Writing is therapy – let it happen

Friday, January 06, 2023
By Kandace Chapple

In September 2018, I squeezed my eyes shut and hit “submit” on one of the saddest essays I’ve ever written. And when the editor said yes two days later, I felt two things: glee and terror.

I was totally elated. Someone liked my stuff! But.

My family might read this. It was an essay in Motherwell about the new woman wearing my deceased mother’s jacket. I wasn’t sure, suddenly, if I should let the essay see the light of day.

But I knew that I had written the truth. And, just as importantly, I had kept the essay in my POV, framed from my very own eyeballs and heart. I had not projected anyone else’s thoughts, motives or ideas onto the page. Instead, I had focused on MY experience.

At the end of the day, even though not everyone would be happy with my publication credit, I realized that this was still my story to share.

And the experience made me a different writer. I had to cast off the old guilts and worries about others in order to take my writing to the next level, to really dig in and share what turned out to be a pretty universal experience. I got several emails from others who had gone through something similar.

I knew I had done something special: I had told my story. The people who needed to read it, who could identify with it, were my readers. Not necessarily my family. Maybe it’s time to write about something that matters to you. That will bring you healing. Here are some tips on letting yourself go deeper.


One morning I sat down to work on my memoir. But instead of a piece on my mom, as I had planned, I switched gears and wrote in third person. I turned myself into a character and she headed out for a bike ride at dawn (it was still mostly dark), during which a deer darted across the dirt road. And she hit it! With her bike! She was fine. The deer was fine. But she was shaking, she was scared, she was… laughing.

The story was true, I had just lived it a week earlier.

And it ended up in my Mom book because as I wrote it, an epiphany arrived. I realized that I didn’t fear the dark, not like I used to. I feared losing my mother, illness and loss much, much more. My “main character” wasn’t the same anymore. She was stronger. She was bolder. She was braver. (It’s way easier to say things like that about someone else, than yourself!) In the end, the scene was a picture of what grief does to a person.

Write what comes to you. Trust your intuition. Take a real-life episode and see where it goes on the page. It just might be your mind working something out. Let it.


What are the things you’d tell your friend over coffee? What are the things you’d tell your BEST friend over wine? Two different versions of the same story. One for public consumption. One for private.

When it comes to writing a personal essay, you need to give yourself permission to put that best friend conversation down on paper. You can always cut and delete what seems too personal later.

But I have found that when I put stuff down on paper, it isn’t as scary as I think it is. I can write tough things, but have found that in doing so, it takes the edge off them. I am able to share things I wouldn’t have dreamed of sharing if I hadn’t written them down. It’s wild the way that works. Just put it down, tell it like you would tell that one person you trust the most in the world. Write now, edit later. Nothing you say will be held against you. But, bonus, that first version carries all of your healing.


I had no idea where that Motherwell essay was heading when I wrote it. At first I was just venting and grieving on paper. Then, I thought about that coat on another women and all the other things my mother had left me (love, memories, family), and suddenly, a wonderful calm came over me. I didn’t NEED that coat! I had so much more.

I was delighted. I had healed, another layer of my grief soothed. All because I had written that essay.

So, take time this week and see if you can sit with yourself and write about something – that thing that hurts or niggles or just sits there on your mind. See what happens when you put it on paper, as yourself or as a character. Epiphanies, laughter, healing. It’s all up for grabs, thanks to the power of writing.


1-2-3 PERSONAL ESSAYS: WRITE REAL, HONEST, JOYFUL (SOMETIMES SAD!) ESSAYS WITH WEEKLY FEEDBACK by Kandace Chapple starts on Monday, January 9, 2023. Reserve your spot here!

Kandace Chapple published and edited Grand Traverse Woman Magazine, a regional women’s publication in Michigan, for eighteen years before closing it to open Michigan Girl, LLC. She has spent 18 years coaching writers in her publication and helping them polish their personal essays. Her own essays have appeared in Writer’s Digest, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Literary Mama, Motherwell and more. She hosts weekly #Friday500 coaching sessions where writers submit 500 words every Friday (or else!). She is also a well-known freelance writer for publications in Michigan, including Traverse Magazine. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Education with a minor in Journalism and a Bachelor’s degree in Business. She loves to mountain bike on Northern Michigan trails, hike with her dog, Cookie, and spend time with her husband and two sons. Visit her at www.kandacechapple.com.

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


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