When you bring up difficult life experiences to share and teach the world through your writing, you need to take great care of yourself, first and foremost.
In the Fall of 2014, I went to a workshop at a local writers house on writing memoir. I thought it would be a fun Saturday afternoon activity to engage in. That workshop turned into a 2-year commitment to writing a memoir with a group of women embarking on the same journey.
It was healing to write about my journey with chronic health challenges, but as the weeks turned into years of writing, it turned out that the story was really more a story about addiction in my family and, ultimately, how my parent’s relationship impacted my life. While therapeutic, the writing process was also very emotionally challenging as it brought up so much surprise anger and grief.
What I learned from my journey, and that of the others in my writing class is the simple fact that I had to take care of myself to offer my experience as learning for others. Fortunately, the habits I learned to heal my body, on my health journey, also helped me to write my story.
A few tools I’ve learned to get to the authentic truth at the heart of an emotional story are:
1) First, Be Quiet
Before putting pen to paper, set a timer to be quiet. Three to five minutes is enough, but go longer if you can and it feels right. Allow quiet to surround you and clear your mind. Mindfulness brings peace, stillness and clarity.
2) Journal Before You Write
Purge the negative mind chatter for a page (or 3) letting out whatever needs to release before you get to the work. Journalling allows you to honor and release what is caught up inside so you can get to the story.
3) Light A Candle
The peace and comfort of a flickering candle cannot be easily explained, but it works. Be sure to blow it out when you are done, signaling the work (for now) is done.
4) Bookend Writing
If you know you will be writing hard stuff in a session, consider beginning your writing time with a call to a friend letting them know you are writing for a few hours and ask if you can call when you are finished to “bookend” your work. Not only do you gain accountability, but there is comfort in knowing that someone will be there to talk with you when you’re done. Ironically, even if you just leave a voicemail at the end of your time, it can allow for release. This practice offers for a container of time specific for you to be vulnerable and open without having it spill over into the entire day (or week). You open and close with another person witnessing.
5) Move Your Body
Take walks, hikes, or runs to move the emotion through your body allowing it to release. Some days you may have to move more often or longer than others. The key isn’t the amount of time, it’s that you move. Allow physical release of emotions and give your body the gift of motion after all the sitting while writing.
The best self-care we can always give is loving who we are through the process, no matter what, and giving ourselves permission just to get the words on the page. Self-care takes intention and planning. Add it to your schedule, make it a habit, stick to it and most of all, be gentle.
Sera Fiana is a healthcare consultant and wellness leader on a mission to use her passion for health to inspire healthy change from the inside out. As a survivor of a rare, abdominal desmoid tumor, Sera uses her life’s story of transforming physically, emotionally and spiritually on her healing journey to challenge the way we honor our personal health. She is the founder of Healing U. Women’s Wellness, an educational community created to empower women who have experienced health challenges to transform their lives. Healing U. offers retreats, virtual programs and workshops.
Sera currently lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. Between passionately sharing her enthusiasm about wellness, you can find her sipping green tea while reading a good memoir, trying to write her own or hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Follow Sera on Instagram at @serafiana.