Anybody that has read Benny’s story knows just how powerful the written word can be. When we access our creativity and cultivate a genuine openness to experiencing the fullness of our emotional selves, we all can create works of art like Benny’s story.
There are many variations of Cathartic Writing:
* Poetic expression
* Song writing
* Book writing
* Play writing
* Stream-of-consciousness writing
* Free association
When you are ready to give cathartic writing a try, experiment with several of these to see what feels most natural for you. Try others that you can think of, or that you hear about. The important thing is that you know that this is for you, and there is no expectation that you share it with anybody. You can get in touch with the deepest parts of yourself when you engage the creative centers of the brain; know that you are safe with this, you can keep your creation in a password protected file if you feel more natural typing, you can keep it in a safe or lock box if you prefer hand writing. You can delete your creation, you can keep it to yourself, you can share it with a select few, or with the masses as John did. There is no right or wrong way to do this, but I will provide some basic tips and strategies to help you get started.
If you feel like you need some support as you move through this process, please reach out to a trusted friend, teacher, mentor, or counselor. You are not alone, though depending on what you are dealing with, you may feel like you are. Give us a chance to support you.
Exercises to get you going
Here are some tips, steps and ideas to consider using to structure your creation–remember, freestyle is perfectly fine. You do not have to use a structure, but I’ve included some here:
* Write down phrases that said a lot when talking with your fuzzy friend (“Don’t worry buddy, I gotcha” or “Who’s my good boy?”)
* Write down feeling words that you associate with your lost friend. Consider having a thesaurus to help find a wide variety of words.
* Write down your favorite stories that involve your pet. Pick a “voice” and try to stay consistent in your final draft. A “voice” means the perspective you’re speaking from. John Pointer used the 1st person voice as Benny–think of 1st person video games where you see what the character you are playing as sees. A story style where you are the narrator is very effective as well.
* Free-write the story of your pet’s life, from when you adopted them until their passing, and even beyond. Changing voice is ok, but try to be consistent in the final version unless you are switching between narrator and character(s).
* Search your pictures and find your favorites. Write the story of each picture.
* Search the internet for pictures that remind you of how you feel about your late-pet. As in #5, tell the story about the picture.
* Rather than sticking with non-fiction, be creative! Turn your pal into anything you like. Make up a story!
* Ask yourself questions like, “What would my pet want me to know about my life?” or “What would I most like to say to my pet?” or “What did we have in common? What were our favorite activities?” But don’t stop there. Come up with your own amazing questions and share them with us on the Forum.
* Try visiting a place that you enjoyed going with your pet, take a note pad with you, or record your thoughts into your phone’s voice recorder. You could also text or email yourself.
Some notes on progress
If you begin feeling frustrated, it’s OK to stop and take a break. Sometimes the best thing we can do is get away from our projects for a bit. It allows the unconscious mind to percolate a bit, process our thoughts and feelings in a way that can be easier accessed from our creativity later. Besides, this is a healing process, not one that should annoy you!
Read other examples of cathartic writing and see if ideas pop up. Drawing inspiration from others is perfectly healthy.
When going for openness in the creative process, it is important to learn how to slow your brainwaves down. By far, the most scientifically researched and repeatedly validated method for taking brain waves from Alpha waves (BUUUZZZZZZ!!!) to Delta Waves (aaahhh…..) is smooth, rhythmic breathing deep into the belly. There is an actual electrical feedback loop that happens with this, but I don’t want to bore you with that (but get in touch if you’d like to learn about it). The idea is get comfortable, take some centering breaths, then relax into a slow, steady rhythm of breathing in, and out. Not deep, not shallow; just a little longer than you’d normally do. Feel your body relaxing. Visualize the things that you enjoy visualizing.
If you’d like to share your piece, we have a wonderful form where you can share, get ideas and support, and read other people’s creations as well. You’ll find the forum here (need link).
Regardless of whether you try cathartic writing or not, and regardless of whether it seems to help you or not, please know that you are not alone. We are building an amazing community right here that will support you. As we build this healing community, you’ll be able to connect with others who are grieving, those who have been through it, and find resources online and even in your community. You are not alone, no matter how lonely it feels.