7 Day Writing To Heal Challenge
Today’s exploration will involve a form of writing called a catalog or list poem. By catalog poem, we simply mean a poem that looks like a list. And, in case you’re already thinking you can’t write poetry, just know all you need to do is create a list of something. Sometimes writing a list is a way to get out of our heads and into hearts, to slow down enough to hear our inner voices and to gain clarity about what we are feeling and experiencing. I’m a big fan of list writing as a tool for healing and will share more about this as the week goes on.
Take a few moments to consider all the lists that we make – grocery lists, to do lists, wish lists, waiting lists, top ten lists, etc. Think about how the order of the items that are on the lists matters in some cases, e.g. waiting lists and top ten lists are usually ordered by importance. Grocery lists, wish lists and sometimes to do lists may be in order of how they are linked to other items (all the fruits, next all the vegetables, last all the cleaning supplies). And, sometimes, it really doesn’t matter at all!
Take a few moments to slow down and take some deeper breaths. Once you feel centered, begin to make a list of 10 – 15 emotions or feelings that you are aware you experience. Notice what comes right up and also be willing to move beyond the most obvious feelings (i.e., happiness, sadness, fear, etc.) toward some that are more complex or you might not like to admit you experience (i.e., guilt, frustration, resentment, shame, etc.). This is a way to begin to cultivate greater self-compassion – by being open and honest with yourself about your feelings, you begin to love and accept yourself in a deeper way.
Out of this feelings list that you’ve just created, choose one emotion that feels strongest to you today. You may wish to go down the list and circle or mark the one or ones that speak to you the most right now. You can explore all of them going forward but choose just one for now. Use this feeling or emotion as a prompt to make a more detailed list or catalog. For example, “confusion about my life purpose”, “sadness about my friend moving away”, “resentment for how hard life has been for me”… Use the same one emotion or feeling and write 10 – 15 ways that you experience it now or in the past.
Here is a great example of a catalog or list poem about a single emotion or feeling. It’s called “Fear” by Raymond Carver…
By Raymond Carver
Fear of seeing a police car pull into the drive.
Fear of falling asleep at night.
Fear of not falling asleep.
Fear of the past rising up.
Fear of the present taking flight.
Fear of the telephone that rings in the dead of night.
Fear of electrical storms.
Fear of the cleaning woman who has a spot on her cheek!
Fear of dogs I’ve been told won’t bite.
Fear of anxiety!
Fear of having to identify the body of a dead friend.
Fear of running out of money.
Fear of having too much, though people will not believe this.
Fear of psychological profiles.
Fear of being late and fear of arriving before anyone else.
Fear of my children’s handwriting on envelopes.
Fear they’ll die before I do, and I’ll feel guilty.
Fear of having to live with my mother in her old age, and mine.
Fear of confusion.
Fear this day will end on an unhappy note.
Fear of waking up to find you gone.
Fear of not loving and fear of not loving enough.
Fear that what I love will prove lethal to those I love.
Fear of death.
Fear of living too long.
Fear of death.
I’ve said that.
Additional ideas for working with lists or catalogs:
- Create a feelings inventory listing all of your feelings. You may wish to do a list of all positive feelings and all challenging ones (I don’t like the word negative around feelings as it tends to create a judgement that we shouldn’t feel that). I do this every night as one part of my journaling process and it really helps me to get clear on what I am feeling and how I may need to support or care for myself the following day.
- Make a list of all the awareness you have around your life overall or around a specific situation, relationship, etc.
- Create a list of all of your positive actions for the day. This can be helpful especially when you are having a hard day or not seeing your progress.
- Look over the lists you’ve made and circle or highlight any words or phrases that pop out that you might like to explore more. Make a list about each of those things…
- Create a list of all the lists it would be helpful for your to write, e.g. all your strengths, all your celebrations, all your challenges, all the supportive people in your life, etc.
- Share your ideas for other list or catalog writing that you feel will be helpful as part of your writing to heal practice…
Love & light,