By Melissa Greene, Writer, Teacher, and Believer in Art for a Kinder World
The impact of mood and mental well-being on cancer progression is considered important by clinicians and patients, and creative writing has shown to provide psychosocial benefits for patients recovering from mental illness. Melissa participated in early research at Hershey Medical Center, where she conducted creative writing workshops that showed a potential to enhance patients’ overall mood. It was suggested that these creative writing workshops could ultimately have a positive effect in patients with cancer by improving compliance with therapy and follow-up; and improve quality of life in patients with cancer.
In her own words…
“I began writing stories around age 7. My father was a songwriter for Hollywood movies in the 1930s and 40s. I would sit on his lap at the piano when he sang his songs and savor the rhythm of his words, how they sat on each musical phrase. It was impossible not to experience the deep relief and joy that words and music brought to him. At these moments, I understood that writing was how he went inside to find a softness he rarely showed. It was his safe haven, and I wanted to connect with that place inside myself, too.
In the 1980s, I had the good fortune of working with a professor at Williams College who highlighted the good in my work rather than the errors, helping me to overcome anxiety and perfectionism. I learned to see beyond the academics of writing into the heart of the work, and into myself; to value my passion for writing over the need for publication. I discovered that it’s all about a longing to express, rather than simply about technique; that humor plays a huge role in helping us relax and write, so that ideas are able to unfold on their own. Most of all, I learned that my responsibility as a mentor is to hold a student’s deepest thoughts and feelings sacred.
There is no right or wrong in creating. Writing is not a machine requiring answers. It’s a magic all its own, filling a person with the joy of self-understanding and the freedom to feel. Writing is the place I call home. It has taught me to trust my instincts and senses; to listen for and delight in the sound of geese in flight or the sight of dawn breaking across the desert; to be patient as these images emerge. But especially, it is to me a frontier of endless surprises that lead to healing and hope.
Writing is a conscious decision to slow down and reflect, to get in touch with the soul. It has nothing to do with regimentation, data, or following the crowd. Writing is our greatest freedom, a return to SELF.”
Melissa Greene is a full-time writer and founded Write From the Heart creative writing workshops, in reaction to 9/11, to share her belief that writing without fear has the power to console, illuminate, and heal. Fascinated with writing as a therapeutic tool, Melissa has been leading workshops since the 1980s, aiming to spark and support the creative spirit. She has a special interest in those who long to overcome self-doubt and write more freely. She teaches year-round group and private classes for adults, children and teens, collaborates with schools and therapists; and leads workshops for cancer patients and caregivers at the Lancaster General Health/Penn Medicine Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and the Penn State Cancer Institute at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania. You can connect with Melissa by emailing Melissa@WriteFromTheHeart.us or visit WriteFromTheHeart.us.