Those of you who have been writing memoir know that it’s not just as simple as sitting down and letting words pour forth out of your fingers. It is a journey—I’ve written about that before—and it’s a challenge emotionally. We run into all kinds of memories on that journey, and we need some help along the way to keep us from sinking into the darker memories and to help us heal and forgive–a positive side benefit of writing your story. In order to find greater peace and happiness, we have to write down what went wrong first so we can see it with a new perspective, as a story.

I draw upon my therapy background to help guide my students into the calmer waters of memoir writing, while also supporting them in the excavating the darker caves of their memories.

I’m pleased this week to be speaking with Jason Marsh, one of the directors of The Greater Good Science Foundation about How Art Can Heal—The Power of Compassionate Connections.

He has this to say about the importance of art in creating a good quality of life.

“A recent wave of studies is suggesting that art can play an important role. This research suggests that creating art–through writing and other methods–brings many of the same therapeutic benefits as maintaining close relationships. What’s more, studies have found that art can boost important qualities–including greater empathy–among people who consume art, not just those who create it.”

Jason is co-editor of the book The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness, an inspiriting collection of 33 articles collected from the Greater Good online magazine.

In an article the “Compassionate Instinct” Dacher Keltner says that scientific research confirms we are biologically wired to feel good if we help to alleviate another’s suffering. Kristin Neff writes on the blog a great article about the importance of self-compassion. This becomes an important tool for writers. Guess what is one of the greatest impediments to writing a memoir: yes, the Inner Critic, that nagging, negative voice that stops you from writing your true thoughts, even though you are alone at your computer. Your negative voice aims its sights way down the road toward publication instead of staying right where you are: in the first draft of your manuscript.

I love this quote from Kristin’s book The Science of Self-Compassion:

“As I’ve defined it, self-compassion entails three core components. First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental.

 Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering.

 Third, it requires mindfulness—that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it. We must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self-compassionate.”


These links on the Greater Good Science Foundation site offer some great articles about happiness, compassion, raising children to be healthy and happy, and the power of mindfulness and meditation to create new positive parts of the brain. Our brain is always growing and changing, which supports the research on how writing helps to heal.

Please join us at the National Association of Memoir Writer special membership Teleseminar to find out what Jason has to say about how to create and draw upon compassion as you create your art, and the ways this can benefit your life.