A friend of mine once said, “Writing for yourself is therapy, writing for others is ministry.” He was right. Nevertheless, it’s important, at times, to write for ourselves particularly when we need to think through an issue or experience to fully comprehend its impact on our life. I call this “writing to reconcile,” and it’s usually done in a personal journal.
There are several experiences in my life I still need to work through, to reconcile, and writing through them will help with this process of discovery. For example, I have not fully reconciled, in my mind, my father’s 5-year battle and eventual death from Alzheimer’s disease. I have not reconciled my mother’s premature death from cancer when I was eleven. (My father raised six children alone, three of which were younger than me.) I have not yet fully reconciled my younger brother being temporarily paralyzed from the waist down at age 15 and living with a disability as the result of a virus presumably contracted on a flight from Seattle to Milwaukee. My list goes on.
Why do I want to write about these experiences? After all, I accepted these situations years ago. But I haven’t reconciled them. My goal is to better understand them, how they affected me, and what I learned from them. The “discovery” is found in writing for reconciliation first, and then I can write for publication—to help others.
For example, when my father battled Alzheimer’s, I wondered how my family and I would cope as caregivers. I didn’t have time to think this through in the midst of his crisis. However, a few years later, after his death, I was asked to speak on this subject to a local support group for caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s. This was the impetus to carve out the time to sit down and reconcile it. The result was a speech featuring an 8-step plan to help families cope with the pressures of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
Soon, I hope to rewrite and reposition this speech into an article entitled, “A Survival Kit for Alzheimer’s Caregivers: 8 Simple Steps to Help You Endure Your Loved One’s Long Road Home.”
Do you have a situation you would like to write about but you’re not ready because you don’t have enough emotional distance? Do you have a life experience story that needs to be told to help others with a similar challenge? Need time to think it through first? Start by writing to reconcile all unresolved issues in your mind. Once you reach resolution, write for publication.
I think you’ll find it’s true, writing for yourself is therapy, but it prepares you to later write for others. And that, is ministry.
The Writer’s Refuge blog is a place for writers, like you, to break away from your daily routine and for just a few minutes find insight, inspiration or simply a word of encouragement.
Blog entries are posted every other Thursday.
You may contact Jim Magruder at: email@example.com.