5 June 2018

Special Guest Post: Writing for Bliss, by Diana Raab, PhD


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Writing for Bliss is fundamentally about reflection, truth, and freedom. With techniques and prompts for both seasoned and novice writers, the book inspires readers to explore their creative natures through storytelling and poetry, examines how life-changing experiences can inspire writing, encourages self-examination and self-discovery through the written word, and illustrates how published authors have been transformed by writing. 

This book is a culmination of my life’s work—meant to inspire the burning writer who lives within. It’s suitable for both emerging and esteemed writers. Ever since my mother gave me my first journal when I was ten years old to help me cope with the loss of my grandmother, I’ve used writing as a form of healing, and have tried to inspire others to do the same.

In fact, writing for healing and transformation was the focus of my PhD research. What eventually led me to compile this book was that when I was teaching writing workshops, many participants inquired about a reference book to use after our time together. So, I’m excited to have written a book that will be available before, during, and after my workshops.

Writing through self-narration is a way to integrate trauma into the story of our lives. It’s also a way to come to terms with those traumas. One of the most amazing and magical aspects of writing for healing is that, once we make the decision to put pen to page, we have no idea what will emerge from the subconscious mind. The writing process can help dissipate overwhelming emotions connected to trauma by providing a safe container for them.

Writing can also serve as a bridge between the past and the present and lead to transformation. It can help reclaim an inner voice after it has been taken away, or been silenced by a difficult circumstance. Finding one’s voice as a way to effect healing can lead to huge leaps in transformation. Sometimes writing a dialogue between oneself and the person who might have caused us pain can bring forth essential information leading to acceptance and forgiveness.

I have endured many losses in my life, and since it has been said that survivors are very often seekers, my experiences compelled me to record my feelings and impressions. Also, the creative impulse is connected to a sense of longing. Some people reach out to religious or spiritual paths to help them understand their experiences.

For me, writing is my spiritual practice. It’s my “go to” place during both good and bad times. My journal is my friend and confidant, helping me release whatever is bottled up inside of me. It is liberating for me, because by releasing my secrets and sentiments, I become free and have more control over my life. Writing also helps me find out what I don’t know; and increases my awareness of myself, others, and the world at large.

In addition to being a container for one’s thoughts and a way to release tension, writing about feelings and experiences is an excellent way to find out what you don’t know. In my research of writers who have written memoirs, many confessed that they began writing their memoirs for one reason, and during the writing process realized they were writing for a completely different reason. For example, one author said he wrote wrote in order to figure out why his brother had committed suicide, but by the time he’d made it to the end of his book, he realized that writing about his brother was a way to keep him alive.

Stories help us understand and make sense of our lived experiences, the lessons we’ve learned, and our dreams for the future. The stories of difficult life situations or experiences are often complicated, but they are stories that must be told. In fact, there are few things more important than acknowledging and writing our own personal narratives as a way to examine our lives, in terms of what happened, what they were like, and where we are now. Studies have shown that this type of writing allows us to change our perspective, which in the end leads to more self-awareness through deeper insights and, thus, recovery.

While writing about painful subjects can be cathartic and is definitely healing, some people feel triggered by having to relive traumas of their past. This is perfectly normal, and seeing a therapist or hiring a writing coach can help. Exposing raw subjects is scary and can lead some people to have emotional breakdowns. Before he passed away, I was helping Thomas Steinbeck (the son of author John Steinbeck) write his memoir. He found that he had a tendency toward depression when he was writing about some difficult situations from his past. When this happened, I encouraged him to take a break from his writing. Sometimes the breaks would be one day; other times, weeks.

People often ask me why writing is healing and transformative and I say that it’s because it’s a way to nurture yourself. Free or automatic writing, in particular, which is writing without lifting your pen off the page, can be liberating and healing because you go wherever your mind takes you. Author Virginia Woolf called this “stream-of- consciousness writing,” and it simply involves going with the flow of your words.

One of the beautiful parts of this type of writing is that you sometimes don’t know what’s bottled up deep inside of you until you begin engaging in self-expression. For example, when journaling, you might begin by writing about your day at work, and then before you know it, you’re writing about the issues you had with your mother. Free-writing is also one way, in addition to dreams, to tap into your subconscious mind.

Transformation may be defined as a dramatic change in your physical and psychological well-being. The deeper you go into writing about a certain subject, the greater the chance for transformation. If you share your writing, others can be transformed by your words, especially if your story resonates with them or they’ve navigated similar journeys. Ultimately, healing, transformation, and empowerment are all parts of the same path—leading to self-awareness, self-discovery, growth and, eventually, bliss.

Diana Raab
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About the Author

Diana Raab, PhD, MFA, is an award-winner memoirist, poet, speaker, and workshop facilitator. She is the author of nine books. In her 40-year career, she’s been as an advocate of personal writing. Dr. Raab facilitates workshops in writing for transformation and empowerment, focusing on journaling, poetry, and memoir writing. She believes in the importance of writing to achieve wholeness and interconnectedness, which encourages the ability to unleash the true voice of your inner self. Diana also writes for Psychology Today, Elephant Journal, and Thrive Global. Find out more at dianaraab.com and follow Diana on Twitter @dianaraab

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