From Jane Friedman:
“Let’s rip it off quick!” My grandmother pointed at the Band-Aid on my knee.
At four, I equated Band-Aid removal with peas, waiting my turn, and going to bed. Still, I loved and trusted my grandmother, so I let her yank it off. After a momentary flash of white-hot pain, I experienced an exquisite relief. Soon after, I adopted “rip it off” as my motto.
Three decades later, during my master’s in counseling, I discovered James Pennebaker’s research on how writing about difficult events improved your health. The trauma survivor in me saw this as a dream come true. So, I began a memoir.
My initial drafting plan combined Pennebaker’s research with Grandma’s sage wisdom. If ripping off a Band-Aid created some relief, churning out one hundred pages of “look what terrible thing happened” would elevate my health and happiness to the Oprah Winfrey level. Bottle that and I’d become the world’s greatest writing coach.
Except, the exact opposite happened. Writing about endless pain depressed me. Eventually, I avoided my writing desk. When I did show up, an essential part of me cried, “No, no, no.” If I forced myself to write anyway, the work felt flat and superficial.
To write sustainably about trauma, you must P.A.CE. yourself.
- Proactively engage in self-care.
- Activate your internal wisdom.
- Choose wisely and keep it contained.
- Explore your stories with curiosity and compassion.
P.A.C.E. is an integrative approach to writing about trauma that combines proactive self-care, mindful awareness, and targeted strategies that help writers discover insights and resilience inside their painful experiences.
Activating your internal wisdom (the A in P.A.C.E.) helps you to assess what you should write, when to get started, and how to manage the process before working on painful material. The process can also help you if you’re feeling stuck.
Link to the rest at Jane Friedman