Writing as Therapy: Background information when reading Among the Ten Thousand Things

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Among the Ten Thousand Things

A Novel

by Julia Pierpont

Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont X
Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2015, 336 pages
    Jun 2016, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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Writing as Therapy

This article relates to Among the Ten Thousand Things

Print Review

WritingIn Julia Pierpont's Among the Ten Thousand Things, eleven-year-old Kay secretly writes fan fiction based on characters in the American television series "Seinfeld." It is how she distills events that are happening around her. After she is accidentally exposed to pages of salacious emails, witness to her father's infidelity, she is at a loss. So she incorporates some of the incomprehensible pornographic phrases into a fictional TV screenplay involving Jerry and Elaine. Even though they are meaningless to her, it is a way to process adult language and behavior. Without realizing it, Kay is using writing as therapy, an increasingly popular method of dealing with emotional trauma.

In Counseling and Human Development, psychotherapist Kathleen Adams, founder of the Center for Journal Therapy, writes: "the simple, yet powerfully effective practice of writing thoughts and feelings in a notebook or on a computer…is a potent agent for change, growth, and healing." Although she is speaking of journal writing specifically, the principle applies to any type of writing that deals with a person's life experiences – especially the traumatic ones. It reliably leads to improved mental and physical health.

For decades numerous studies have proven again and again that expressive writing has beneficial effects on, not just emotional health, but physical health as well. An article in BJ Psych Advances highlights an experiment that scientists conducted with nonclinical college students where one set was tasked with writing about an emotionally traumatic event in their lives for 15 minutes for four consecutive days. The other set of students was asked to write on an emotionally neutral topic (shoes or their room) for an identical period of time over four consecutive days. While the immediate effect of writing about the traumatic event raised certain health issues such as blood pressure, stress and negative mood, the long-term positive effects were significant:

Expressive writing results in significant improvements in longer-term physical health outcomes such as illness-related visits to the doctor, blood pressure, lung function, liver function and number of days in hospital. Expressive writing has also produced significant benefits in a number of measures of immune system functioning.

Writing can also organize thoughts and emotions. According to an NPR story, Jordan Peterson, who teaches in the department of psychology at the University of Toronto, has published a paper that demonstrates that a short written exercise in setting goals nearly erased "the gender and ethnic minority achievement gap for 700 students over the course of two years." He notes that with the writing exercise, "we increased the probability that students would actually take their exams and hand in their assignments."

Hands down, writing is a healthy endeavor. Still, it makes one wonder: Why then are so many famous writers alcoholics?

Writing, courtesy of Natural Therapy Pages.

This "beyond the book article" relates to Among the Ten Thousand Things. It originally ran in August 2015 and has been updated for the June 2016 paperback edition.

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