World Trauma Day: 12 Quotes on the Healing Power of Writing
Today, October 17th, is World Trauma Day. We’ve chosen to recognise this day by sharing some thoughts on the healing power of writing, and twelve quotes from writers that touch on the same.
It’s an oft-repeated truism that writing, or any form of art or creativity, is therapeutic. But sometimes clichés become clichés because they’re true, or because they contain a grain of truth.
While of course it’s no substitute for a good therapist or trauma counselling, writing – whether it’s journaling of working on a creative project, or both – can help us to understand and process traumatic events and our feelings about them.
In my own life, I’ve weathered a disruptive childhood, the death of my mother, a traumatic move, and so much more, always with a pen or pencil in hand. Writing in many ways is a sanctuary, a safe place to go when the world around you isn’t safe anymore. But it’s also a way of sharing what happened to you where the only audience is yourself and the page – therefore eliminating the fear of judgement.
For me, writing has always helped me more than just to express myself, but to place myself. To say, this is where I have come from and this is where I am and this is what I can see from here. There’s power in that, and healing.
Below are twelve of my favourite quotes from writers on writing, trauma, and healing, and the relationship between the three.
“Taking the kernel of that experience and turning it into fiction was a way of coming to terms with what had happened to me.” – Barbara Boswell, author of Grace
“I’m trying with all my heart to write the stories I need to hear, the stories younger me needed like air.” – Mishka Hoosen, author of Call It a Difficult Night
“Art offers sanctuary to everyone willing to open their hearts as well as their eyes.” – Nikki Giovani
“I don’t have a lot, but I have a lot of notebooks. They comfort me by reminding me that no matter how hard life gets, I can always write.” – Emm Roy, cartoonist
“Writing is medicine. It’s an appropriate antidote to injury. It is an appropriate companion to any difficult change.” – Julia Cameron, author of The Artists Way
“To steady myself, I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote.” – Theresa Anne Fowler, author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
“Yes, the writing was one of the things that helped – that and the sea.” – Philippa Kabali-Kagwa, author of Flame and Song
“People carry around their stories forever in their cells. And once you get it out of you and onto the page – you’re never going to forget it. But it’s not as heavy. A lot of it [writing] is lightening the load.” – Nancy Slonim Aronie
“Creativity is on the side of health – it isn’t the thing that drives us mad; it is the capacity in us that tries to save us from madness.” – Jeanette Winterson, author of Oranges Are not the Only Fruit
“The metaphor in the mouth of survivors became a way to innovate around pain.” – Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth Were Briefly Gorgeous
“I wrote myself towards a stronger version of myself.” – Roxane Gay
“I can shake off everything as I write: My sorrows disappear, courage is reborn.” – Anne Frank
Aimee-Claire Smith lives in Cape Town, where she is studying English Literature and working on her first novel. She likes coffee and cats. You can follow her on twitter or Instagram: @aiimeeclaiire