“Freedom Writers”- tells story of writing therapy transforming lives…

The Freedom Writers movie tells the true story of Erin Gruwell, who taught at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. This was shortly after the Rodney King riots in 1994 when she began teaching a disadvantaged class who were at risk. Many students were from different racial backgrounds, members of gangs who had been in and out of prison and had experienced indescribable violence from extremely young ages. These students would not accept a white woman from Long Beach would know or even have a clue about what they faced every day.

Erin was not dissuaded, most of all she cared. She knew she could make them see they mattered, their lives mattered and they could have a different life. She came up with a brilliant idea, and she utilised writing therapy without even knowing it.

One morning in the class she told them all she had bought them their own diaries. In these diaries they could write anything they wanted, a story, a poem, an account of their day, anything, a song. She specified it didn’t matter about the grammar or structure, what mattered was they could be honest and they could write something. Lastly, she said to them, this is for your eyes only. “Write as if no one else will see. But if you want me (Erin) to read it place it in this cupboard at the end of the day and I will be the only one who reads it.” They took their journals slowly and she had no idea if they were open to the idea or not. But the following day, she checked the cupboard and it was filled with 40 books of students who wanted her to read it.

For the first time in their life, they felt they had a voice and that someone cared.

Erin utilised the power of writing therapy:

  • to write completely honestly
  • to without an audience unless you want to share it
  • to not be concerned with grammar, spelling etc
  • to write every day

These students did this, and you know what happened – through her teaching and this writing, they completely changed their lives. They were able to express the things that were happening to them – in words on a page, and this is the power of writing therapy that can be anyone’s. These students were the first in their families to finish high school and the first in their families to go to college and now they have a foundation that visits schools and inspires other students that they can have a different life.

This is the power of writing therapy. 🙂 I have seen it with the people I have worked with, I have seen it in my tutorials at university when I read their life stories and tell them I will be the only who reads it and I care about their life story. It is one exercise of writing therapy I do with my tutorials. You should see the honesty I receive and the healing they also receive. Below is a link to the movie; which shows an overview of the story. This movie is a stunning account of an amazing woman who used simple techniques of writing therapy along with her desire to see people free from prejudice and hate, and from the violence and poverty they could not escape. She is my hero as are all of those students and the students I have known who have suffered horrendously but who still stand tall and survive. I have known many of these students as well and I have been inspired by them. As Erin says in her talks, when the teacher becomes the student and is humbled by her students. Check it out…takes my breath away.

Freedom Writers Movie

Another person’s response to writing therapy…

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Following being informed of writing therapy techniques and instructed how to conduct this and the power of this Kylie tried writing therapy, buying a notebook and doing the simple instructions given to her. She provided this feedback afterward:

“Well, I did all the writing. Filled up about half a book. I think it put it to bed as you said all that I could not let go of in relation to my family issues. When I refer to the issues now in conversation now it’s like they hold no weight. They are merely circumstances that happened.”

(Previously Kylie was suffering from anger towards people in her life that she could not release through talking it out or going over it.)

“Thanks so much for telling me about how to do writing therapy. I really appreciate you helping me. I have told lots of my friends about you and it and how you helped me.”

Writing Therapy for Men

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Hello there,

Happy New Year and all of that. : )

I wanted to post about men undertaking writing therapy. Having conducted many workshops with women, I long been seeking men to participate in writing therapy. I approached my friend a while ago, and he only did the first few exercises, he stopped at the autobiography part. Sometimes it seems men will not want to go to some levels of emotion or pain for fear of what it will unearth. However, in my humble opinion, perhaps men need this more than women even. Women are used to sharing their emotions and I know men do this as well. With writing therapy men can express these deeper things without having to speak or have an audience it is between themselves and the page. This provides complete release and also allows them control over the process so they feel safe. I think writing therapy is quite an amazing tool for men. I will be conducting workshops again soon and I believe I have a few men attending.

Men need writing therapy but they shy away from it. I would love to know the thoughts of male readers of my blog. There are men dealing with a lot of trauma in the armed forces, police force, in different professions and stations in society. All people can and do benefit from writing therapy, though men seem more reluctant. Physiologically, men recover from emotional outbursts and arguments slower than women, they take longer to calm down. Their blood pressure and heart rate rises and stays up much longer than a woman. Is this why men fear emotion? I am not sure but either way, writing therapy is a gentle and healing way to address emotions. I was telling my male friend the other day who said he had been avoiding emotional issues, that once we face them they are released. If we face them they are not powerful over us. If we face them and write them down truthfully and deeply we are released.

I would appreciate any thoughts from my male readers.

Thanks for your time. Hear from you soon.

Suzanne