A Message from the President: July 2013

I just finished a four-week online with conference calls writing workshop for stroke survivors. For some survivors it was the first time they had communicated, let alone write, about their feelings about what happened, what they experienced, what they expected. For others, while they may have ‘let it all out’ earlier, it was an opportunity to learn to use expressive writing techniques to organize and share personal reflections on their recovery.

I got to know other survivors spread across the states. And will get to know others. There were three day/time option tracks; I chose the one that was best for me. Eventually the three will be linked as the last one finishes.

There was no difference in workshop content for the three tracks other than the schedule. Each week two themes were presented with several suggested topics to write about. As we finished, we posted them on a dedicated page of a website to read and comment. Similar frustrations were the norm, even though we ran the gamut from mild residual disabilities to wheelchair-bound, recent to long-term.

The workshops were made possible by American Heart Association’s off-shoot American Stroke Association’s quarterly magazine, Stroke Connection. Debi McGill, the editor of the magazine, was in charge of the nuts-and-bolts of connecting us. It was facilitated/coached by Carol Keegan, a forty-year survivor, who had the idea of developing an expressive writing group composed of stroke survivors. In her own recovery, she had relied on deep reflective writing practices like journaling and legacy letters to help her make sense of how stroke had changed her life. She had found the simple process of finding words to convey her fears and resentments allayed her need to make sense of the experience. When she sat down to write, the paper answered her nagging questions about “Why,” and “How,” and even, “What if.” The more she wrote, the more inner resources bubbled up.
So she decided that her 40th anniversary celebration would focus on finding ways to share expressive writing techniques with other survivors. She decided to develop a writing workshop that would support them through the process of harvesting their individual experiences of recovering from stroke. By sharing their writing with each other during the workshop, they could find a greater appreciation of their own coping skills and more confidence in their capacity to rebuild their lives.

We were the first to use technology to link wide-spread survivors together (the first had been with her local stroke support group).

So…that’s how I started my summer with new hopes for a writing life, getting that needed ‘kick-in-the-ass’ to my in-work-but-stalled “Life without Clots.” Hope you had a great start to your summer.

Larry Watters,

Writers Forum President

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