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Writing Myself Back to Life

The healing practice of [almost] daily words


Montage by Crystal Star, photo from Nancy G. Shapiro

The truth? Yes. That is what I believe is the magic of writing, what makes it a healing art — when we know ourselves with such intimacy and candor, we may flinch, but we do not run.

This article appeared in the Summer 2002 issue of Spirituality & Health. All my life I circled around the written word, mostly as a reader. I remember summer vacations filled with visits to the public library. My mother, sister, and I left each week with tottering piles of books that we read voraciously over the next seven days, and always we returned for more. I wrote some poetry in grade school and high school. Later I started scribbling on the backs of envelopes and on napkins. After my son’s birth in 1984, when odd thoughts and incomplete phrases came to me, I wrote them down and threw them in a file folder labeled “Personal.” I started reading all the how-to-write books I could find: Natalie Goldberg, Brenda Ueland, Dorothea Brande, Anne Lamott. On the twenty-second anniversary of my father’s death, I had a disturbing, vivid dream. I wrote a poem, my first in many years, to capture the images and emotions unleashed during the night. It, too, joined the other scraps of paper. Then I moved to Mexico. New love was the instigator of change (yes, Barry’s my husband now). I’d sold my car, my fur …

Nancy G. Shapiro teaches poetry to children through the California Poets in the Schools program, and offers her Found Words writer’s workshops to adults.

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