How Writing Has Saved My Life – or – A Letter To My (younger, heartbroken) Self

I see you’ve put your journal away. For years you’ve been scribbling furiously at night before bed – venting, spilling the word-vomit all over the page.

As a kid, you wrote about all the typical things – getting picked last for the volleyball team, the first time you smoked a cigarette, the big fight with your best friend, the first boy you kissed.

But now you’re grown up and shit’s gotten real.

Now you’re writing about going to war and you find you can’t do it anymore. You write and each word is like tearing your heart out of your chest one more time.

You write about traveling half-way around the world to see your father die slowly. You write about the beautifully expensive casket you bury him in. The one they bang up with a hammer at this third-world cemetery to deter thieves. And how it breaks your heart, that hammer.

You write about it just a little bit. But it hurts. So you stop.

You stop writing. You stop feeling. You stop believing, afraid that if you write one more word your heart will finally burst.

But I’m here to tell you: It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to feel. The pain will not consume you.

Hold your heart gently, but don’t stop writing. It’s really the only way through.

Keep sneaking away to your car during your lunch hour to write. Keep jotting down your thoughts on scraps of paper bags and napkins. Keep them. Hide them tightly under your pillow like your last five dollars in a house full of gambling addicts.

Those words, those scraps will save your life one day. One day, you will be faced with another hurdle – another heartbreak. Yes it will come. And you will look back on those scraps and pages for hope, for answers. You will write that poem that helps you remember. You will write that story that will mend your own heart.

Through writing, you will find meaning in what seems meaningless today. Through writing, you will build the strength to keep showing up, to keep asking the difficult questions. Through writing you will talk with God. You will learn to trust the sound of your own voice. You will grow and expand. Through writing, you will heal.

As you heal, your writing will open up so many new doors for you. One day, your notes on war and death will become a poem about love and living. That passage about your fear of heights will become a story about faith and friendship. Your writing will become a beacon of your own redemption. It will guide so many others to also trust, and write, and heal.

So keep writing, my dear. In love and in faith, you will learn to make your own way. And I’ll be here waiting to hear your voice again.


How has writing helped you heal? Do you have words you would share with your younger self? Consider sharing your story with us. Our upcoming series is accepting guest submissions now. Or just leave me a comment below. Your words matter. ❤️‍

5 responses to “How Writing Has Saved My Life – or – A Letter To My (younger, heartbroken) Self”

  1. […] recently wrote a letter to my younger self. It began as a free writing exercise about why I write. I didn’t plan for it to turn into a […]

  2. Leenna says:

    Hi Iris

    You’re so right. Writing is such a healing process. Sometimes you can’t speak your hurt or feelings, only write them down. And yes, keep writing is the mantra for us all 😀

  3. Lana says:

    That’s so beautiful! And it is exactly what I went through as a young girl. I’ve locked my journals away because I couldn’t bear to think about them, but I haven’t written in a journal for years. Now I’m writing, it might be time to go back and like you said, ‘notes on war and death will become a poem about love and living.’

    • Iris Madelyn says:

      Thanks Lana. Yes, go back to those journals! ❤️‍
      I’m so glad I did. Especially now (I’m a mom, too). I just have a whole new perspective on some of my earlier struggles. I hope it makes me a better person and a better parent (if not, at least, a better writer).

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