Creative Commons photo by Jernas Lukasz, from openphoto.net
Writing into the Fireplace is a powerful way to get angry, confused, or hurtful words on paper to allow healing to proceed, without running the risk of damaging relationships with the result. Rather than sharing this writing, you immediately burn or shred it.
I unwittingly developed this technique about thirty years ago when I was a grad student in counseling psychology. That degree program was a grueling experience, amounting to an extended course of personal therapy with quasi-therapists at every juncture, and I often found my head and heart spinning like tires in a snowbank. To combat my confusion, I often curled up in a comfortable chair with huge piles of recycled computer print-out — the kind with holes on each side, and huge double-size sheets, linked by perforated folds.
I’d sit and write without concern for my Inner Censor or anything else, until all the words had been wrung out of my monkey mind, and I felt limp and relaxed. I might fill a dozen or more of those huge sheets. The wild rantings and ramblings wouldn’t make sense to anyone else, or probably even to me later. I didn’t want to have to explain anything I’d written, so I’d pitch the papers in the fireplace and burn them, feeling gleeful as I watched flames consume those words and put an end to them.
That writing didn’t produce answers. It did provide an outlet for all that frustration and confusion, and allowed my mind to become sufficiently peaceful that answers could emerge in their own time. I never wrote further about those concerns, but I still use the technique to calm my mind enough to write coherently about touchy topics.
Countless writing students have told me how valuable this technique has been for them, enabling them to write sensitive stories of their own. “I’ve been trying for years to get a handle on that story, but I could never write it without feeling spiteful and nasty. Seeing all those ugly words go up in smoke was so liberating. It was like a key turned in my heart and all the hate and resentment was gone. I could finally write what I wanted to be able to say, and write it truthfully.”
So, that’s what writing into the fireplace is all about — relief, peace, and clarity. You may have to fill that fireplace or shredder basket many times before you feel “finished,” but if you persist, that’s bound to happen.
You don’t have to do all the writing at once. You can write for ten minutes at a time over a period of time. You’ll know when you are finished, and if you then chose to write openly about the matter, your subsequent writing will be clear and powerful.
Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal
Countdown: 32 days until the release of The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing on July 1. Pre-ordering now available on Amazon.com.