Valley College hosts “Writing through the Pain”

Providing students with ways to release their painful experiences by jotting them down on paper, One Book, One College hosted a workshop to teach the process of using pain for storytelling.

By Edward Segal, Valley Life Editor

In a writing workshop that doubled as a therapeutic experience, Valley College took to Zoom to encourage people to write a journal entry about a traumatic experience they have faced.

One Book, One College, a program meant to engage the community in reading and writing, hosted this workshop in an effort to show people why it is important to not bottle up painful experiences. English professor Alicia Bien, who has a master’s degree in fine arts and creative writing, created a safe space in which participants could be vulnerable. The professor began the session with a focus on nonfiction books written by famous authors about their painful experiences, such as “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

Allison Lopez, a licensed clinical social worker at Valley’s student health center, also attended the meeting, reminding students to use Valley’s resources and seek someone to talk to if they are going through traumatic experiences.

Bien mainly focused on “Just Mercy,” a nonfiction book written by lawyer and author Bryan Stevenson about the justice system’s discrimination of black people. In his book, Stevenson discussed the case of Walter McMillan, a black man from Alabama wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

Attendees shared some of their own painful experiences, leading the professor to discuss the types of pain one can experience.

“No one is ever going to know the pain that you are feeling inside,” said Bien. “But that is okay. Because what we can do with it is what makes us who we are. We can share it.”

The English professor then presented a slideshow depicting various forms of trauma, including the loss of a loved one, racism, separation and genocide.

Focusing on how difficult it can be to seek help, Bien discussed how one of the more difficult parts of a trauma is the process of getting it off one’s chest and discussing it with others.

“There is the danger of indifference that we may face as a society,” she said. “We have to be aware of what others go through. We should speak up when somebody is mistreated.”

Bien shared one of her own journal entries as a model and introduced other books that touch on various sources of pain, emphasizing “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker.

Participants were then assigned partners in breakout rooms and asked to produce a journal entry in the name of an animated movie character who has suffered pain.

Once people had stepped into each other’s shoes, the English professor encouraged everyone to do a similar activity with their own painful experiences as a therapeutic exercise.

Many came forward and shared their experiences with losing a loved one, something many related to, and Bien shared a final quote from “Hamilton” to send everyone off.

“Dying is hard. Living is harder.”