The Power of 'Confessional' Writing

Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams, a book of essays, writes in the Guardian about the power of confessional writing:

Confession doesn’t just allow – it incites. Someone tweeted about my essays: “After reading this book, I want to write about my hidden pain until my fingers bleed, and then I want to write about my bleeding fingers.” One woman wrote to me to say that as she was writing, her mother was collecting her things from her ex-boyfriend’s house: “I don’t know how to hold this hurt inside,” she said. “But I’m mortified at the thought of talking about it or writing about it or painting it – somehow that seems so much more embarrassing than drunk-dialling him, or falling off a bar stool and breaking my wrist, or whatever ways used to seem like options.”

Another woman wrote to say that one of my essays had made her turn down sex with a guy who didn’t love her. “As low as that sounds,” she said, as if it didn’t matter much. But it mattered to me. It didn’t sound low at all. It sounded like something I might have needed – at several points in my life – to hear. She told me she was writing drunk. She’d needed to get drunk to find the courage to write at all.

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