Personal Reflections on Writing to Heal from Ping Ho, Founder and Director of UCLArts and Healing
After sitting in on 4 or 5 expressive writing workshops and 4 or 5 poetry workshops, I am starting to get it. The very first time I did stream of consciousness writing with Dr. Rachel Ballon, the ideas were all over the place – a veritable mess, but out of the three pages of ramble – there was an “aha” that was probably worth hundreds of hours of marital therapy. It is freeing to “let go” and let a piece evolve. Quite often after I write for about 10 minutes – the REAL issue emerges in the last minute. So, at least I know where I should begin next time.
I recently returned from China, where I decided to keep a journal in poetry format – in order to keep my entries pithy. What I discovered in this process was that all it took to write well was to take in life with all five senses, and my attempts at writing poetry revealed how much I was not taking in. This newfound awareness kept me in the present moment more often, which filled my day with more rich memories than blurs. Sometimes the pieces flowed forth freely; other times, they took a while to craft, yet all were immensely gratifying to read.
These classes in Writing to Heal are a genuine hybrid of art and therapy, which gives them a depth that is fascinating. A sense of community rapidly develops among an impressively diverse group of strangers. Emotions surface at unexpected times, usually when reading what one has written. Participants often report that they get more out of reading their work than writing it. Listening to others can be as enlightening, moving, and inspiring as reading what one has written oneself. Writing with authenticity, even by novices, can rival the work of the masters. With self-awareness comes the possibility for change.
Since writing is so powerful and accessible, it should be offered as a therapeutic tool in a multitude of settings.