Writing For Our Lives:
A Therapeutic Writing Workshop
Since the 1990s, research by leading psychologists like James Pennebaker has shown the therapeutic benefits of expressive writing including how it can:
- Relieve stress
- Boost your immune system
- Create more feelings of happiness
To that list I'd add how writing can transform old ways of seeing the self & how powerfully students can create new "life stories" for themselves.
This workshop provides a safe and supportive space to write deeply and authentically about important life events.
The only requirement is a desire to write.
"Paul is an attentive and sensitive teacher who knows how to inspire his students to dig deep and write close to the bone. He asks the kinds of questions that help me see aspects of my writing I had never noticed before. He creates a safe space for writers to go deep."
--Raven Wolfe, author of Attempting Flight
What's the workshop like?
Workshops are filled with several different creative writing exercises. By way of example, during one recent meeting each participant was asked to tell the rest of us six facts about her life. One fact had to be a lie -- "fiction". The rest of us had to guess the false "fact." What was surprising was how often most of us got the answer right--which had us laughing. It was a great way to break the ice.
Next I passed around a bag of household objects. I asked each participants to write for several minutes about whatever memory or image this evoked. The results were all creative, and a few very moving.
Both the 2-hour/afternoon workshop and the 4-week workshop will be filled with many more of these creative exercises, with the additional benefit that unlike the sample workshop, we'll get to grow as a group. This encourages playfulness and vulnerability. These are huge assets to any writer.
"I am impressed with your style and manner, and think you have a great deal to offer those of us who want to unleash our inner voice through the written word."
-- Christine Diberadino, April 2016
- We observe confidentiality about what is written in the workshop, and participants agree that what is written and said in this group stays in the group.
- Participants are free to refrain from reading their work aloud at all times.
- We don’t direct any criticism, suggestions, or questions to the writer in response to any first-draft, just-written work.
- Group leader writes along with participants and reads work out loud at least once every session. This helps to build equality of risk-tasking and encourages trust.
- Although this class is centered on expressive writing and exercises, there will also be opportunities to experiment with craft and approaches.
- All writing is treated as fiction unless the writer specifically asks that it be treated autobiographically. We refrain from addressing the writer as “you” when describing the action in a piece, but talk about “the narrator,” “the characters,” and so on.
A NOTE ABOUT THE "THERAPEUTIC" ASPECT
While this workshop encourages expressive and experimental approaches to creative writing, it should not be confused with a therapy or self-help group. I am not a licensed therapist, and I do not want to be, nor have any participant be, in the position of giving out psychological advice.
Rather, the workshop springs from a core belief that writing, especially in the presence of others, can lead to enhanced feelings of clarity and wellness, a heightened awareness, and even personal & spiritual breakthroughs (catharsis).
By sticking to our guidelines and maintaining respectful personal boundaries, each of us can give others the space to have their own experience, and to take from the group what they need to grow as writers and artists.