Warrior Writers is coming to New Orleans to help create community through writing. At Warrior Writers, our mission is to create a culture that articulates veterans’ experiences, builds a collaborative community for artistic expression, and bears witness to war and the full range of military experiences. The Warrior Writers' community is made up of military veterans, service members, artists, allies, and healers dedicated to creativity and wellness. We use writing, painting, photography, and a host of other mediums to reflect on our experiences and express them creatively. Warrior Writers is a national non-profit organization, based in Philadelphia, with members and activities across the country. We are a veteran-focused arts organization that fosters artistic exploration and expression through casual, welcoming workshops and retreats. By reflecting and creating in a comfortable space, we encourage and support community building and connection.
Writing is a versatile tool to assist veterans (and anyone actually) in many ways including recording personal history, reflecting on experiences, sharing stories and catharsis. While we do not believe in defining the experience for you, many find it to be healing and empowering. There is a great deal of research about the positive effects that writing can have on people’s physical and mental health. James Pennebaker, a professor of psychology at The University of Texas–Austin, says, “This can help people sleep better, feel and think better, and have richer social lives, all of which can bolster immune function and improve health.” In military culture, which does not encourage self-expression, service-members are spoken for and told to keep their opinions to themselves. At Warrior Writers, we encourage folks to speak for themselves about their perspectives and experiences. The act of speaking openly and honestly empowers veterans to trust their voice and gain confidence in their ability to articulate their stories and needs. In addition, discovering writing and creativity can provide a new interest, passion, or identity as an artist for some veterans.
It is no secret that mental health issues are prevalent among veterans. At Warrior Writers, we encourage folks to try a range of approaches including holistic and alternative modalities such as acupuncture, meditation, yoga, massage therapy, etc. Obviously, we also believe in the power of writing to support positive mental health. In a 2014 study involving women in a residential treatment program, researchers from the VA Connecticut Healthcare System found that those who engaged in four 20-minute writing sessions (about emotional topics) on consecutive days had greater reductions in the severity of their post-traumatic symptoms, depression and anxiety after two weeks than participants who wrote about neutral topics. Writing is also a way to engage both your left and right brain, to make them work together utilizing the corpus callosum. “Writing accesses the left hemisphere of the brain, which is analytical and rational,” notes Maud Purcell, a psychotherapist and journaling expert. “While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to do what it does best, i.e. create, intuit, and feel. In this way, writing removes mental blocks and allows us to use more of our brainpower to better understand ourselves and the world around us.”
The creative works made at Warrior Writers events are shared with the public in the form of books, performances and art exhibitions, empowering veterans to share experiences openly and artistically, and providing opportunities for the broader public to understand veterans’ experiences. Veterans have a new avenue for communication with loved ones and the wider community. Through community gatherings, Warrior Writers creates a network of support and reprieve where artistic growth is developed and lasting friendships are built. Using language as art, we help bridge the gap between veterans and civilians. We truly hope you will join us at our first Veterans and Community Retreat in New Orleans, September 28-30.
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