It was toward the end of my appointment when Julie, my therapist at the time, first mentioned it.
“You should write more,” she told me with her matter-of-fact-I’m-usually-right-so-you-should-listen-to-my-advice tone that she uses with me when she thinks I should do something but she knows I’ll be too insecure about it to do it. And, of course, I was insecure about this bit of advice.
“I’m not a real writer,” I responded. “I’m just a blogger. I don’t think I could ever be a writer writer.”
“You know, the only thing you have to do to be a writer is write. You should write for 15 minutes every day and see what happens.”
So later that night I pulled out my little netbook and wrote for 15 minutes. It was 10:46 p.m. on April 6, 2012. I added to that same document most days until August 19, 2014. A few months later I submitted my first essays to some small websites. A few months after that I applied for the low-residency MFA in creative writing program at Seattle Pacific University. Sometime during my first year of graduate school I decided I was a writer writer. I was writing every day (for more than 15 minutes at a time) and I was sending my work out into the world in various formats. I submitted pieces to online publications and some were published. I was learning a ton, and my work was improving. So I called myself a writer. And I kept writing.
When Julie told me to write more on that spring day in 2012, I had recently become proficient in practicing Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). I had recovered from my second major manic episode and the period of depression that followed because what goes up has to come down. Julie worked with me for several months teaching me how to capture thoughts that were not 100% true and replace them with truthful thoughts so I wouldn’t spiral down into that yucky place that I spent so much time in over the course of my adult life and that made me more susceptible to mania and depression and other negative effects from my bipolar disorder diagnosis. Once I had CBT aced, she was ready to nudge me out of her nest (or off her couch) because I didn’t need her anymore. But before I left for good, she wanted me to commit to writing regularly. She thought writing would be good for me and help me stay healthy. It was a creative outlet I enjoyed, and she thought I had some experiences and ideas that might benefit others one day.
It has been almost six years and I have not had anymore significant bouts of mania or depression. I’m convinced writing is one of the things that has kept me sane. Writing has impacted me in other ways, too. It’s what I do when I want to learn more about myself and others. It’s what I do when I want to make sense of the world. Unearthing my stories has helped me better understand the power of story and its place in relation to humanity in general. There have been several studies that have proven we are wired for interpersonal connections. We rely more on ideas that result from personal contact and relationships than from raw data. We respond to and connect with stories much easier than we respond to and connect with raw data.
One reason I believe stories are so crucial to humans is that we are made for God’s larger story of redemption. All of our smaller stories are found in His Ultimate Story Of Grace. All of our roles as minor characters point to His role as The Ultimate Protagonist. Our ability to read stories, write stories, and explore stories through other creative outlets is a gift. When we enter more fully into stories through art, we become more of who we were designed to be, we develop more empathy for others, and we see the world around us with more clarity.
Stories help cure our afflictions. Stories help us stay sane.
My primary interests in reading, writing, creativity, and the role of God’s grace in our lives and stories has led me to Story Cures. I’m not sure what Story Cures will evolve into later on, but for now it’s a concept I will keep exploring in my email newsletters where I share ideas and recommendations about reading, writing, creativity, and grace. You can follow along by subscribing to my Story Cures email newsletter via the “subscribe” box on the home page of my website at charlottedonlon.com. My hope is we will become more of who we were designed to be by grasping more tightly to the power of story.