The underlying assumption of transformative writing is that writing can become a medium that helps cultivate physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. In other words, the intended effect is to reach directly into difficult experiences with the firm intention of discovering positive qualities such as compassion, gratitude, integrity, generosity, and resilience.
Transformation means that a significant change in the condition, nature, or character of something occurs. It implies the possibility of generating a slow and gradual metamorphosis of body, mind, and spirit over time. More than just change, personal transformation implies a profound adaptation that takes place in the nature of our identity, motivation, or sense of purpose in life.
A writer setting out to produce a transformative effect uses language as an agent of positive influence in their own lives as well as the lives of others at the same time.
Dimensions of Transformation
In What’s So Transformative About Transformative Writing Anyway? Pat MacEnulty explores the multi-layered nature of transformation.
She elaborates five layers of transformative writing:
- Experience Becomes Art: Transformative writing is grounded in personal highly-charged experiences in life rather than external sources of information and knowledge. For the writer, the act of writing is often contemplative. It requires an ability and willingness to journey inward into the places imbued with fear, regret, and abandonment with the intention of bringing back something of value.
- The Act of Writing Transfigures the Writer: The transformative writer is an artist of their own experiences in life. The raw and sometimes painful substance of life becomes clay for the imagination to sculpt into new forms. A new perspective on a familiar difficulty may be revealed. A new quality may emerge that helps us to recognize gratitude where there once was none. Or we may venture into the realm of shadow and acquire a difficult lesson that wholly alters our assumptions about how to live.
- Transformation and the Reader: If a reader invests creative energy, mindfulness, and discernment, they may also discover a new perspective, quality, or lesson that helps them to broaden and expand their own lives. In this sense, they are engaging in transformative reading. However, the writer can never know what the actual effects might be.
- Collective Wellbeing: We live in a challenging period of time. Transformative writing can provide collective inspiration by searching out the intersection between personal and collective experience. There is always something waiting for us deep within the privacy of our own interior narrative that is both connected and universal at the same time.
- Spiritual Liberation: This fifth layer is not described by MacEnulty, but we can assume that it positions transformative writing as a tool to help broaden awareness, expand consciousness, and to find new ways to live a life worth living.
A transformative writer is a multi-layered person who is striving to be deeply reflective and creative. Although they are not necessarily focused on poetry, they are often poetic not only in the way they write but the way in which they approach life as well. They are artists of poetic prose.
The primary task of a transformative writer is to learn from their authentic experiences in life and seek to express it in a way that may offer value in the lives of others.
In this sense, transformative writing is life-affirming for self and others at the same moment.
Transformative Writing Series
- Transformative Writing 1: The Art of Transformative Writing
- Transformative Writing 2: How Does Writing Become Transformative?
- Transformative Writing 3: Harvesting Emotional Energy on Paper
- Transformative Writing 4: The Secret Life of Words
- Transformative Writing 5: Reading
- Transformative Writing 6: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions
- Transformative Writing 7: Writing Away the Demons