Writing, Health, and Well-Being

Joanna Paterson at Confident Writing asked the question, “Can writing keep us well?” She’s running a group writing project through the month of July and invites bloggers to post about writing, health, and well-being.

As I described in a post about my love affair with writing, I always dreamed of writing “someday,” but it took a stroke to motivate me to actually start. While I was still recovering, I started a romance novel—about a woman who had a stroke. Although the story was fiction, many of the heroine’s experiences were things that had happened to me.

I owned an interior landscape company with more than a dozen employees. My brother and my sister worked for me as department managers, and with the help of my husband Jack, they kept the business functioning during the time I was hospitalized. Since I was the only salesperson, however, no new business came in while I was out. As we lost accounts through normal attrition, income was down, but expenses were up.

After I was released from the rehabilitation hospital, I returned to work immediately though I was still going through therapy several days a week.  I was still in a wheelchair and had little stamina. My doctor said, “Normally I would  never allow a patient who had suffered a stroke as severe as yours to go back to work so soon. But in your case, working will be be better for you than staying idle.”

The combination of the financial situation of the company and my physical condition made me wonder if I could rebuild the business. Of course, I had to appear confident in front of my employees and customers. If I had shown my doubts, they would have lost confidence—workers would have looked for more secure jobs and clients would have looked for a more reliable vendor.

My husband was supportive, but he never took my doubts seriously because he always knew both the business and I would recover.

So all my doubts and worries and frustrations went into my story. As I wrote about Debbie finding it difficult to muster enough energy to supervise employees, call on customers, and solicit new business, I seemed to gain strength to do those tasks. As I shared Debbie’s fear that she would fail, I became more confident that I would succeed. As I wrote the happy ending to Debbie’s story, I envisioned my own happy ending.

Most of my employees were avid romance readers—even the tough-looking mountain man who was our installer. We had been sharing books for years, so when my novel was published, everyone was eager to read it.

When they did, they all expressed surprise in statements such as:

  • “Were you really that worried that the business would fail?’
  • “I never realized how hard it was for you in those early days.”
  • “You mean you really went through all that?”

It amused me when they couldn’t tell which events in the story were my real experiences and which were ones I invented.

I am profoundly grateful for the therapy of writing, which hastened my emotional recovery and quite possibly my physical recovery. Several times, I have re-read parts of Stroke of Luck and thought I should really revise it. I’m a much better writer now—at least I hope so!—and I can see much room for improvement. But the book came from my heart and filled a need in my life when I wrote it. Revising it would be like negating its healing experience.

So, in answer to Joanna’s question, I say: Yes, writing can not only keep us well—it can even bring healing.

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