Anna Shinoda is the author of Learning Not to Drown, a story of a young girl who struggles to preserve her own identity amidst a chaotic, dysfunctional family unit. Anna married musician Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park and has led efforts with the band's nonprofit, Music for Relief. As a mental health advocate, she serves as a senior advisor to The Campaign to Change Direction.
This session will focus on how writing helps us process stress and trauma.
Anna starts this session by offering an exercise: Write down 3 to 5 things causing you the most stress. (Pick one of those things to tackle today, and save the others for another.)
When we experience something traumatic, our memory is often not consistent. Writing can help put our brain at rest because it takes something that doesn't have logic or consistency and give it a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end.
There's power in taking something terrible and making something else out of it.
One of the things Anna did when writing Learning Not to Drown, Anna made her main character stronger than she could ever be. And with writing of trauma, Anna finds that it removes her from the situation and allows her to have perspective.
You can write an alternate ending for your trauma. You can fictionalize it.
When writing and rewriting challenging scenes, Anna had to find ways to make it feel safer to work on it. She lights a candle, she limits the time she spend on it, she knows someone will be available to talk to if she's upset, and she does things that make her feel good.
Anna recommends bringing a focus to gratitude. It can create a mindset shift that's positive.
What is favorite time of the day? And what are you grateful for?
Learning Not to Drown started as a journal to understand what happened in her childhood.
Once you write about your trauma, what do you want to do with it?
There are so many things you can do: you can make art, you can do a ceremony, you can tear it up and throw it away. If you want to publish it, then you have to ask yourself: How can I make this story marketable? Consider how you can write it into a plot. The plot doesn't have to be the trauma.
"Not all published writing is good and not all good writing is publishable."
You also have to ask yourself if you want to put the story out in the world. If the answer is yes, know what your boundaries will be around talking about it when it is in the world.
It's important to responsibly represent mental health.