By Dr. Nancy McCabe
During the spring of 2021, when we were all especially weary with the pandemic and restrictions and online classes, it seemed to Baily’s Beads advisor Dr. Nancy McCabe to be an opportune time for a special topics class on writing and healing. The body of research on expressive arts therapy shows that artistic work can serve as a route for managing stressful events and find healing from difficult experience. Studies have shown physiological effects from expressive writing such as reduced heart rates and blood pressure and strengthened immune systems.
The class discussed work by researchers such as James Pennbaker, who takes a scientific approach to studying expressive writing; Mihaly Csikszentmihihalyi’s who popularized the concept of “flow”; Natalie Goldberg, who promotes discussions of writing as a form of meditation, Diana Raab’s focus on methods connecting writing to general health benefits, Julia Cameron’s work on the artistic process, and Louise DeSalvo’s connections between aesthetic values and healing, coping, and recovery from grief or trauma.
Through writing exercises, poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, the class explored many of these ideas, focusing especially on DeSalvo’s description of the intersections between artistically successful work and healing benefits.
Alicia Reese, a nursing major who had done little creative work before the class, wrote a narrative that explores the complications of acquaintance assault as well as poetry on how we cope with loneliness—and how we find solace in nature.
Jourdan Robbins wrote an autobiographical piece of fiction about a father-daughter relationship as she processes a daughter’s grief.
Aubrie Shrubb looked at the way the birth of her younger sister led her to confront her own uneasy feelings about gender expectations.
Four lyric essays evolved:
Amanda Little used photographs to arrive at insights about an eating disorder;
Emily Miller found connections between the kiwi and her own complex family dynamics, and in a second essay poetically explores the connections between colors and the stages of her relationship with her mother through the lens of loss;
and Amelia Rodriguez confronts a younger self as she finds healing from childhood trauma.
You’ll find all of these pieces here, just a sampling of the excellent pieces of writing that the group produced.