. Somewhere, on the internet, you will find someone who is feeling how you’re feeling, who has been where you’ve been. And that’s a powerful thing. Even if you don’t need anyone to read your blog, if you just want to shout into the darkness, that’s okay too.
Catharsis means cleansing. It means release. Catharsis can come in small waves or overwhelming tides. I always think of it a little like cleaning my internal space- if I do a little dusting on a regular basis, it’s unlikely I’m going to need a big overhaul. I think there’s a difference between catharsis and purging, and it’s that one is natural, and the other is forced. To purge yourself of something is to force it from you, and that’s why we negatively associate it with some very intense religious views, and body dysmorphia. Those are the only times I’ve heard the words, anyway. Purging your demons.
I would gently encourage you, with all the experience of someone who has made continued mistakes on the internet, to think about what you want your blogging to achieve. So many wonderful blogs are about overcoming adversity, and in truth, those are the stories that others want to hear. They want you to offer a nugget of who you are, what you’re dealing with, so they don’t feel so alone. But they also want to make you their hero, they want to root for you, to find out if you’ve got a way of dealing with your stuff, so they might deal with theirs. Be a pioneer in your issues, don’t become them.
In studying expressive writing, it’s become clear that for limited periods of time, writing about trauma, or upset, or strong, difficult feelings in detail, truly exploring and expressing, can be helpful in long term health. Repressing feelings makes us ill, there’s no doubt about that. But writing continually about painful, depressing feelings doesn’t help us. In fact, it makes us worse. It reinstates our depressed feelings. If I feel overwhelmed by an issue, and I spend a couple of days writing about it, really exploring it, and then I read it through, feel settled and put the piece away/destroy it, the likelihood is that I have addressed and dealt with it. At least as much as I am able to at the moment. If you are continually returning to the same issue, if you have nothing positive to say, nothing happy, or inspiring to share, then you are reinstating your own unhappiness: you are giving it breathing space. Air it, accept it, and find a way forward.
I read a lot of blogs, and I see so many that are authentic, and jagged, and breathy and funny. The writers are dealing with pain, and learning, and laughter and confusion, and they are reaching out. Remember that feelings are temporary, but words we share are often taken up by someone. There’s a reason we so often encounter trigger warnings in the online world now- people know that their stories affect each other.
Take responsibility for your story today. Tell it to yourself first, in a soft, quiet voice. Find out what your story is, explore how you feel. Decide if you want to share it. If putting it out in the world will make one person feel less alone, or show someone how to deal with issues you’ve dealt with, if it will make someone smile or laugh or feel proud: share that with them. If your story is unchanging after months, if you are still writing about how much hatred and anger and bitterness you have, if you are searching for silence instead of voices in unison, then write in private. Or even better, switch focus and try a different tactic. In a literal way, this means try writing your feelings in third person, try writing about what an object in your room might hear, try writing from the perspective of someone you know. Feelings are contagious, and the internet doesn’t need any help in spreading misery.
Am I saying to shy away from important, difficult writing? Am I saying you’re not allowed to be happy? No. Difficult writing is important. But I am starting to see blogs where the writers are stuck in loops- nothing is improving, nothing is shaking free or changing, and every bad thing reinforces the last. Change your perspective, search for the positive, and share your story and your lessons in a way that others can benefit from.