The Catharsis of Writing

The Catharsis of Writing

Beneath the bluest of skies, clouds can gather. This week my clouds collided in a cacophony of noise. Many of us with mental health issues are lured by the seductive whisper of maladaptive coping mechanisms, and traversing darkness can blind the strongest of us to any light ahead. To stay safe and whole I need a way to store emotional pain. It’s taken decades, but I finally have a healthy place to steady me when my soul succumbs to chaos.

I write.

I use words to weave a cloak of self-care. I let the stream of consciousness burn through my fingers. I blog. I share with trusted friends. Write journals. Make notes on my phone. I write anywhere I can. And when I’m done writing, my spirit is a little softer and my heart a little calmer.

Almost half the population of Australia will have a mental health issue (depression, anxiety, substance abuse – to name a few) at some point in their lives. Fifty per cent of us. If you know another human, then statistically speaking, one of you is it. Inner mental turmoil can turn molehills into mountains, and when that happens our emotions and fear can overwhelm while destructive behaviours waltz in to calm the mental disquiet.

But writing out chaos gives it a name – acknowledges the pain. Writing needs no rules, no judgment, no audience. It matters not if you’re a “good” writer. Regurgitating words is an outlet for the whirlpool of noise and once out, there is a lessening of burden. A burden shared is indeed a burden halved.

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About Simone

Crazy hair, solitude seeker, at peace in the natural world, Simone Yemm dedicated over three decades as a professional flautist and teacher. In 2008 she completed a Master’s in Journalism, specialising in editing, and continues to hone her skills as a writer. After a series of crises led to an emotional breakdown, Simone developed a passionate interest in mental health and shares her story to educate and support the wider community. With 25 years of marriage under her belt, she successfully raised three and a half young men and a chocolate-brown Burmese cat. A mean feat never to be underestimated.

www.simonelisa.com

We live in a world where connection to meaningful relationships and pastimes can be superficial. Social media and online activities bring communities and individuals together in the most wonderful of ways, yet we still need connection in the “real” world. We need someone to hear our personal story in all its uncensored glory. Without real connections it’s easy to isolate, and isolation is rarely helpful for mental health issues.

Fortunately, there is a plethora of tools to support us, and we can all find different ways to work through distress. Writing is free, needs few resources, no training, and is available anywhere, anytime. Writing clutches your worst fears – all the problems that haven’t even happened – and puts them down in black and white. Or any colour you choose. It can offer perspective and validation. It gives words to unexplained feelings, unexpressed pain and paralysing fear. Writing clears a little space for the voice of reason to step in and whisper in your ear.

I started writing in a journal as part of my professional support therapies. Some days were so dark I couldn’t form full sentences – I just seeped the anguish through my fingers and let it rest. I read it back later and felt compassion for the girl silently screaming in my mind. That was three years ago. Since then I have written prodigiously. When full sentences can be found, I put my inclination to perfectionism to work, cleaning up text to publish in my blog. Sharing my story sheds the shame. It allows me to tell my deepest, darkest secrets and fears to professional and personal supports without speaking out loud. When my voice has no words, I give it one through writing. Publicly sharing my story brings me a stronger sense of connection to communities of people who understand when I’m suffering. They’ve been there, done that, felt it. They hear my words and feel them too.

I recently experienced a rapid spiral into depression and forgot to write. Chaos swirled. At 3am one morning, I wrote a thousand words of turmoil in a message to a trusted friend. She checked on me, kept me safe, and since then I’ve resumed my writing and the turmoil is settling. Rational thoughts are returning and perspective is coming back. My early morning stream of consciousness was a catharsis of emotional pain. My physical world remains cloudy, but mentally, emotionally, spiritually, I am clearer. I see hope and light.  And I owe that to writing.

 

*If you are experiencing mental health issues and need assistance or someone to talk to, please seek support services in your area. You are not alone and there is help available.*

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Mistakes to Avoid When You Write a Self-Help Book

I’m such a huge fan of a great self-help book which can raise our vibrational frequency if the author wrote it with energetic integrity – not from a place of ego, but rather as a transmitter of wisdom and as an act of service to the reader. A book like this is often the hard-won result of the author’s struggles, and is imbued with wisdom, perspective, insight and compassion. Such books help readers to suffer less and feel less alone in their suffering.

Writing a self-help book can be a gift to readers that can potentially transform them. I’ve read hundreds of them (some brilliant, some awful) and have read numerous submissions by aspiring authors looking for publication with Joanne Fedler Media. Based on my experience, here are some guidelines to help you write a self-help book:

  • Establish your credibility upfront: your credibility may be the result of an experience you have survived or because of your professional expertise. Tell us upfront what your story is and why and how you came to write this book. Readers want to know they are in safe hands – they want to know who the author is, what credentials we have for writing this book – professional, experiential;
  • Start with your experience, not the lessons learned: your experience has yielded your insights – so start with your experience, not the ‘lessons’ or ‘insights’ you learned from them. Allow your reader to experience your transformation with you, and allow them to journey towards your insights instead of foisting them on your readers;
  • Be clear on who your target market is and write with your reader in mind: People who are not your family will only be interested in your book if it is objectively uplifting and inspiring. It’s not enough for you to simply record what you went through – what insights or growth occurred as a result of your experience?
  • Just because it happened to you, doesn’t make it relevant to others: be sure to write about your journey in such a way that you cross the bridge between the personal (what happened to you) with the universal (why it’s relevant to your reader);
  • Let your reader walk in your shoes to get to the transformation: though you may be at the end of your transformation, remember that your reader has not traversed that path with you. Pace and structure the book so your reader has a chance to ‘catch up’ and experience the transition, walk through the highs and lows with you. Otherwise the journey you describe may seem fanciful or ‘reserved for spiritual VIP’s only.’ If your book is about grief, make sure the reader is allowed to experience the grief, otherwise the strength of the transformation is lost, or is leap-frogged over, and becomes a spiritual bypassing, which can feel unprocessed;
  • Show us your journey, don’t just tell us what you learned: show your reader what actions you took, what conversations happened, in order to show us how you ‘changed your mind’ or a had a ‘realisation’ or an ‘insight.’ It’s not enough to say, ‘I realised… I was being watched over / I couldn’t control the outcome / I had to surrender / I was in control of how I felt…’ etc. Show us the transformation (from fear to faith, illness to health, grief to acceptance) and make sure you keep your reader with you through the transition otherwise she will be unable to identify with it. Use scenes in order to show us the moments in which you changed;
Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

  • Don’t rush: in the wake of a loss or a change, writing can be cathartic and healing but it is not going to be the writing that you want to share with the world. A self-helpbook about any meaningful experience can only be written in time. I am a great believer in letting things take their time and not rushing the river, especially the river of loss and grief. Its insights are often startling, but we need patience to harvest them. A self-help book should be a wise guide by someone with expanded perspective – make sure you have given yourself enough time and space to process your experience before writing about it. A story can only be written when an experience has worked its way through us, when it has been deeply digested, richly conceived;
  • Your beliefs don’t make us trust you: what you believe is irrelevant unless it is based on your experience – so show us a story which gives us a reason to trust your beliefs. What you believe does not in itself establish credibility. As my favourite character The Dude in The Big Lebowski says, ‘That’s just like, your opinion, man.’ And you know what they say about opinions… Readers need to trust us for our opinions to hold weight;
  • Beware of self-help cliches: anyone who has done any self-help work knows the basic tenets of living a responsible, empowered life: don’t be attached to the outcome, don’t be a victim, practice kindness, gratitude, meditation, slow down, actions have consequences and so on. By focusing on the same universal truths, self-help books run the risk of repeating spiritual clichés which lose their lustre and fail to inspire us because they are so over-used. They must therefore offer something new or original to a reader– even simply a new framework or a reshaping of these ideas. When it comes to self help, a reader needs to feel the nuance of our different take even as we express the same time-honoured truths, so remember that you have enough experience and credibility to reinvent and reinterpret universal spiritual lessons;
  • Quote others sparingly: you don’t need to bolster your views with other self-help gurus: quoting Brandon Bays or Eckhard Tolle or Deepak Chopra doesn’t give your ideas more weight. In fact, quoting others dilutes the strength of your originality. Also, who cares? This is your book, not theirs. And if you do use quotes, be aware that you need copyright permission for them all if you are to publish;
  • Speak to your readers as equals not from a podium: one of the biggest mistakes I see people make in writing self-help books is in the tone or style – if it comes across as didactic, it’s easy to lose your reader. Keep the tone self-compassionate not patronizing or self-aggrandizing. Nobody likes to be lectured to or spoken down to, and even if we don’t intend this, our tone might still come off as if we’re a ‘know-it-all.’ Bring us with you, don’t preach. This will happen naturally when you find your original writing voice so spend time working towards that;
  • Be original: create your own unique framework based on your experience. No-one has had the experience you have had, and so you are in a unique position to create an alchemy from it, combined with all the spiritual reading or research you’ve done and come up with your own framework, recipe or ideas. Be creative and original. Figure out the through-line or overarching theme that ties everything together;
  • Simplify your message: boil the message of your book down to one single paragraph, then one sentence then one phrase or even one word so that you know the message of your book simply and concisely.

How to Write a Self-Help Book

Are you writing a self-help book? Do you know what the two essential elements of a self-help book are? Do you know how to structure it?

If not, this step-by-step manual will guide you through the writing so you can share your message with the world. In it I teach you the essential structure every self-help book must follow, how to incorporate the rules of storytelling into your writing to engage your audience and how to ensure that you deliver on the promise your book is making to your reader.

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