“Ellen laughed out loud and diners turned their heads, an excuse to take a long look at the famous actress, ‘We’re all freaks, Kathleen. We’ve all been traumatized one way or another, each of us dissociated, a little or a lot… sleepwalking through life, bumbling our way towards consciousness. The only difference between the audience and the artists is that we have to do it… to save our lives… we’re brave or dumb enough, depending on how you look at it, to screw our courage to the sticking post and bare our souls.’” Excerpt from Sleepwalker: The Mysterious Makings and Recovery of a Somnambulist.
These were words spoken by my mentor and fellow Actors Studio member, Ellen Burstyn, as she prescribed writing about my twenty years of sleepwalking/sleep terrors—which were, in part, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The idea terrified me… but I did put pen to paper, a nervous scrawl, and the more I wrote, the better I slept. Once again, my creative community had saved me. Word by word, the artistic process restored me. Turning my story into art proved transformative.
In this workshop we will discuss writing as a tool to transform illnesses, our own or the effects of a loved one’s, through art. In witnessing and being witnessed we garner the power to re-view our crisis as opportunity. In sharing our stories we choose health and save each other’s lives. We will explore passages from a few writers’ memoirs and discuss strategies for exploring illness and health in nonfiction writing.