May Meeting with Claudia Mosby by Larry Watters

On May 11, those who attended the General Meeting were treated to an awesome workshop by Claudia Mosby. Mosby is a freelance writer, has a bi-weekly column on midlife in the Record Searchlight, and has a gig for a once a month national yearlong series on mental health that is carried locally. And she still has the energy to be an adjunct faculty member in the Communications Department at Shasta College.

claudia gesturing

Where does she get that energy, you ask? By practicing what she preaches; er, facilitates. We participated in a shortened version of Mosby’s highly successful workshops on Writing for Wellness that focus on using expressive narrative writing.

I resort to writing for delving deeper into what (or sometimes who) is bugging me.  I make a lot of discoveries. But occasionally I find that it is nothing more than putting words on paper, and revelations about me don’t surface. But during Mosby’s writing exercises that started with the typical “What’s on Your Mind” scenario, we were advised to reconsider the event or experience we had wrote about, paying particular attention to:

  • the characters
  • the setting
  • the event itself
  • the consequences
  • the meaning

Then we were told to change perspectives. For this First Person junkie, that meant writing in the Third Person.

Wowzer! Blurting out loud, “Powerful,” while still writing, I found that my normal kind words and no-negative-thoughts had transgressed to a critical role. And in the Third Person, it was not me that was beating me up, but that paid observer who was being truthfully honest.

While others discussed their insights and feelings as the result of the perspective shift, I sat in awe of what had just transpired in my head; my outburst seemed to cover it all. The workshop moved on to a third rewrite, using as many positive emotion words as seemed realistic. Meanwhile I sat there. And sat there. And sat there.

Ok, I admit that I did not participate in the latter sessions that included using positive words as they might naturally bubble up and occur in the narrative. Nor did I experiment with context and voice by writing the narrative as someone either outside the experience or with a very different perspective.

But I have the opportunity to participate in her community classes & workshops that will be offered in the next several months. In July, a Memoir & Legacy will be hosted at Pilgrim Church. In September Mosby will lead a full blown, non-abridged Writing toward Wellness Workshop and October brings a Spiritual Autobiography class.  More information can be found at www.writinginsideout.org, or writing c/o PO Box 492081 Redding, CA 96049-2081, or calling 355-6827. Writing Inside Out can also be found on Facebook in the Pages as WritingInsideOut.

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Member Monday: Writing Toward Wellness-A Personal Journey by Claudia Mosby

Welcome to Member Monday! It’s a pleasure to feature Claudia Mosby. Claudia is a freelance writer and an instructor at Shasta College. She writes for The Record Searchlight and Enjoy magazine. You can read more about Claudia’s dedication to exploring the relationship between writing and wellness through a variety of workshops, classes and retreats. For more information please visit Writing InsideOut.

Writing Toward Wellness-A Personal Journey

by Claudia Mosby

A few years ago I happened upon a thought-provoking quote by e.e. cummings in which he said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

Writing has often been the medium through which I’ve made that leap toward courage and it can be a profoundly powerful tool used to separate the wheat from the chaff of our identity, allowing us to discover who it is we are intended to become.

My personal passion for writing began when I first picked up a pencil. As a child, I kept a diary and recognized early the comfort and insight writing brought me. Much later, my writing became more infrequent: consistent when I was under stress, less so when life was running smoothly.

Regardless of frequency, having a non-judgmental page upon which we can explore our thoughts and feelings can be deeply relieving. In fact, for the past twenty-five years both academic and clinical researchers have been investigating the relationship between expressive writing and wellness and have established the case for a clear link between the two.

While early research focused on the benefits of expressive narrative as applied to unresolved trauma, in more recent years scientists have considered the benefits of such writing as applied to many of life’s complexities. We are all confronted at some point with an unexpected ‘Big Lump’ that we wonder how we will get through, around, over or past. Demonstrably, writing is one such vehicle to help transport us to the other side.

Whether our upheaval is separation or divorce, death of a loved one, interpersonal conflict, our own or another’s health crisis, caregiving, financial hardship, spiritual alienation, work adjustments or some other loss that has us concerned—we can effectively use expressive narrative to give structure and containment to our experience as we move through it.

Fiction writers and poets especially will be interested to know the tools used in expressive writing are familiar ones. We tell stories, whether fictional or autobiographical, to convey complex ideas and emotions in an organized way. Building a coherent narrative—including one around an aspect of our own life story—requires attention to the characters involved, the setting, plot (in short, the event/experience + consequences + meaning) and point of view.

The operative word is “build;” If we already have an explanation, we’re not likely to receive the health benefits of writing. When we write about troubling, unresolved experiences, we exorcise on paper some of their emotional power and in so doing begin to re-write the self-dialogue that replays in our minds. If we’re stuck retelling the same story again and again from the same perspective, we might question whether it has truly been resolved.

While expressive writing is NOT a cure-all (nothing is), there is a solid body of research supporting its efficacy in producing measurable changes in physical and mental health.

On Saturday, March 16 from 9-1 p.m. at Unity in Redding (1852 Buenaventura Blvd. #6), Claudia Mosby will be facilitating a workshop using these methods. Participants will be introduced to the research behind expressive writing, its key biological and psychological benefits, and the suggested guidelines for a beneficial writing experience as they engage in hands-on writing practice. Using “left brain” logical and “right brain” imaginative, as well as sensory and intuitive writing techniques, participants will use writing for greater personal insight and growth. Pre-registration is requested but not required. For more information, please visit the Writing InsideOut website, Facebook page or contact Claudia Mosby at 355-6827.

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com. Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free. Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links. The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter. Thank you!

Member Monday: Writing (Our Own Life Story) InsideOut by Claudia Mosby

Welcome to Member Monday!  It’s a pleasure to feature Claudia Mosby.  Claudia is a freelance writer and an instructor at Shasta College.  She writes for The Record Searchlight and Enjoy magazine.  You can read more about Claudia’s dedication to exploring the relationship between writing and wellness through a variety of workshops, classes and retreats.  For more information please visit Writing InsideOut.

Writing (Our Own Life Story) InsideOut

by Claudia Mosby

Mark Twain once said, in part,  that “Truth is stranger than fiction…” I would argue that it’s more compelling and now research shows it’s good for our health, something I knew intuitively long ago.

In love with language from an early age, I have used writing to self-reflect, to make my living and to breathe life into characters arising from my imagination.

After many years in non-writing occupations, last year I returned to writing and teaching part-time.  Both required heavy research and with the writing the ability to tell in an interesting and compelling way a portion of someone else’s life story.  Interestingly, I’ve found a natural tendency, particularly among those who have undergone a traumatic life event, to shape the meaning of that story.

While researching I came across the literature on writing and wellness and discovered the intimate connection between expressive autobiographical writing and the storytelling strategies used by fiction writers.  Most importantly, is the role this kind of writing plays in health and well-being.

This connection made sense.  Early on my writing took the form of diary-keeping.  I remember well my first official diary, a small red leather-bound book with golden lock and matching key that I received for my 9th birthday.  Later, when I reached high school I began writing for the school newspaper and in college I majored in English with an emphasis in creative writing.

Looking back, not surprisingly there was more than a grain of re-worked truth in my short stories and poems.  Writing was a kind of creative therapy, an opportunity to imaginatively work out on the page any unresolved bits of my life experience and produce what I hoped was art.

Because I now teach college communication and because the research shows expressive writing improves working memory (and because of my writing bias), I started incorporating a short writing exercise in the classroom after each new unit.  My student’s were tasked with choosing one of three writing prompts I provided (ranging from less to more creative) and to somehow relate it to their life experience.  The results have been astounding.

When we covered the unit on conflict, one of my students wrote an “unsent letter” about having been raped.  This gave me an opportunity to talk with her about her well-being and available resources.  I’m fairly certain she would not have disclosed this information to me in a conversation.

It’s interesting to observe the noticeable increase in her participation in class discussions and activities since that writing exercise.  She now regularly volunteers to speak.  While this example is anecdotal and I can’t prove the writing caused her changed behavior, copious research suggests a likely connection.

Intrigued, I began researching more deeply the connection between writing and wellness.  I looked at the research on psychological and health outcomes for both academic studies and clinical trials that used writing as an intervention with both healthy and ill populations across a range of conditions:  chronic and terminal illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, major life transitions, and explorations of spirituality and faith.

Study after study revealed not only the psychological benefits that result from expressive writing, but perhaps even more notably improvements in key health markers (immune system functioning, pain level, white blood cell count, etc.).  I even looked at the research on hemispheric dominance theory (popularly known as left brain, right brain research) and which hemispheric functions lend themselves to certain types of writing activity.

For most of us, hindsight is 20-20.  Expressive creative writing is a tool to gain insight and perspective on the things we haven’t yet been able to completely leave behind us. The beauty of this type of writing is that it can be creative, empowering and used as needed, particularly attractive to those who do not view themselves as writers or want to commit to “journaling” or “diary-keeping” as a regular practice.

There’s more to that Mark Twain quote: “ … but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” I disagree.  While the facts are what they are, each of us has the power to construct our story’s meaning, and therein lies the possibility to authentically record our history using creative techniques.

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com.  Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free.  Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links.  The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter.  Thank you!