People often ask me why I write, why I spend hours digging through my imagination and finding the words to string a story together. I tell them that I have to and I’m not the only one. Within everyone is a story, an inner voice, and writing empowers people to listen to it. I know it sounds clichéd but people, myself included, write as a form of therapy. It is why I have dedicated a two year project to the subject as a member of Leonardtown’s Global and International Studies program (GIS). It is why I have started a literary magazine here through our creative writing club and it is why I am hosting a writing workshop at St. Mary’s Library on May 14th. The therapeutic powers of writing are not for a select chosen among us; they are for everyone to draft their own disaster and connect their link in the web of stories that compose us.
Since I joined GIS, I knew I would have to complete a major research project between my junior and senior year—the dreaded capstone project; Duh Duh Duuuh. I peeled through the news and the suggestions of friends and family for a project topic when I realized the answer had been there all along—writing. The stories I read and wrote had always been an escape. I consulted the internet, books, and articles in a fever of research and realized there was truth to the benefits I had been experiencing all my life. Writing empowers people with the perspective and the outlet to face a death in the family, a breakup, a serious injury, all the bumps and bruises that come with living. That is the stake of this workshop. You will have a chance to share those struggles unique to you. You will have a platform not only to explore yourself but refine the way you do so. Writing is often belittled to classroom assignments, something we do for a grade, but this workshop is here to appreciate words for what they are: self-expression.
But the benefits of writing are more than mere conjecture. Psychologist Abraham Maslow found that once a person’s basic survival needs are met, they seek a sense of belonging. He dubbed this pyramid of innate human needs Maslow’s Hierarchy. Children seek approval from their parents. Teenagers seek approval from social groups. He found that people’s self-esteem is based on their sense of belonging, their sense that they are understood, and when this psychological component is missing, people develop societal anxiety and may withdraw. But reading and writing changes all that. When people have a chance to read the stories of others living the struggles they face and communicate their own stories, even to just the unjudging page, they plug into to the human community.
It is this community you will find in the upcoming workshop. You will have the space and the platform to express your voice. You will experience the shared benefits of workshopping the work of fellow writers. You will have a chance to discuss a piece of fiction, free of notetaking or testing. You will learn how to constructively edit. Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, this is a chance for you to exercise your right to be heard, because all of us need to be.
Words are scratches on a page, but they inspire movie reel rolls in our minds. Their effect on us is a strange one, but they are about being human. It is why they deserve their own workshop, one that promotes community and the space to express one’s self. Words are the keepers of our stories, of our sweet memories and aching hearts, and it is important to appreciate and foster their powers– to continue empowering people to tell and face their stories and find understanding in those of others. This workshop is about looking disaster in the face and painting its features in scratches on a page.