The Mystery and Magic of Writing

Added about a month ago by ​Barbara Glasson

GUEST BLOG: Barbara Glasson, author of Writing the Wisdom: creative writing as healing from childhood trauma, discusses the importance of writing for the human spirit.

Writing is a mystery. I have written nearly ten books but have very little recollection of writing any of them! Words come from a different place, a liminal space, somewhere between the conscious and the unconscious, they come as a perplexing and glorious gift. Barbara Glasson

I was reminded of this some months ago when I made a fairly futile attempt at learning Urdu. Living in Bradford, where Asian languages are predominant, I figured it would be good to enroll at the local College and test my skill at another language. Languages have never been a particular gift, I have a smattering of French, some sketchy remnants of Latin and I know how to acquire a large cognac in German, but I have never been able to get the hang of ‘other’ languages with any proficiency. Turned out that Urdu was no exception although I do now know how to order a tasty vegetable curry. 

The thing with learning Urdu is that you first need to form the letters from right to left across the page. This reduced me to the level of a five year old with my tongue sticking out, as I copied the script from the exercise book between the ruled lines reminiscent of kindergarten. It was both completely disabling and curiously therapeutic. I remembered how to write in the conscious world, where thoughts had to be laboriously formed into words rather than typed at speed into a keyboard. 

This conscious action is the substance of Writing the Wisdom, the book that Penny and I have put together. We have sat with groups of women around a kitchen table, with pencils and paper we have given permission to write, to form the words, to shape the script onto a blank page. Penny usually encourages people to ‘unlearn’ those early messages about being rubbish at English or bad at spelling. She gives time and space for people to write, to write anything at all, even if it is just, ‘I don’t know what to write!’ And in giving this time and space we have witnessed a curious transformation as people have discovered the emergence of words into profound expressions of their experiences – experiences that have often never been told before. 

There is something profoundly moving about the physical act of writing. As the hand and the eye express the inner workings of the brain, as the letters take shape and the graphite of a pencil or the ink of a biro shape and form a story. It is, a holy thing, a sacrament, the visible sign of an inner reality.  Writing provides a window on the landscape of a person’s life. Each letter bears the unique signature of the one that forms it. Each word, however tentative, is chosen to give voice to the silent hillsides of the soul.

And when these hillsides are scarred and battered, then the process is so much more remarkable. As we are invited to walk with someone along unknown paths, look from the heights or depths of tenacity and depravity, then we see and understand in painful yet hopeful clarity the possibility of surviving and living against the odds. We can hear the poetry of lament and the songs of transformation that are held deeply within the human spirit.  

As the title of the books suggests, writing reveals the deep wisdom that is uniquely human. Wisdom that emerges from life-long struggles and learned messages. Wisdom that comes despite and because of broken-ness and trauma. Wisdom that holds the fragility of life gently yet is robust, forthright and belligerent, that refuses to be defeated, that will go on risking being alive, anyway. 



​Barbara Glasson is a Methodist Minister and author, currently teaching pastoral theology at the Queen's Foundation, Birmingham. Throughout her diverse ministry, Barbara has developed "listening spaces" particularly for abuse survivors and remains an advocate for good pastoral practice in faith communities. You can get your copy of Writing the Wisdom here!

Please note: Sacristy Press does not necessarily share or endorse the views of the guest contributors to this blog.

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