Writing to Heal: CreakyJoints Memoir Course

Patient Expert

Have you ever wanted to tell the story of your life with RA or other types of arthritis? Now you can CreakyJoints, the arthritis community started by the nonprofit Global Healthy Living Foundation (GHLF) have created a free memoir writing course for people living with different types of arthritis.

GHLF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people "with all forms of chronic conditions through education, support andcommunity, research and advocacy," CreakyJoints cofounder Seth Ginsberg says. CreakyJoints is the arthritis community that is part of GHLF and is very active, with over 55,000 members. Seth explains that "our philosophy is to maintain a positive environment, for education, community, advocacy and research."

D.Z. Stone is a New York-based writer and journalist who has written for Newsday and The New York Times. She is helping CreakyJoints with their biweekly blogs and newsletter and had noticed that "a lot of the people living with arthritis are older women. "They are the least listened-to group in the US," she explains. "If it's that way when you're not sick, when you're sick, no one wants to hear about it." She pitched the idea of a memoir course to Seth Ginsberg and "got the immediate green light." Seth explains that over the years, he has "received detailed personal emails from people living all around the world with arthritis. Their stories have been touching and, as we have learned, therapeutic for the people who share their story." A memoir course was a natural fit for CreakyJoints.

D.Z. Stone then set about finding the teacher for the course and didn't have to look far. She regularly works out with good friend and occasional collaborator Lynn Lauber their co-written screenplay 21 Sugar Street was a finalist In the Sundance Screenwriting Lab. Lynn is also the author of several books, including Listen to Me, Writing Life into Meaning about the healing power of personal writing. Ang power of personal writing. She teaches writing courses, including to vulnerable people, such as those living in homeless shelters. "One day, we're on the machines next to each other at the gym and I had a lightbulb moment," D.Z. says. She suggested that Lynn teach an online memoir course to the CreakyJoints community.

Lynn is an author of both fiction and nonfiction works and frequent collaborator with other authors, particularly in the areas of health, healing and inspirational narrative. Lynn began teaching writing workshops in 1999, after the publication of her book White Girls. "I saw that people can endure almost anything if they can make a story out of it and that there was a kind of redemptive power to writing about emotional, even traumatic, experiences," she says. This formed the basis for her most recent book called Listen to Me, Writing Life into Meaning. Lynn explains that her first workshop was with women who had survived the Holocaust and she has frequently worked with seniors since. "There is research now on this kind of writing with seniors called Reminiscence therapy, which talks about how viewing your life at a late date can provide people with a satisfying sense of structure and meaning that may not have been apparent beforehand," she says. In addition, she mentions that studies have shown that the personal writing can be beneficial physically, as well as emotionally, to people living with asthma and RA. She's very much looking forward to teaching the courses, saying "people just need a little encouragement in order to write and share their stories, and then it's beautiful to behold. It's like watching a bouquet of flowers open. Someone gave this encouragement to me once, and I have dedicated myself to handing it on."

The interest in the CreakyJoints memoir course has been overwhelming. "We published one Facebook post and the course was filled up by the next day," D.Z. says. She also explains that this process has been emotional, both for herself and others at CreakyJoints. "This is the first memoir course where people sharing an illness or condition will come together to write." This is meaningful to the community as a whole, as it works to end the silence around living with a chronic illness such as RA. D.Z. summed it up nicely when she said "imagine what it can do for people when you give them a voice, especially when they're home alone and feeling sick."

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If you're interested in joining the free CreakyJoints memoir course, but didn't make it into the session, you can sign up to join the waiting list for the next courses. There will be four courses of year, each having room for 20 participants.

Lene is the author of Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain