“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 taught, I bore witness to real-life magic. Participants arrived to our morning classes in various stages of recovery – sometimes agitated, sometimes withdrawn. I often wondered how this rowdy group of cheerleaders and football players would settle down to write. And yet, every time, they did 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 was often the case.
Not only that, but they read their work – often each member of the class volunteered courageously to read from drafts they hadn’t even had a chance to reread for themselves. And we listened. We, the facilitators along with the group. Listening to reading after reading, it was impossible not to notice the cross-over in content, the many places where we merged – we, who had thought ourselves and our pain to be so individual. Often times my co-facilitator and I stood before our classes in awed silence, holding back our own tears as readers wept as they described 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 thanked us at the end of every class, sometimes with applause, and told us how inspired they were 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 trauma and 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