For more than forty years, I’ve been transformed through the writing process. It all began at the age of six when I was at a sleepaway camp. In my camp trunk, my mother had packed a big box of ruled stationery. I remember that there was a little typewriter logo at the top of the page, reminding me of how my grandmother had taught me to type on her Remington typewriter.
Most of the girls in my cabin had to be reminded to write home every day, but not me. During rest hour after lunch, I would sit on my single bed and write to either my parents or my aunt and uncle. Sometimes I would write once more just before retiring at night. But that wasn’t the only type of writing I did while I was at camp. The fact is, writing made me feel good. I did what I’ve come to learn is “stream of consciousness writing,” or writing thoughts that come into my mind at the moment. I wrote about what I was feeling and all the activities I was participating in at camp. Writing transformed me, in that it made me feel less lonely. This was my first exposure to the practice of mindfulness.
Transformation can be defined as a dramatic change in someone’s well-being. Basically, the path of personal transformation is a process of becoming aware of, facing, and becoming responsible for, one’s thoughts and feelings.
Writing can lead to transformation because it provides a great way to work through your feelings. It can also help you figure something out about a lived experience. The art of writing helps your thoughts become more concrete, putting them in a form that shows you what your inner or authentic self is trying to articulate. Writing encourages you to reflect on your feelings, thus helping to create deeper harmony and peace of mind.
When you start writing, you might begin by recording your thoughts about one event, and then somehow the trajectory of the writing ends up somewhere else. For example, you might be writing about something that recently happened that bothered you. It might be as simple as someone cutting you off on the highway, which both angered and endangered you. Before you know it, you might find yourself writing about a friend who died in a car accident when you were much younger and all the feelings that incident evoked. Maybe your writing unearths a family secret—something you never told anyone. You really can be transformed just by the act of writing.
When I look back on my own life experiences and reflect on the ones that truly transformed me, challenged me, or made me feel more aware or alive, I must say that the most pivotal events involved the death of loved ones, the forming or evolution of relationships, becoming a parent, sexual encounters, and conversations with others. These have all been subjects of exploration in my journal writing that have led to some form of meaningful change.
When writing for change or transformation, it’s important that you’re alert to the messages of the universe and also for synchronistic messages or clues—that is, groupings of coincidences that seem to pile up upon one another. These can be experiences, objects, people, or sightings that might bring light to a certain situation.
Here are some writing prompts that I share in my forthcoming book, Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life:
- Finish this sentence: My life has taught me that . . .
- Finish this sentence: Five years ago I did not know . . .
- Think about a time when you felt a deep sense of synchronicity, what Carl Jung described as “meaningful coincidences.” How did the experience unfold for you, and what was your understanding of all the events that occurred?
- Think of a time when you made a decision but were unsure what the consequences would be, but then the situation turned out better than you could have anticipated. Write about the circumstances of the decision, and how you felt about it.