Why I created Writing for Recovery

 “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” ― Anne Frank

Since I was a child, writing has been my primary form of creative expression. I discovered early that it was also a priceless tool for self-exploration and self-empowerment. After graduating from journalism school over 20 years ago, I began to explore how I could share the tool of writing with the people who I thought could most benefit. I facilitated workshops for psychiatric survivors, young women at a women’s shelter and prisoners. I expanded my reach and taught for the Vancouver School Board, at community centres, adult educational facilities, Langara College and Emily Carr University.

In 2013, I began teaching at Vancouver’s Pacifica Treatment Centre through Pandora’s Collective, a literary nonprofit. I had loved teaching in each of the venues I’d taught at, but my experience at Pacifica is unparalleled. At Pacifica, almost every time I teach, I bear witness to real-life magic. Participants arrive to our morning classes in various stages of recovery – sometimes in agitated states, sometimes withdrawn. I often wonder how this rowdy group of cheerleaders and football players will settle down to write. And yet, every time, they do write – evocative, raw, courageous, gut-wrenching pieces that seem to have been written by seasoned writers – not people shaky from the recovery process and picking up a pen for the first time, as is often the case.

Not only that, but they read their work – often each member of the class volunteers courageously to read from drafts they haven’t even had a chance to reread for themselves. And we listen. We, the facilitators along with the group. Listening to reading after reading, it’s impossible not to notice the cross-over in content, the many places where we merge – we, who had thought ourselves and our pain to be so individual. Often times my co-facilitator and I stand before our classes in awed silence, holding back our own tears as readers weep as they describe some element of their history, of what brought them here.

Yet, within the sadness that arises there is also a reckoning with the self, a gratitude for what the unconscious has revealed to us. Our participants thank us at the end of every class, sometimes with applause, and tell us how inspired they are with the process.

In return, my facilitation at Pacifica has inspired me to expand my reach with these workshops and offer them on a larger scale to the recovery community. The great value of these classes is imminently clear to me and to my co-teachers.

People in treatment seem more ready for this work than any group I have ever worked with. It’s as if the traumatic space of recovery has allowed them to reach beyond perceived barriers to the heart of their creative force. What emerges is the pure magic of their spirits speaking from places of core truth they may never have accessed, opening doors to self-understanding, compassion and recovery.

“Marni has a gift for inspiring the creative process and helping participants delve deeper into their writing. Her many years of experience as a facilitator and a writer were evident in the way she held a gentle and powerful space for us as a group.”

Catherine Wilcox, M.Ed., Management Consultant