This is something I wrote up awhile ago, for the Amherst Writers and Artists (AWA) facilitator’s community, and I wanted to share it with you all, here, in honor of the National Day on Writing:
As a student in the TLA program at Goddard College who was looking for a way to use writing as a healing tool, the AWA writing workshop method broke down the door for me. Here was a simple, deeply powerful and ethical-by-design method for writing in community about any topic you might wish to write about, but in particular any topic that is painful, complicated, or raw.
The AWA method we learned in the trainings that Pat Schneider led at her farmhouse in 2001 and 2002 (the latter, an Amherst Writers and Artists (AWAI) training, was co-facilitated by members of the original Chicopee Writers), revolutionized my thinking and brought me a powerful sense of peace. At the time, Goddard (where I was pursuing my MA) was undergoing an accreditation review and was at risk of closing – after my first AWA training, I was no longer afraid of what might happen if Goddard closed (which it didn’t): I’d found the structure for my life’s work. Here was a resolutely non-hierarchical and safe container in which all people, regardless of their relationship to the word “writer,” could explore in words their own complicated and beautiful stories.
One of the pieces of “survivor” identity that I wrangle with is this idea that we must “recover” our voices. I mean the notion that our voices are lost, have been snatched away from us.
The literal truth for most of us is that our voices were always here – and yet swallowing this concept of “lost voice” (en)forces a deep body collusion with the prevailing myths and metaphors of those in power. We internalize the idea that we’re silenced in order, I think, to break free of the reality in fact that we are/were ignored. That there are those who heard what we said, and then just turned their faces away from ours.
I spent years believing that I was silenced, that I had no voice. The fact is that I was unheard–an important distinction. As is true for most kids, I learned not to tell my complete truth while I was growing up, and then, and, like many millions of children around the world, I was trained in secrecy by a stepfather/rapist who took my (en)forced silence as his birthright, and used it as a weapon against me. How do we who are survivors of abuse (sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse) tell our truths in a culture that doesn’t want to really hear people’s words and meanings? We are not heard by abusers who demand a silence they can interpret as “Yes.” We are not heard by a patriarchal, capitalist society that demands our silence so they can overlay our lives with their image of us. We are not heard by a government that usurps women’s tears in order to justify the killing of other women’s sons and daughters.
I had such a great experience writing in response to the Arts and Healing network interview questions over the last several months — and I was also, finally, motivated to regularly update this blog.
So, at 6:30am while I was working on my morning pages, I jotted down some more questions I’d like to answer (or begin to answer!) about my work, the Writing Ourselves Whole workshops, the uses of art, and more…
It ends up tricking me into posting more regularly — we’ve got to do what we determine will work to get us around our blocks and internalized naysayers, don’t we?
The podcast that Britt Bravo and I recorded back in Nov is up on the Arts and Healing Network! Just before I got on the road to head down to LA for Thanksgiving, Britt and I talked transformative writing, writing as a healing practice, expressive arts, erotic writing for survivors of sexual trauma, Pat Schneider‘s Amherst Writers and Artists workshop method, and more!
Of course, as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and reactions? What did I leave out? What’s true for you about these topics?
Jen Cross of Writing Ourselves Whole on the Arts and Healing Podcast http://artheals.libsyn.com/
Back in November, I committed to posting longer, more well-thought-out answers to the questions that Britt Bravo posed to me during our Arts and Healing Network podcast conversation. Here’s my answer for day 9!
9. What inspires you the most about your workshops?
I’m consistently inspired by these two facts: The ongoing reminder that every person has artistic brilliance inside that is seeking an outlet, and that community can web together to support one another – that we can collaborate around healing and individual/social transformation without needing MSWs or other clinical degrees. These have something to do with one another.
Back in November, I committed to posting longer, more well-thought-out answers to the questions that Britt Bravo posed to me during our Arts and Healing Network podcast conversation. I took a bit of a break at the end of Dec, but I’m back on track. Here’s my answer for day 8!
8. What advice do you have for a writer who wants to use writing for their own healing, or to facilitate healing in others?
This is such a big question – I actually feel I need to break it down into two: Thoughts for folks who want to use writing around their own healing/transformation, and thoughts for those who wish to use writing to facilitate healing with others.
I apologize for the unannounced break in my posting schedule! So, I’d planned to keep on keepin’ on with my bi-weekly posts all through the last couple weeks. It turns out, though, that I needed to take some time away from the computer. Most weekdays, I spend at least 8 hours on the computer, and something that I’ve offered myself during this end-of-Gregorian-year vacation has been some time not linked up: baking and painting, instead; movie-watching and stargazing instead; reading and beach-walking instead. It’s been deeply, deeply good; necessary, even — bringing up fully into my consciousness how much of a break I really need.
Besides thinking about a 2009 schedule, what’s been heavily weighing on my mind are these horrors:
– Israel is massacring Palestinian civilians with the apparent approval of the US and the UN, using such similar justificatory language to Bush’s — the world is watching; can we stop this brutality?
– a woman was brutally gang-raped in Richmond a few weeks ago — there have been four arrests made: a 31 year-old man, a 21 year-old man, a 16 year-old boy and a 15 year-old boy. A 21 year-old, a 16 year-old and a 15 year-old. I want to write more about what I see as so many terrible barbed-wire layers around this case, and yet, how can I seriously start to take apart for individual consideration the very recent threads of this survivor’s experience? Just because some suspects have been caught by the criminal justice system doesn’t mean that justice has been or will be served — real communal change, I mean an actual ending of rape as a tool of social control and violence and terrorization, continues with our conversations, our vigils, our communities holding the perpetrators accountable, our ongoing work. We cannot trust the State to do it for us.
I *am* going to finish the Arts and Healing Network podcast question responses! These are the questions we still have to think about:
About a month ago, I committed to posting longer, more well-thought-out answers to the questions that Britt Bravo posed to me during our Arts and Healing Network podcast conversation. Here’s my answer for day seven!
7. How has [facilitating] the workshops changed your own writing?
I think the most important impact that the workshops have had on my own work is an encouragement to be more, and more consistently, brave.