‘When we put the pen to paper, we articulate things in our life that we may have felt vague about. Before you write about something, somebody says, ‘How do you feel?’ and you say, ‘Oh, I feel okay.’ Then you write about it, and you discover you don’t feel okay.’—Julia Cameron.
In November, I will be celebrating my fourth year working as a ‘professional’ ghostwriter. In this time I have observed and learnt many things of our human condition. The most significant being, that it is rarely in balance.
With my work, what I have noticed is that a client will have something they need to wash themselves of. Once they have done this, they appear more ‘free’. They have entered a type of—cleanse and after which, they feel much better. Writing I have witnessed—is a medicine. With my background as a personal trainer, healing and rehabilitation, I have taken an interest in medicine and I will attempt to combine that interest with my ability to write. Over these next few months I will publish a series of articles explaining the ways in which writing is healing, good for soul and in fact takes on all of the attributes a medicine does.
Writing is Medicine #1 (The Introduction)
When we try to understand our feelings, wish to learn about something—a philosophy—a religion—a strand of science—who we are—our own thoughts, we talk, and we think. Talking is helpful—sometimes. Writing is helpful—all times. Thinking—I feel, and as I will explain in these next weeks, is overrated.
Writing is also uninterrupted, and how many experiences can we have in our modern world that are uninterrupted? Talking involves interacting with another, and their reaction to what we are saying and how we are saying it—even if it is silence, can influence what we are trying to say and realise. Writing morphs vagueness into understanding, it can help move us from the panicked, into the grounded, and from the judgemental, into the curious. It helps balance us.
Writing is practised independently of everyone, and in the land of the introvert, we can hide from the social masks we all need to wear in that outside scary jungle. It is here, in our own caves where we are able to discover who we are, and change the ambiguous into the precise. If you need to explore the meaning of a dream, your relationship with another, the surge of rage you just felt then to the page go and write—write—write. Write without thinking, write not for someone. Write only to write. It helps the purge.
Writing is cathartic. It is a thing we can do to channel, to get toxic stuff—out. To drain the wet rag dry with both hands! It is the stuff we need to clean out that we collect through wine, women and song. It’s the stuff our parents poured into us (and the stuff their parents poured into them). Writing, like any creative expression is a process of channelling or purging out of the unconscious, into the conscious! From out of the deep caverns of the psyche, and onto the page, through the pen, the paintbrush or the piano key. The rage of Beethoven lands—and it sounds real. Yes, writing… is a medicine.
Writing is also something that people feel drawn to do because writing is natural to us, as people, it is—a lot of the time, the first artistic method of communication we find ourselves drifting to. That of the pen. That of the page. ‘I’ve had an idea for a book’, Peter says to Paul and in a sudden turn of events, everything changes. Paul would never have thought it of Peter. It is too—out of character. Paul must place Peter back in his place – back into this reality (his reality). Who does Peter think he is? (see Plato’s Allegory of the Cave).
Writing a book though, is not something we tend to wake up deciding to do (Eureka moments can happen, though), it is one of those things that brews and bubbles in the background. It is that unconscious rising through—into the conscious world. When this begins, be careful who you tell, teaches Julia Cameron as ‘the most poisonous playmates for us as recovering creatives are people whose creativity is still blocked. Our recovery threatens them.’ To summarise her work broadly, the recovery or unblocking of creative energy in a person (healing) manifests as that person wanting to write things down, in a journal, as a screenplay—as a book. This process is irritating for friends and family members—it unsettles them, it—triggers them. That trigger you are encouraging is opening Pandora’s box for them, and they’d rather keep a lid on that, sweep it under the carpet – bury it two-hundred miles deep in the Sahara. How inconvenient though: nature has other plans. Healing.
‘Your getting unblocked raises the unsettling possibility that they, too, could become unblocked and move into authentic creative risks rather than bench-sitting cynicism.’
In a last minute attempt to keep you from departing the cave, feel free to observe some of the most peculiar behaviours on your road to rehabilitation, while you push to do all that you can—to tell a story! Support you must not expect. Your default position—the observational, the curious, and then write!
In purging your feelings, be prepared to surprise yourselves with some terrifying creations and for this reason, the ancients found themselves the artists of some ghastly cave paintings. They were ridding the self of their darker shadowy emotions through art, in no different a way than we purge other waste from ourselves. Don’t be scared with what comes out and don’t stop it when it comes! Working as a ghostwriter of life stories, I’ve seen some really weird behaviour when trying to help people document things, and because I am the channel, it has at times felt like I am a fountain pen being smashed against a wall. I don’t though, think I was the first to help another write down their thoughts and memoirs. My current research on ghostwriting has shipped me way back.
Approximately 3500-1500 BC, the first civilisations began to grow in Mesopotamia, Egypt, India and China. Societies in the cities that grew from these regions shared common features. One of them—was writing. Independent of each other, it was something that they all had in common—and it happened at the same time—it was our ancestors and their collective natural capacity to write. It is within us all, it is part of who we are so if you feel drawn to the page, let it pull you in and go there. Letting the mind interfere leads to procrastination – don’t go there (notes on procrastination coming soon).
If you are a ghostwriter reading this, and you are writing on behalf of someone else, the purge that they would have otherwise experienced during the writing process will show itself in other ways (abusive e-mail and text messages for example). Ghostwriting, in a way, removes the opportunity for a person to cathartically detox, so if you can encourage your client to the page—even if you will never use any of their material, you will be helping them purge, and you might be surprised with some of the magic they will produce, because as I have explained, we are all writers, just some of us have not realised it—yet. The faster we realise it, the quicker we get to the page, and the sooner we can make sense of our emotional dispositions. Thus, the stronger a handle we have on who we are. To the journal we must all return, to the word document, to the notebook and the screenwriting software: you’re not writing to write anything. You’re just taking free medicine, checking in to your own private clinic. It helps make sense in these complicated societies we all live inside of. Otherwise where are we going to purge it? Onto our loved ones? Out with it—yes, but via the pen and on that page put it!! Don’t waste it on another – in a conversation, and don’t waste it on yourself thinking it through. It’s been like coal all of these years, being loaded into your own train. Let it now take you where you’ve always wanted to go, my vile toxic beasts!
Thinking it through will emergency stop the train, just after you’ve given yourself your own green light. The mind you see and your thinking, has got in your own way again. It has prevented your purge. ‘I think, therefore I am’ said Descartes. ‘I think… therefore I am fucked’, says I. In ‘Writing is Medicine #2’ I will explain the insight or eureka effect that is trying to come through: one that your unconscious is trying to deliver as a message, one that you aren’t listening to, because that mind of yours… is too scared to hear it. Letting go of fear, allows the unconscious parent to guide you forward, through, and into the void.