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The Transformational Power of Writing Alone and With Others by Tina Neyer

May 29, 2019

I am of the firm belief that something happens within a writing circle. Is it the writing prompt, a poem, an image, or the Old Spice that the man next to you is wearing that effects change through the practice? What happens is that we tend to get in touch with pieces of ourselves that perhaps live under a dining room table when we were young, or is in the click-clack of a moving train. Maybe it’s the smell of a summer breeze laced with jasmine, whatever the case, we are transformed.

In late April I was part of a team that guided people through Rome and Assisi, Italy. This was my fourth time as part of these yearly pilgrimages to enhance people’s understanding of Saint Francis of Assisi. I conducted writing circles, which were untested in this format. We didn’t know if anyone would buy into the daily writing prompts, the gathering in a rooftop garden on a brisk day, or the conversations that ensued from the depth of the work we did in the circles. And just like magic, the people who showed up to the optional activity, formed a community.

Something happens in the transference of thought to page. I write in cursive before I head to the computer with my words. It’s too easy to be critical with the constant distractions of the internet, spell check and word count. Here’s often how it goes within the process of getting thoughts to page:

·       An idea is spurred by something your physical senses are exposed to, the smell of cut lawn, the light at the end of the day, the sound of a siren, or the touch of a baby’s cheek.

·       With paper and pen in hand, the writing begins, first confusing, but as the pen moves over the page, ideas begin to coalesce.

·       The rest of the world slips away, time becomes a friend.

·       It’s you and page, your body is engaged.

·        The brain relaxes away from the noise of living.

·       Before you know it, your arm begins to throb with the use of the muscle.

·       The page before you is full of images you hadn’t thought of in years.

·       And somehow, you see the memory, the experience you wrote about in a different light, somehow changed.

Something also happens in the circle when writers share their work:

·       A new depth of community is formed.

·       Honest and thought-filled writing is shared.

·       People find their voices.

·       A new level of acceptance is gained.

The astounding stories born of the writing circles in Italy continue to resonate with me. The voice of a woman who immigrated to the U.S. long ago, the man who struggles with the idea of an angry God, the woman who defines herself by the duties she has to her family; these are the stories that have the power to change people’s lives, but only in the ability to share those stories with others.

While writing is often a solitary exercise, when shared with others it becomes a practice in mindfulness and community building. To give voice to the voiceless, and to develop a sense of a greater world in which we live.