Written by Bonnie Nish …
People choose to write for all kinds of reasons.
They are naturally drawn to words and to putting their thoughts on paper in a creative way that flows naturally.
Like any other art form it is a release, a coping mechanism, a dream, a vision, or if you are like me, a calling you can’t give up even if you tried.
As an Expressive Arts Therapist I have seen how engaging in the arts can be transformative in both small and huge ways. Allowing yourself to flow into your imagination and just be wherever you need to go within the arts opens up avenues for self-assessment, which we sometimes can’t discover through other means. The beauty of this is you don’t have to be an artist or writer to do this kind of work.
But what if you are a writer? How does your writing change your life? What purpose in the greater scheme of things does your work have on the world around you? For some people writing is very personal. They write for themselves and it informs them of where they are now or acts as a kind of release, a coping mechanism in hard times. It can be therapeutic. For others it is a vehicle to make political statements, or to try to change the world. For some it is a means to help others to understand a personal situation that they might be going through themselves, such as mental illness, loss, identity crisis and to make a connection. For several it is the pure joy of just being able to express true love and beauty in the world, while for others it is all of these, a form of contemplation, explanation, examination and discovery. It is joy and heartache, revision and work and dedication. No matter where you are coming from, writing has the potential to take a difficult or horrific situation and to find transformative beauty.
For me, my writing is the driving force of my being. I started to write when I was 13. I began writing poetry, and short stories partly, although I did not know it at the time, to survive living with a mother who had mental illness. As I got older I continued to write poetry, but the reasons shifted. I could tell stories in a poetic way using narrative. I loved doing the research and seeing my characters come alive on the page. Like so many starting out their careers I believed I needed to write big – to tell the huge story that would change the world.
Now my poetry means something else to me. I live it every moment. I look at the world around me as a poetic playground. I see everything in metaphor. I get antsy when I can’t write for a while. I no longer look to write those huge themes, to capture the world with overwritten statements or clichés that signify nothing to anyone other than myself. I look instead for the simple important moments. I look to taking the mundane and make them unique. I look at ordinary people and places and always find the poetic in them. For me poetry is everywhere. I search for the beauty in an exchange, the heartache in a word, the wonderment in a story and I see how each of these moments have merit, and need to be shared. My poetry is with me all the time.
James Hillman describes in his book, ‘The Souls Code, In Search of Character and Calling” – Random House, 1996, that people who create share inexplicable innate drive.
Writing is also my calling, and what I was meant to do.
It is what I will do, and engage in, and work on for the rest of my life. It took me years before I would tell people I was a writer. Now I never doubt it.
It took years for me to go beyond saying it was “just” poetry. Now I know this is my world, my art, my being. It isn’t just poetry, it is how I breath, it is where I exist. It is my way of looking at the world and understanding the world. It is how I let others know my worldview and maybe help them see the world slightly differently.
When I am writing a particular piece it will be with me long before I ever put pen to page. It is living inside of me taking up space, creating a life of its own, and when it is ready to be born I put these thoughts down on the page. Sometimes they come out complete. Other times I edit, I change, I leave it and come back later, but always it is something that I have lived with for some time in some way, thus I live poetically every moment. I can’t help it. It is how I think, how I breath, and likely will be how I die.
Wherever you are in your creative journey is fine. You may do it for the love; you may do it as therapy, but whatever the reason, know why you do it.
Know the kind of dedication it takes to make it your life’s work, your passion, and if you discover you have that kind of drive, keep it alive. It might be enough for you to be a hobby artist, someone who writes for yourself and just for the fun of it. You may use it for therapy to help you get through some difficult times, or, you may dream of publishing one day.
Whatever your reason, you will find the time you need to fit your way of life.
It is how it works.
Dedication is more than saying you are a writer, it is the time and energy and life you choose to lead. It doesn’t work any other way. It just can’t.
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Bonnie Nish is Executive Director of Pandora’s Collective Outreach Society.
Bonnie is widely published in places like The Ottawa Arts Review, The Danforth Review, Haunted Waters Press, Illness Crisis & Loss Journal Volume 24 and The Blue Print Review.
Bonnie’s first book of poetry “Love and Bones” was released by Karma Press in 2013.
Bonnie has a Masters in Arts Education from Simon Fraser University and is currently pursuing a PhD in Language and Literacy Education at UBC.
Her most recent book “Concussion and Mild TBI: Not Just Another Headline” is an anthology of concussion related stories, and was published by Lash and Associates in August 2016.
Bonnie is a certified Expressive Arts Therapist with a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies from the Vancouver Expressive Arts Therapy School. She has worked extensively with youth and adults in high-risk situations. Bonnie has conducted writing and expressive arts workshops for over 20 years across North America.
For her contribution to the Vancouver literary community Bonnie was nominated for the 2015 YWCA Women of Distinction Award in Arts, Culture and Design. BonnieNish.ca
Thank you Bonnie for contributing this Guest Blog!
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