Q. I'm not a writer but am interested in journaling since recently being diagnosed. I feel I have things I want to say that I don't want to share with people. Could you give me direction as to where I should start? Are there resources that could help me?
Many studies have shown that writing or journaling helps to reduce stress. Writing about your thoughts and feelings, especially after being diagnosed with cancer, is a good way to help process what is happening and often helps to make the experience more manageable.
As you get started, remember not to focus on spelling and grammar – it is the content that is important. Find a place to write where you feel comfortable, a space where you will not be interrupted. Choose the method of writing you prefer whether it is using pen and paper or the computer. Try and write daily, for at least 20 minutes, stopping if you feel tired or overwhelmed. Many people find that setting aside a specific time of day, such as the morning, helps them to collect their thoughts and put them on paper.
There are websites that provide a daily writing prompt or photo – many people find this to be very helpful as they begin journaling. My advice is to sit and write, see what flows out onto your paper. If you are feeling stuck, I find Bernadette Mayer’s list of journal ideas to be a wonderful source of inspiration.
If you feel you that you would like to share your writing with others in a small group, I moderate an online therapeutic writing group at CancerCare called Healing with Words. In this group, the participants are provided with writing prompts as well as longer ongoing writing assignments focused on eight unique topics. Group members post their pieces and connect with one another by sharing their work and commenting on other’s writing works. The goal of the group is for members to learn about writing as a method of coping with a cancer diagnosis and to have a forum to share their creative pieces with others.