If you are reading this blog, you probably have some familiarity with or curiosity about the concept of storytelling as a healing practice. If you are a health care provider, a therapist in any field, or a caregiver—or if you have ever been sick yourself—you may have an untold story wreaking havoc in the back of your mind. Perhaps it reflects a difficult, sad, or frightening episode in your past…something you’d rather not resurrect. Maybe there was a time of such joy or relief or healing you can’t imagine putting it into words so you haven’t even given it a try.
“A writer is someone
for whom writing is more difficult
than it is for other people.”
Or…perhaps you’ve started the story again and again and gotten nowhere with it. It turns into a rambling description of places, persons and events that fails to capture the emotions that made the experience meaningful to you.
This is where a good writing prompt can be helpful. That and a supportive reader who knows how hard this is for you and heaps praise upon you just for trying.
If you need a little nudge to get you started, here a of couple of writing prompts for health care providers that may help:
· Write about “expectations” you’ve embraced (or rejected).
· Tell us what it feels like to work without sleep, on an empty stomach in the middle of the night.
· What goes through your mind on the way to work in the morning…or on your way home at the end of the day.
If you were sick, or caring for someone who was ill, try these:
· Write about your hands.
· Tell us what you fear the most.
· Tell us what you do to care for yourself.
When you begin, don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or punctuation. That’s the easy part. It comes later.
Instead, write about the first thing that comes to mind.
“When in doubt,
tell the truth.”
Give yourself 15 minutes or so at it, then rest. Wait a couple of days and then try again. Write until you come up against the piece that is hardest to write…a time when you were so sad or scared or angry you still hesitate to commit it paper…or so comical or comforting or inspiring it leaves you groping for words.
“The most important things are
the hardest to say,
because words diminish them.”
When you write, include details even if they seem insignificant. The missing tile on the ER wall. The overflowing trash can in the visitors’ lounge. The ladybug that made its way into the OR. These familiar images connect the reader to your story. Use the senses to bring the scene to life. The sight of blood pumping out of a tiny artery after the other bleeders were all tied off. The taste of cold, black coffee in the middle of the night…and why you sometimes need it. The smell of stale urine.
“To create something exceptional,
your mindset must be relentlessly focused
on the smallest detail.”
An untold story can leave us with a vague sense of frustration, anxiety, or confusion that we don’t understand, and can’t dispel until we put it into words. Until we set the scene, name the players, and face the feelings that have festered out of sight for so long.
Storytelling unmasks the wound so healing can begin.
“There is no greater agony
than bearing an untold story inside you.”