a blog and resources for trans survivors and loved ones

  • Empowering.
  • Healing.
  • Connecting.

Storytelling is one way that we can heal from trauma. This might take many forms–telling our story to someone else one-on-one, taking a class or workshop that helps us develop our stories, or doing exploratory writing that’s just for ourselves. 

Writing can be a deeply personal process, and it can also help us to connect with others. The most powerful thing about writing, to me, is when someone else reads my words and tells me they felt a strong connection with a character, or had an emotional response to the words on the page. I think that’s the best thing a writer can hope for–to take the confusing mess of feelings in our own minds and bodies and communicate them in a way that someone else can digest and make their own meaning of. 

But writing doesn’t have to be for anyone besides ourselves. Writing has a cathartic power to connect us with our past selves who experienced things we did not have the words for. Research tells us that writing can “not only help us process what we’ve been through and assist us as we envision a path forward.” From a place of more stability, we can process and make meaning of these experiences with the safe(r) container of writing.

Over the past few years, I’ve loved reading about writers who write about their writing processes, opening up different possibilities for creativity. I’ve tried various strategies that writers have suggested, none of which have been perfect fits for me–free-writing three pages first thing in the morning, writing by hand, writing off of prompt cards, etc. 

Everyone’s process is different. If anything, this has helped me find my own rhythm with writing, which is writing by hand in a notebook as ideas come to me throughout the day, but especially at night right after I’ve decided to go to bed. I also end up with a lot of messy voice-to-text notes on my phone I made while driving or out on a walk. 

My favorite quote about writing comes from Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way:

 “When our writing feels dull or flat, it is because we are refusing to say something we consider unsayable.”

This has really stuck with me. Often when writing about my own life, or writing fiction that touches close to home, I run into a place of “I shouldn’t go there,” because it’s something that feels too painful, or because I think nobody else would be able to understand. Maybe it would be off-putting (especially in the horror genre, where I usually write), or confusing, or too weird. But feeling that resistance and continuing through it has often felt the most rewarding, like the writing is doing some sort of processing for me. 

And there’s a real scientific basis for this. Research suggests that writing about negative and traumatic experiences (or putting them into words in any form) helps to “change the way it is organized in the brain.” Storytelling gives us the power to shape stories about our own lives instead of having them told to us by others. There are also emotional and physiological benefits to expressive writing, like decreased blood pressure, strengthened immune systems, reductions in depression and stress, and increases in resilience

Sometimes we want our writing to be “received” by someone else and reflected back to us. There’s something powerful about having someone else hear and understand us, or even just witness something that is deeply important to us. Other times (and probably most of the time), our writing stays hidden in notebooks and note apps and post-it notes that no one else sees. This type of writing can be just as meaningful as writing that gets shared. 

Most of my writing is stuff that no one else will ever see. Writing by hand, I make frequent typos and run-on sentences and grammatical errors, which can always be edited later. This has helped me let go of some of my perfectionism around “writing well,” and I hope it can feel freeing for others, too. 

You don’t need to take a writing class to explore writing, although it may be helpful or fun to be in a space with others who are also working on creative or personal projects. I’ve started to attend free writing nights at a local independent publishing resource center, where I get to sit in a room with a group of writers as we work on different prompts each week. Online writing communities can also be a great resource to find connection.

Working off of writing prompts can be a great way to start. When I’m free-writing, I like to think about: 

  • Moments or memories that have a lot of energy behind them
  • Things I think about a lot / ruminate over
  • Writing about where I am in the present–noticing what is around me, what I can see, hear, touch, smell, or taste. 

For creative writing, here are some very simple prompts to try out!

If you’re looking for more prompts, check out Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones” deck, a set of 60 cards with prompts and explanations for each. Sometimes instead of trying to tackle something difficult head-on, we need to come at it sideways. One of her prompts I love is “I’m not thinking about…”

Writing is something that anyone can explore. You don’t have to be “good” at writing to write. It can simply be a process of telling yourself stories, and finding meaning in the things that have caused us pain in the past. 

Learn more about writing for healing: