In Events, Survivors

MOCA’s Writing for Wellness series has been canceled for the summer. If you are interested in exploring this topic individually and learning how writing can bring clarity to your life—we invite you to read our Teal Together Blog Post from Pamm Smith. Smith is a teaching artist, author and ovarian cancer survivor.

Writing Tips and Prompts

Writing rituals can bring clarity, perspective, insight, forward movement, curiosity and change.  I wish you a ritual which celebrates you and your wellbeing.  Here are some beginning tips and prompts for writing for wellness.

  • Create a ritual by selecting a supportive place and time to write—perhaps at the beginning or end of the day, with a cup of tea in hand.
  • Create a list of answers to one or more of the following questions:

What does wellness mean to me?

What fills me up?

Where is my happy place?

What am I moved to write about?

  • If you get stuck, try beginning a sentence with one of the following prompts:

I feel well when…

I am filled up when…

My happy place is…

I am moved to write about…

  • Free write a stream of thoughts in a short burst without censoring yourself—15 minutes is a great place to start. The goal is to keep your pen moving without your brain intervening.
  • Over time, revisit your list and select subjects which either resonate with you or which you feel resistant to. Free write around those subjects and/or your reactions to them.
  • If you experience a writing block, you are likely censoring yourself or attempting to describe something indescribable. If this happens, explore free writing around the following questions:

What do I see, smell, taste, hear or feel?

What actions are happening?

What are my underlying emotions or reoccurring themes?

  • Enjoy!

Read on for more about Pamm Smith’s personal journey as an ovarian cancer survivor and her experiences with writing for wellness.

Writing to Clarity

My mother, Mary Jane, and I were both diagnosed with ovarian cancer within the same year. My mother passed away a year later and I am now a twelve-year survivor. I’ve learned something new about my mother and myself over these years.

When my mother was anxious, she went to the kitchen and cooked food for other people. When I was, or am anxious, I create things. I rearrange furniture or paint walls. Most often, I write.

Now, my mother was already a good cook—it’s one of her defining traits. It was common to find bowls of homemade trail mix left on countertops around her house, or smell cheesy potatoes bubbling on the stove. In my own home, it’s more common to find stacks of books strewn on flat surfaces; or hear the printer sputtering out new words on crisp sheets of white paper.

Our cooking and writing traits became amplified during our cancer journeys. In the months before my mother passed, we’d sit together in her bedroom, her in the lounge chair and me on the bed. I’d read out loud from her favorite book while she slowly ate small pieces of fruit from a bowl–she with her full focus on the sweetness of pineapple, me listening to the cadence of the story. When I returned home at night, I’d write—the words on the page telling me what I thought and felt and believed.

When I look back now, it occurs to me that my mother’s obsession with food and mine with writing was a way of focusing on what we could control and being present in the moment.

But it was also a way to continue to grow—both of us learning about what really matters. The food in the bowl and the words on the page bringing moments of clarity and ease.

By Pamm Smith

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