The State of Our Mental Health: Writing Through Tough Times

Diana Spechler Writing Class

Times are tough and it can be difficult to process what’s happening in the world and what’s happening for us internally. But with a little guidance, your struggles can become an incredible story. Studies show that writing can be highly therapeutic and that writing about your feelings can help you process strong emotions. Whether you’re dealing with employment and financial issues, relationship struggles, or fears about the unknowable future, writing can be a great escape, a stress release, and a way to untangle your thoughts.

Talkspace partnered with novelist, magazine writer, and Stanford University’s Online Writers’ Studio instructor Diana Spechler, to give you the tools to write your quarantine story. We want to know: What is going on in your life and in your head? What does your mental health look like? 

The course is also raising funds for Witness to Witness’s Helping the Helpers campaign to provide mental health resources to front-line workers.

Talkspace is also looking to publish the work of those who complete the writing exercises! Please email a final draft of your completed exercise, to be included in a Talkspace blog post collecting everyone’s work. 

Course Outline

Why Writing Helps Us Through Hard Times

1. Escape

  • Writing is a non-escapist escape.

2. Purpose and Focus

  • Both are hard to come by in times of struggle.

3. Making Sense of The Struggle

  • Writing can be clarifying.

4. Lemons to Lemonade

  • Making art out of crisis.

5. Connecting with Others

  • Writing helps us reach people.

Why It’s A Challenge To Write When We’re Struggling

  1. Concentration Problems
  2. Sense of Hopelessness
  3. Not Giving Ourselves Permission

Tackling The Writer’s Block

Tips for Concentration

  • Schedule your writing time.
  • Read like a writer.
  • Engage an accountability buddy.

Finding Our Reason To Write

  • Brainstorming why writing is imperative to you.

How to Grant Ourselves Permission

  • Making peace with the sabotaging voices in your head.

WRITING EXERCISE 1: Encapsulating Our Current Struggle

  • Think of your current struggle. Write a scene that best illustrates it.

WRITING EXERCISE 2: Digging

  • A series of fill-in-the-blank sentences that help you understand your struggle in a more profound and nuanced way.

How To Connect With Our Readers Through Concrete Specifics

  1. Learn the difference between abstractions and specifics.
  2. The Hard Work of Strong Details
  3. Read Your Drafts With An Eye For Detail

WRITING EXERCISE 3: Revision

  • You will return to your first writing exercise and revise it to make it more concrete.
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