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Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  797 ratings  ·  73 reviews
In this inspiring book, based on her twenty years of research, highly acclaimed author and teacher Louise DeSalvo reveals the healing power of writing. DeSalvo shows how anyone can use writing as a way to heal the emotional and physical wounds that are an inevitable part of life. Contrary to what most self-help books claim, just writing won't help you; in fact, there's abu ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published March 17th 2000 by Beacon Press (first published March 3rd 1999)
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Apr 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
I just finished this book, which I started on April 22 of this year. That’s a long time to spend reading a 216 page book, isn’t it? I thought I would review it, but in the moment, I have decided not to. I’m going to write something else instead, and what I am about to write is a direct effect of reading this book. In fact, I could hardly make myself finish it, because this idea gripped me with such compelling force that I had to keep drawing myself back to the page. And now I struggle to begin.

Quinn Collard
Jan 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2016
I have mixed feelings about this book. There was some good advice in here to be sure, and I thought it gave some good insight into the relationship between writing and mental health that I hadn't thought about before. I particularly liked the parts about writing as a general practice, not necessarily about writing about emotional pain specifically, and how it can help one do well emotionally.

But at the same time there was an odd thread of judgmentalness towards people with mental illness, which
DNF. I made it about 35% (into Part Two) before I put it down and decided I didn't want to bother reading more. I found Part One weirdly off-putting as the author repeated over and over, in slightly different and not-so-different ways, what the Exact Specific Only Type Of Writing That Is Therapeutic was.
Oct 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It details how important journaling is. It is a great discussion about how writing can help you heal from the wounds that life invariably inflicts on everyone. Just writing and wallowing in your writing won't help you and could even be hurtful. It is when we use our writing to empower ourselves and to find lessons and hidden gifts that burdens bring we can find healing.
Mary Alice

March, 5, 2011 I just finished reading this again. I have read it so many times as can be seen in my previous review below.

Fantastic book. I reference this book a lot in my Masters/PhD work. It is so highlighted and dog-earred it's falling apart.
Excellent addition to any writer's book shelf. Written in a very supportive way for all to tell their personal stories with respect and transformational healing.
May 31, 2009 rated it liked it
I found the book provided good how-to exercises and guidelines that one could apply whether you plan on doing long-term and formal writing or short, journal type entries. The first part of the book felt a little long and repetitive as it discussed the benefits of writing. The second and third parts seemed to flow at a quicker pace and provided more practical information for starting to write. I appreciated the guidelines and felt that they could be applied to any creative process or "work", not ...more
Kendra Vaughan
Oct 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
I enjoy this book more and more every time I read it! It certainly helps give me the courage to write my stories.
Kate Arms
Jan 22, 2013 rated it liked it
There is a lot of gods material in here about how and why writing can be therapeutic. The book intermingles the author's personal experience of writing her stories, theories about how and why writing can help heal wounds, and stories of other writers' healing work. The book is thought-provoking and inspirational. However, for anyone who wants to write their own stories that need healing or for folks who want to lead writers in workshops, there is not enough explicit instruction.

Many books were
Lynda Felder
Apr 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Not that we really need convincing, but Louise De Salva begins Writing as a Way of Healing with proof, example after example, of writers who have used writing as a salve for their grief, illness, trauma and pain.

Henry Miller, despondent and suicidal because June has left him for a woman, writes through the night a piece he calls June, which outlines the famous books he would write over the next 30 years. (Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, Sexus, Nexus and Plexus.)

Feb 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a terrific book about writing and how important it is to those hwo have suffered some trauma. I marked this book up a lot using a green highlightere and can't wait to read the highlighted areas again. Maybe I'll read the whole book again! I expect to be using its advice in my writing in the near future. The last paragraph is important:

"Writing testimony, to be sure, means that we tell our stories. But it also means that we no longer allow ourselves to be silenced or allow others to spea
Jocelyn Paige
DeSalvo's slant on writing as a way of healing stems on the essential aspect of "linking" our emotions with our thinking. It's not just about expressing or venting or more specifically, free writing. It's about engaging with our minds to process our experiences in a way that heals us. If you're looking for a book to give you freewriting ideas, this isn't it.

But, if you're looking for a book that helps people connect their creativity with empathy, this one is perfect.

Ceci Marlow
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Powerful. Practical. Motivating.
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
I found this book... frustrating.

I was hoping it would be filled with practical advice on how to write for healing, along with incisive questions to support the reader in beginning this journey. What I got were a few nuggets of advice hidden among pages and pages of dry anecdotal evidence of how writing for healing helped other writers (or didn't help them, if they didn't write for healing). The whole thing felt rather vague, waffly and very repetitive. I finished it, but I had to force myself
Zac Sigler
Aug 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-help
I was introduced to this book/author by the writing of a former professor. I don't want to give to much away, but I think that DeSalvo makes excellent recommendations that really will help people heal more than just writing about traumatic events with no other guidelines.
Mar 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
I thought this would be more of a how-to. Instead, it was more like reading a long, boring college term paper. Too many theories and stories of other people instead of helpful advice.
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a compelling book, one that gently nudges the reader to write to find freedom and healing—especially from trauma, but sometimes just from living in the world as we know it.

Some of the most memorable (for me) concepts the book contains are as follows:

"We can't improve our health by free-writing or by writing objective descriptions of our traumas or by venting our emotions. We cannot simply use writing as catharsis. Nor can we use it only as a record of what we've experienced. We must wr
Oct 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book opened my eyes to whole new ways to think about writing. I learned how to approach memoir writing from a variety of different angles, instead of limiting myself to just one way of thinking or narrative "lens" for my story. From Louise DeSalvo's book, it dawned on me that I shouldn't be limiting myself to a singular focus or format.

Also, DeSalvo taught me from this book how necessary it is to write about our lives, especially anything that was particularly painful from our past, and how
Danie Botha
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The transition from victim to survivor to victor is possible!

In an eloquent fashion DeSalvo succeeds in showing and guiding the reader on how it is possible to write one’s way out of the darkest pits of despair. Writing can heal. Writing that is more than keeping a journal. Writing which takes the writer on a path of understanding and growth. What stood out for me is the overarching message that it is crucial to grow and progress from victim to survivor and not become complacent but
May 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Writing as a way of healing was a strong book on how writing can truly be a healthy way to heal from traumatic experiences in life. Sometimes it was difficult to read because the author would illustrate graphic examples of other people’s depressing situations. I skipped the parts I felt were too much for me and focused on the portions I felt would leave to the most growth and benefit. If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression or just want to learn how to write in the most effective way to he ...more
Karen Quevillon
Sep 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
DeSalvo tells us about her own life but also the lives of many other acclaimed writers and how they are called to write in order to survive life, make sense of what is happening to them, bear witness to what was done to them, and achieve justice for the traumatic experiences they have endured.

For anyone with an interest in the creative process and the practice of writing, this book will give you additional food for thought on the relationship of writing to the self-understanding, care of self,
Evan Anderson
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely life-changing; I recommend this book to anyone I know who's been going through a difficult time, yet has the ability to put their story into words. It's a great aid for writers, and, at the same time, a road map for healing and becoming whole again. One is at the service of the other; neither takes precedence. Louise DeSalvo writes from her own experience with disarming honesty. Inspiring.
Dec 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
I found a lot of insights into writing and journaling by reading this book. There are a lot of great quotes and mental health commentary. I especially loved the insights highlighted from Virginia Woolf.

It did feel somewhat repetitive in places but that could have been issues I had with understanding how those passages were different.

Professor DeSalvo writes in a lot of sentence fragments which was a little difficult for me at times but I got used to it as I read.
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: literacy
This could have been so much more, but reading this book is like reading a research paper: Lots of references to what famous and obscure authors have said about their reasons for writing and not enough of what the author has to offer. The "Can you..." bits at the end of each chapter are just a little on the condescending side.
Nov 10, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a tough book to rate for me—easily 4 star in places, it can also be quite dry and overstated. I also set it aside for a couple of years around the 120 page mark and just got back to finishing it this week. So clearly not a page turner. But that being said, I'm glad I read it, and for someone looking to write memoir or about trauma it would be worth the read.
Anne Ku
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book that convinces me I'm doing the right thing of writing to process. Highly recommended, with great examples from literature as the author has already researched and written/published books of authors like Virginia Woolf etc.
Jan 12, 2019 rated it liked it
The style and structure of this book nettled me, but I'm glad I forced myself to finish.

Stylistically, the prose is scholarly. Needlessly long sentences, too many commas and embedded quotes, etc. My aversion to all this is personal. Those who are less allergic to academic prose may feel less nettled than I did.

Structurally, the organization and development of topics is unclear. Chapters 1-5 (as well as 9-10) are not conceptually distinct, and the material in them feels redundant.

Despite all o
Stephanie Sutorius
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to enjoy this book more. It was obvious that she did her research in terms of discovering and citing all of the famous authors, their mental illnesses and how they healed through the act of writing but I felt as if the same points were made ad naseum.
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book can change liVes... in YOUR OWN WAY, if you want, if you can!
Just TRY IT.
Dec 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I was initially skeptical about the premise of this book but ultimately I got a lot of useful questions from it. Great quotes, too.
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Louise A. DeSalvo (born 1942) is an American writer, editor, professor, and lecturer who currently lives in New Jersey. Much of her work focuses on Italian-American culture, though she is also a renowned Virginia Woolf scholar.

DeSalvo and her husband raised their children in Teaneck, New Jersey before moving to Montclair to be closer to their grandchildren.

She also teaches memoir writing as a part

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