Family, Writing

Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write – Mic

Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write – Mic.

Okay, this post is a bit of a departure for me. This is not stuff I talk about much, but this article reminded me of how much the act of writing changed my life. I think it’s good to share it once in a while.

It doesn’t surprise me that writing affects the writer. In fact, I think it could be an example of how magic works by changing our brains, which is really not magic at all – it’s chemistry. But that’s part of what magic is.

At one point in my life, I was in a desperate and untenable situation. At 30, I had been twelve years in a reclusive cult. Despite still living in the town in which I’d grown up, I knew no one outside of the other church members. I had been told for years that I was worthless and evil, that if I ever left, my children would die and I would end up a drunken prostitute. I was shunned, cowed into obedience, my children taken from me and told that I was a bad person. I had not worked since my marriage nine years before, had just a high school education, and no money.

I wanted out more than anything else in the world. But I wanted out with my children. A favorite joke in the cult was “there are three doors in the house. Leave by any one of them you want.” In the middle of the desert. With a deeply ingrained fear of other people, no friends, no family, no money. Just walk out. Without my children of course. I couldn’t do it.

I still had this rebellious belief deep inside me, that I WAS  a good person, that I was smart, and capable of being a grown-up, but I was trapped in fear and self-loathing. I couldn’t take that first step.

Then I found an empty notebook. One of those spiral notebooks, with a pink cover (I think) and lots of empty pages. I kept it hidden, and in my moments alone, I began to write.

I wrote about the life I wanted. I described the house I would live in with my children. I wrote out my schedule, starting with rising early to prepare a homemade breakfast for everyone. I created menus and recipes for our meals. I made grocery lists and wrote about going to the store. I had daily and weekly schedules, so that I would shop on Mondays and do our laundry on Fridays and hang it up in our own back yard. I wrote about the schools my children would attend and how we would all sit together at night to do homework and read.

I wrote for months. And something began to happen. Slowly, my confidence grew. The hiding, shivering belief of my own goodness and capability became stronger and bigger. I began to notice things around me – a bag to hide clothes in, a dropped $20 bill that I could stash in my purse, an ad on the Christian radio station about a counselor who helped troubled Christians.

Gradually, I began to take steps. Little steps, kept secret from everyone around me, until the day when I was able to use one of those doors. It was impossible to take my children with me, but I knew I could fight for them and I was ready to do that. I was no longer the frightened creature held prisoner by fear and intimidation. I had written myself to wholeness and had only to take the final steps to accomplish it.

The oddest thing is that in my flight to escape, I lost the notebook. I mourned for it, but really, I almost didn’t need it, since I practically  had it memorized.

It all came true. And we are all of us doing just fine.

11 thoughts on “Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write – Mic”

  1. That is an amazing story showing the journey of how words were used – abusively – to box you into a corner to cow and tow the line AND how words – your freeing words – worked to relieve you of those shackles and loose you into becoming the person you always had the power to be 🙂

    1. That’s true, Angela. I never thought about it like that. Remember the Bee Gees, “It’s Only Words”? Well, you’re probably not old enough to REMEMBER it, but you may have heard it! “Words are all I have…” but they are very powerful, for good or ill!

  2. Hi Marlene – Even knowing the major points of these events, I got serious goosebumps reading about it here. We’d never heard about the notebook – it adds another layer on top of the already tall stack of emotions in your personal story.

    I know how much work you (or any good writer) put into planning, editing, and refining your words. I get the impression that this post just flowed out without so much as a backspace or even a pause. And it is one of the most moving things I’ve read.

    I don’t know if you have any interest in telling this story in a longer form, but I know it is a powerful one that you would write from your heart, beautifully.

    Take care,
    Bill & Melani

  3. You are doing better than “fine”. You are an amazing writer, an amazing friend, an amazing person. I am so blessed to know you, even in the smallest ways—as one of your critique partners. Write On, my amazing and inspirational friend!

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