Daily Journal Writing: Healing with Words - Interview with Author Diana Raab

Over the years, I have written extensively on the importance of daily journal writing, as well as the benefits of journal writing.  So, I am greatly honored to be hosting Diana Raab to Words from the Heart as she continues her blog tour for her new book Healing with Words: A Writer's Cancer Journey. 
Diana is an amazing woman, who meets the challenges of life head on. Diana has earned three degrees: an undergraduate degree in Health Administration and Journalism, an RN, and a MFA. She is the mother of three, who dealt with high risk pregnancies. An award winning author, she has written eight books to date. The focus over the past 25 years has been medical and self-help writing, as well as memoirs and poetry. Her new book, Healing with Words: A Writer's Cancer Journey combines a little of it all.

Hi, Diana! I am so thrilled to have you as a guest on my blog, especially today. It is my second daughter’s 30th birthday. She had surgery last year to remove a cancerous tumor, so your book has hit close to home for me on several levels. Thankfully, she is doing well, expecting the birth of her third child in about four or five weeks.

I like that you are encouraging journaling as a way to invite health into your life. As a nurse, do you encourage patients to journal? When you are teaching or leading a seminar on journaling for health, how do you explain what happens to the body/mind/spirit that contributes to wellness? In other words, what is it that allows journal writing to contribute to health? I know writing is cathartic, but what actually happens?

I recommend journaling to anyone who is going through a difficult time, whether it be emotional or physical. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of writing to heal. Dr. James Pennebaker is a research psychologist and one of the pioneer researchers in this area. He discovered the healing power of writing during an experiment he performed in the 1980s. He asked some clients to write for four consecutive days for 15-20 minutes a day about either a traumatic experience or a superficial event. The results showed that those who wrote about their traumas needed less medical attention in the subsequent months than they had previously. The subjects also admitted that writing had changed their lives. 
Regular expressive writing has been shown to elevate mood, decrease stress, improve sleep, work efficiency and how people deal with one another. Biologically, all of these factors can positively boost the body’s immune system.

You are a tenacious cancer survivor, having battled both breast and bone marrow cancer! You are also a prolific writer, having written eight books. What made you decide to write a memoir, as opposed to a novel or book of poems? 

Ever since being given a journal by my mother at the age of 10, I have always gravitated towards personal, nonfiction writing. In my 20s, I was a medical journalist and when I began having my own health issues in my 40s, it was natural for me to turn to writing memoir. I simply feel most comfortable writing in this genre.
One of the most difficult problems for people with chronic illness to deal with is depression. Can you explain the link between creativity and depression?

Many studies have linked depression and creativity. Personally, when I am going through difficult times, I will turn to journaling to help me find answers and self-guidance. After receiving my breast cancer diagnosis in 2001, in addition to exercise, the only way I knew how to cope with my sadness was through writing. This passion has helped me heal during so many times in my life and helped me make sense of chaotic events. 
It has been said that creative persons, such as authors, artists, actors, musicians, performers and poets are more often plagued with the demon of depression. One of the reasons could be that creative types tend to feel powerful emotions, which motivate their creative endeavors. If we examine the lives of accomplished artists, such as Vincent Van Gogh, Charles Darwin, Virginia Wolf, William Styron, Anne Sexton, Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath, we will note that they all battled with depression at some point in their lives. If you’ve ever been depressed then you understand the sense of helplessness and numbness which accompanies this illness. Sometimes, a sense of helplessness drives creative individuals to be more creative, but other times, depression can be immobilizing.

I saw Morgan Freeman’s movie, “Bucket List” not too long ago. It is about two very different men, who form an unlikely friendship. They create a list of things they want to accomplish that will make the world better. What would be on your bucket list and why?

My bucket list would include teaching people to take care and honor their health and also, to do more expressive writing. I have seen many positive things come from people expressing themselves on the page. Also, I would encourage people to live in the moment, appreciating what one has rather than thinking about what one does not. 
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about journaling, wellness or healing?

I want to stress the importance of making journaling a regular habit. Typically, I tell my students to write first thing in the morning for at least 15-20 minutes when thoughts are the most pure. Keeping a journal at your bedside encourages this practice. Even if you are feeling fine, you should write every day. Also, remember to date your entries because you might want to look back at how you were feeling and compare it to your present state of mind.

Thanks again, for visiting today, Diana. I wish you well in the days ahead and much success with your book and blog tour.  

Readers who want to take a peek at Diana's book or get a copy for their own library can click this link: 

This post is dedicated to my daughter, Courtney, who has face cancer with grace and courage.  Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!  I am so proud of you.


Diana M. Raab said…
Thanks for hosting me on your blog, Linda and congratulations to your daughter -- great news!

Warm regards,
Diana Raab
Jodi said…
You mentioned a doctor who recommends that his patients start a journal. I wonder...do other doctors do that? Is journaling widely accepted in the medical profession as something helpful for patients?
Linda said…
I have had a great deal of experience with doctors and hospitals. My mother was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis when I was 10. She lived, amazingly, to be 80 years old; something none of the doctors ever expected. In all those years, I never heard a doctor recommend journaling, until I began working as a Reiki Master at a Wellness Center at York Hospital in Maine. A few of the doctors there would recommend journaling to their patients, however, it was mostly the nurses and the wellness workers who suggested journaling to the patients.
Dawn Herring said…
As a avid journaler, I think it's wonderful to know that journaling is beneficial to mind, body, and spirit. The fact that the immune system is benefited as a result of journaling gives folks a good reason to start and keep the practice. I've always kept a journal simply because I enjoy and desire to keep a record of my life to see how far I've come in all the dimensions. To know I'm benefiting my body just enhances the experience all the more.

Be refreshed,
Dawn Herring
JournalWriter Freelance
Nancy said…
I want to thank BOTH Diana and Linda for the wonderful reminder of how comforting the pen can be. It's been quite some time since I've utilized journaling as a tool for the wellness of my body/mind/spirit and in retrospect, a bit perplexed as to why I stopped! I do know that after reading this interview I am reminded of all the wonderfulness that seemed to carry me throughout my day when I WAS journaling. Mostly a deep sense of being centered in my day/life. Ah yes, a trip to the store for a new journal is in my very near future... hmm, maybe even a new "pretty" pen. With gratitude, Nancy
Linda said…
Dear Dawn!
I am so glad you stopped by to read this post. Funny how we sometimes do things and never know the benefits. Gardening, for instance, lowers the blood pressure and increases the endorphins. I have done it for years, but just learned the benefits. No wonder I always feel better!
Thanks for your comment.
Blessings, Linda
Linda said…
Dear Nancy,
How wonderful to know you were inspired by this post. Diana is such an amazing role model on several levels.
Hope you find just the right journal and pen!
Happy writing! Linda
Mari said…
Hi Linda,

So glad to have discovered you. Wonderful interview...Diana is marvelous role model. I rediscovered journaling when I had an MS exacerbation and lost feeling in the right side of my body. Daily Journaling has given me my life back. I'm currently working with my Journal Primary Care Provider to cure my self of all my diseases. WriteON!
Linda said…
Dear Mari,
Good for you! It takes real courage to take control of your own wellness. Where did you ever find a Journal Primary Care Provider?
Sending you blessings of Light and Love...thanks for commenting!

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