Writing your way through change. A guest post by Joanna Paterson

Posted by on Jul 30, 2010 in Inspiration | 6 comments

Are you a ‘Writer’ or a ‘writer?’ Join guest author Joanna Paterson as she finds a bridge between the two as they relate to midlife, a sense of self and community. You might be surprised at what you discover…

Heroes – in myth, literature, and real life – take journeys, confront dragons (ie problems) and discover the treasure of their true selves. Although they may feel very alone during the quest, at its end their reward is a sense of community; with themselves, with other people, and with the earth ~ Carol Pearson

Maybe it was leaving work in the corporate world as I turned forty, maybe it was having my son early and trying to learn how to deal with the transition to life post active motherhood at the age of thirty nine (five years on, still trying), maybe it was a deep-rooted need to spend time figuring out patterns and meaning before I moved properly into the second half of my life, maybe it was some or all of these, but in any event, learning how to navigate the midlife has defined and shaped my experience over the last seven or eight years.

I love the quote from Carol Pearson about confronting dragons, because to me it sums up so much of what the midlife is about.  It’s the invitation to take that journey, it’s having the courage to confront dragons including those that appear to be of your own making, and in essence it’s about discovering the nature of your true self.

For me, writing is a core element of that last bit, the discovering of the nature of yourself.  (It can also be a useful companion when you’re feeling just a wee bit scared of the latest dragon 😉

Getting started comes more easily with a bit of structure and support.  Even something as simple as linking your words to things you see when you’re out and about can help to get you into the flow. Currently, I’m teaching classes at the Mid Life Journal that will guide women into exercises that entail writing, walking and photo-taking to help them get used to reflecting on what they’re seeing, noticing, and writing about.”

But, what if you’re not a “Writer” but a “writer?’

Writing can take many shapes and forms and you don’t need to be a Writer with a capital W to get a deep sense of satisfaction from your words.  You can write just for yourself in a journal.  You can pen poems.  You can start writing short pieces of nonfiction from a chapter or just a moment of your life.  They might not go anywhere, you might not share them, but the act of writing can help you take stock, and gain perspective.

With the advent of blogging and social media you can also write some of your experience online.  Write it, and share it.  The great thing about this kind of writing is that it doesn’t need to be polished (in fact the more polished it is, the less well it works), it just needs to express some aspect of you, from the heart.

That’s where the magic comes in: from the sense of connection you can get not just to your own words, but to your own self.  And that’s also where the deep sense of connection with others comes from as you share your words, and a bit of your story, your self, your world.  It’s that reward Pearson talks about at the end of the quest: a sense of community; with yourself, with other people, and with the earth

It’s the reason I write, and the reason I coach and mentor others to tap into the power of their own words.  It’s also the reason I want to spread the word about writing: because I think it offers such a simple yet powerful way to get past the dragons, and then to make connections, with each other, and our selves.

Have you found ways to write your way through change?  I’d love to hear your experience – it’s a great way to connect!

About the author…

Joanna Paterson is a journal and writing coach who helps people tap into the power of their own words. You can find out more about creative ways to get through the middle of life at The Mid Life Journal.


  1. 7-30-2010

    Joanna – God love ya for being a “writer” and not a “Writer.” I believe in literary catharsis as well 🙂 Great to see you here on Liz’s blog!

  2. 7-30-2010

    Was born a writer and reader. The only way any experience makes sense to me is through words on paper, so I slug it out through mid-life and hopefully, beyond. Thanks for a great post.

  3. 7-31-2010

    Hi Erika, thanks so much for the welcome. Literary catharsis… what a wonderful expression. Here’s to writers not Writers! 🙂

    Jody, that’s been my experience too… through words on paper, it’s the best or even only way to try and make sense of things. And yes, definitely hopefully beyond.

    Liz, thanks so much for the invitation to guest write here, it’s brilliant to get to know some new people and share words and ideas in this place

    • 7-31-2010

      Joanna – your perspective is fresh and perfect for this space. Your voice is welcome here anytime. Thank you!

  4. 8-3-2010

    Thanks – this really strikes a chord. I aspire to be a writer with a little w, and I have ruthlessly used literary catharsis as a way (the main way, If I am honest) of dealing with the mental and emotional side of breast cancer. Blogging has meant that I have had feedback and support from many unexpected sources. I have no doubt that this has helped me to handle the whole breast cancer experience.


  5. 8-3-2010

    Thanks feisty blue. That’s a tremendous testament to the power of writing with a small w, the power of blogging, and your own spirit. V glad to read of where you’ve got to on your cancer journey.


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