Sometimes my students ask me whether it's okay to write from anger.
I tell them, of course it is. Anger can be a good motivator. Often we have good reason to be angry, and our anger can help us be social justice warriors. It can direct us towards making change.
So write from anger! Put it all on the page, and then after you have your first uncensored draft, revise it before publication so that you don't say anything you regret.
I want to share with you a piece I published recently that was written from anger.
A few weeks ago, I was having a nice quiet evening reading a book when I came across a passage that I found so disturbing I literally shouted outloud.
My kids looked at me like I was crazy. But I was furious.
In the middle of a well respected book, Mark Epstein’s Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself, about the connection between Buddhism and psychotherapy, was a description of sexual abuse by a therapist to a much younger woman patient given as an example of GOOD therapy and good dharma. I couldn’t believe it.
I was so upset that I stayed up until 2am writing a review of the book. Over the next days, I refined the piece, but it was my anger that fueled the piece.
Today still well-respected teachers in the buddhist and psychotherapy communities can praise sexual abuse of women--and it can go unremarked in major reviews of the book.
Writing the piece, I realized I was not just writing about one book, but about a whole society and mindset that doesn't have proper tools to see or name abuse or to listen to women--or, to really listen deeply, for that matter, to anyone.
I hope you'll read the piece. It talks about the blindspots in psychotherapy; psychotherapy's difficult history of not listening to women; the dangers of spiritual gurus; the #metoo movement; and the question of when to take seriously one's own authority.
Writing this piece reminded me of why our voices are so important, and why we need again and again to stand up for them.
I also want to invite you to use your voice and speak out against the things that you find upsetting and unjust. There are certainly many things like that today. And while we can't tackle all of them, we can address some of them.
It’s only because of the people who have spoken truth to power before us that we have the freedoms that we have today. Our voices matter, and we all support one another in this endeavor.
Again you can read my piece here:
What is one particular thing that seems unjust and that really upsets you? Whether it is big or small, write about it. Let yourself go. Say what you want to say to right/write the wrong. Don't hold back. Give yourself full permission to express yourself completely and imagine yourself being fully heard.
Look back over your work and make any revisions to it.
It may be powerful to read your piece aloud and to hear yourself speak your own truth. Try it.
Think of one way to share your voice around this topic with someone else--it could be in conversation, online, in a letter to an editor, in an essay, poem or another form.
Read more about writing, social justice and responding to the me too movement in these pieces below:
As Gabriel texts back images from Patagonia (they’re amazing!), I’ve been thinking about some of the places I’ve visited and how big and wide and multiple the world is and also at the beauty of connections over vast distances.
This brings me back to one of my perennial questions/ objects of wonder: our capacity to embrace all of it.
Yet again our news is full of suffering. And there is also so much beauty and love.
I have written about how to hold this multiplicity on my blog in the past and today I want to share a longer essay, Poetry, Pain and Wholeness, that was just published in the new issue of Anchor Magazine (that I also am very proud to edit)!
I loved writing this essay. In it I talk about writing a poem; being pregnant in Greece with Simone when Gabriel was 4; the 7.0 ma Earthquake in Haiti; the intersection of social justice and spirituality; healing trauma; the power of revising our writing; time; and multiplicity itself.
I know that sounds like a lot. It is. But I promise the essay isn’t too long… one of the things I love about writing is it can take us to so many different places and times and do so much of this powerful connecting work in a short piece (That work of connection is also very much what this essay is about).
I’d be delighted if you read the essay!
Here is the opening:
I’m looking out over the stone patio, past the near fig and scruffy walnut trees, to the turquois Aegean at a distance. I think this might be the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. I feel a longing for it even as I’m present; the landscape itself both invites and resists.
Its beauty comes in part through its barrenness: the earth is rocky; only a few plants—oregano, sage and bindweed, with its little tiny white faced flowers—grow from these inhospitable conditions. Read Pooetry, Pain and Wholeness here
I also created some reflection questions for you so that you can think about your own writing process and the connections that it brings for you.
Below are some of the question/prompts. You can write them in a journal or write a more formal piece from them. You can address any of these prompts in any form—essay, journal, poem—or incorporate it into fiction.
Sometimes people ask me how to write a poem or an essay. My first answer is, read, write from what you read, trust your own voice and have fun!
These prompts help you make connections between what you read and what you write, always a great way to deepen any writing and to reconnect with the deep questions that we might not ask ourselves otherwise.
10 writing prompts
Emotional Healing & Mindful Writing Blog | Nadia Colburn
I blog about creativity, writing, yoga, meditation, justice, women, the environment and integrated well being for the individual and society.