Sometimes it takes a global pandemic to realize what you are truly called to do.
After years spent conceptualizing an online literary journal dedicated specifically to publishing the stories that were inspired in my Women’s Writing Circles, I realized amid COVID-19 that there’s no better time to begin than now. For the past several weeks, many of us not on the front lines have asked ourselves how we can best be in service to others. I quickly realized that publishing this online journal was the best way I could use my top VIA Character Strengths to make a difference.
Long before the pandemic, I felt that many of our most basic social and emotional needs were being replaced by desires that accompany the money-oriented, fast-paced, noisy modern-day world. Many people were already anxious, afraid, lonely, and uncertain. For millions of people who are struggling with the recent loss of stability, those feelings of loneliness, isolation, and fear have intensified.
But expressive writing can help. Expressing our emotions through writing can help us make sense of our lives. It can ground us. It can help us manage our emotions and make room for empathy, gratitude, forgiveness, and joy. Opening ourselves up to new perspectives and narratives, expressive writing helps support our healing process and illuminate un-awakened parts of us. It can shift our mindset and help us feel more connected to others. To give and receive our stories, unconditionally, especially at this moment, may be one of the most valuable gifts we give ourselves. It may also help bridge political, class, and racial divides.
What Is Expressive Writing?
Expressive writing—also called emotional writing—is the process of writing about personal and emotional events without regard to form, structure, spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Essentially, it is free-writing, often inspired by a prompt, poem, or piece of literature. As Natalie Goldberg describes in her book Writing Down the Bones, it is the act of keeping the pen moving without judgment or editing, writing until we get to the subconscious parts of ourselves.
The magnificence of expressive writing is that it’s accessible to anyone, anywhere, at any time, and its many personal and collective benefits are profound. For the past 30 years, psychologist James W. Pennebaker has been at the forefront of expressive writing research. He and others have conducted hundreds of studies illustrating the positive health effects of expressive writing on physical and mental well-being—from enhanced immune system, better sleep habits, increased work efficiency, and fewer trips to the doctor to better memory, more meaningful connections, and improved symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis (to name just a few). In fact, reviews of the research suggest that expressive writing is a “major medical advance,” improving the state of mind of people with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, childhood sexual abuse, postpartum depression, PTSD among war veterans, and more.
Introducing the Journal of Expressive Writing
I am extremely fortunate. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, my basic needs are being met. Recognizing that this is not the case for everyone, I am grateful that I am in a privileged position to help. This is why I am launching the Journal of Expressive Writing. This journal is not just for the women who write and share their stories in my circles, but also for writers of all gender identities and expressions from anywhere in the world. Especially now, I believe we need this space on a fundamental, human level. Whatever we are feeling is a link to what others are feeling across the planet. Love, belongingness, and security are essentials right now. Each one of us is a necessary part of the whole.
To be launched on May 15, 2020, the Journal of Expressive Writing will be the first online literary journal to publish expressive writing, free writing, non-fiction, personal essay, memoir, reflective essay, poetry, prose, contemplative discourse, and creative non-fiction—all that originates from a writing prompt—by both established and emerging writers.
I want to hear from writers who have a story to tell, whose voice can no longer be quieted, whether by the inner dialogue they have told themselves for decades or from those around them; for those who have been systematically ignored, whose parts may be broken, but their sum total is absolutely perfect, for they are courageous and vulnerable and willing to step outside of their comfort zone … because they can no longer stay silent. These are the writers I want to hear from, whether their writing is “finished” or “not.”
Writing Prompts for the Inaugural Issue
I am excited to receive your submissions for the journal’s inaugural issue! Submit your writing in response to one or more of the following prompts, by May 10, 2020:
Who am I today?
I am grateful for …
During the COVID-19 global pandemic …
Please email your submissions to [email protected]
The subject of the message should be: “Submission—Your Name”
Include your work in the body of the message. No emails with attachments will be accepted.
Include your name, the prompt, the city and state where you live, and a short bio.
Word count is flexible, but the length should be no more than what can be generated in a 20-minute free-write.
We accept only previously unpublished work.
Authors retain all ownership rights to your work.
We reserve the right to reject writing if it does not adhere to the values of the journal.
Your work may be very lightly copyedited only for readability.
You may republish work that appears in the Journal of Expressive Writing as long as you credit us for publishing it first.
Simultaneous submissions are fine; however, please let us know immediately if your work is accepted elsewhere.
We accept submissions throughout the year and publish new content weekly.
Published pieces will appear once the site goes live at journalofexpressivewriting.com.
Questions? Contact Jen at [email protected]
Jennifer A. Minotti, a CIPP2 graduate, is an Artist-in-Residence at the Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights at Suffolk University and a PhD student at Lesley University. Jen is the founder of the Women’s Writing Circle and the co-creator of the World’s Very First Gratitude Parade, and helped establish Gratitude Day in the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts. For 17 years, Jen worked at the Education Development Center in a variety of technology, research, and leadership roles for projects focused on education, health, and human development. She is a graduate of Boston University and Columbia University, and is passionate about expressive writing and spreading gratitude through her Gratitude Jar project.
Wow, this is fantastic!!!! I’m going to share with my networks 🙂
I am not sure that what you call ‘expressive writing’ needs to be so ‘free’, as you call it. For myself, I generally start writing in a verse form, be it blank verse (Iambic pentameter) or dimeter or trimeter (I have a particular attachment to short lines which unfold a poem in tiny increments, line by line) and the first draft is often remarkably close to the final version.
I not in your Spiel on this page, that you agree that a ‘prompt’ does not have to be one that is coined to get writers over a blockage. If on a chill day, I see black ducks on a pond, that can prompt me, or if I see one rather blond duck. (yes, I am very fond of ducks). When young, I wrote a whole poem of about seven stanzas in Alcaics, out of an encounter with owls. And Alcaics are a set stanza form, defined by metre, an ancient Greek form, and adapted by 18th century German poets to an accentual language. Strict as the form is, I actually wrote that poem quite quickly at a sitting. Rilke once said that he did not often have to revise.
Hi Jennifer- I did an expressive writing this morning, May 11, 2020. Can I submit it or is it too late?
Absolutely, Claudia. The journal publishes on a rolling basis! Submit any time.
I am afraid I missed the deadline. Can I join in? I was part of your meetup many years ago. I found it healing!
Hi Joanie. I’m so glad to hear that! Yes, you can submit any time. We publish on a rolling basis with new writing added weekly.