An experienced author shares how to use prose to gain a better understanding of oneself in a book that’s part self-help tome, part writing manual.
Throughout her life, Raab (Healing with Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey, 2011, etc.) turned to writing to cope with trauma. Now, she combines her knowledge of that art with her study of the mind (the author has a Ph.D. in psychology) in a book that aims to help people use words to find joy and healing. Lessons and accompanying writing prompts are designed to “inspire and teach you to learn more about yourself, tap into your emotional truth, find your authentic voice, and write about your own losses, challenges, and joys.” The process begins with tips on creating a sacred space for writing, a discussion of the mind-body connection, and an overview of meditation techniques. Then Raab moves on to advice on finding one’s voice, deciding which life stories to tell, and developing a journaling habit. (The author advocates pen-and-paper journals but asserts that “writing on a computer is better than not writing at all.”) Throughout, Raab includes anecdotes from her life, including how memoir writing helped her come to terms with her grandmother’s suicide. Most of the book is focused on working in that popular genre. The author dedicates one chapter to verse, in which she disdains formalism in favor of a confessional style that produces “more accessible poems in which there is resonance between the reader and writer.” Fiction gets short shrift, with just a few pages tacked on to the end of one chapter. She deftly tackles the tricky issue of preparing a book for publication, particularly how to communicate with family members who might be subjects of the work. Throughout, the emphasis is on writing as part of a larger process of healing or discovery. Readers looking for advice on plotting or character development won’t find much here. But for those who hope to use writing as a way to gain a deeper understanding of themselves, Raab offers a uniquely helpful approach.
A worthy, practical guide for the aspiring memoirist.