Writing as Therapy, Meditation & Self-Inquiry: An Interview with Alexandra Elle
Alexandra Elle is an author and poet living in the Washington, DC, metro area with her husband and daughter. In her preteen years, writing came into her life by way of therapy and the exploration of healing. Many years later, Alex’s voice and words are being shared across the globe in the form of self-love and self-care. Her passion for building community through storytelling, poetry, and narrative writing are infused with life lessons and self-celebration through reading, writing, and language.
1440: How did you first discover writing?
Alex: As a child, I was sad and depressed. I came across writing through therapy, and it just stuck. I didn’t have the words or the language to describe my feelings, so writing was the best way for me to get the words out and get the feelings out. I turned to poetry and used that as my outlet.
The therapist who introduced me to writing as a way to healing was Ms. Bedelia, and she gave me the metaphor that we were making me an imaginary toolbox. In that toolbox, I could have things that would comfort me and help me self-soothe—using my journal was one of the main tools.
I’d always loved writing. English was always my favorite subject in school. The creative writing portion was something I gravitated to, especially poetry. Being able to lean into that subject from a personal perspective and not just from an education-based or curriculum-based place was great. I found my voice once I was given the permission to have that tool in my toolbox.
1440: How did you make the transition from writing being personal to it being something you share publicly?
Alex: After years of therapy and doing the work—and growing into an adult with a little more mindfulness about my approach—I decided that sharing my work was something that could help other people.
I’d learned along the way that we’re never alone in our struggles, and that everyone’s story has a place in the world.
Sharing my story has snowballed into other people sharing theirs. I think that’s the magic in writing. If we can’t find the words to speak, we can always find them to put them on paper and in turn create community through storytelling, literature, and language.
1440: What was the first work you shared?
Alex: I released Words from a Wanderer, which is a collection of self-love notes, when I was 23. I was at a transitional point in my life—my friend group was shifting, I was stepping into my own on a spiritual and emotional level, and I was longing for love that was healthy and rooted in friendship. I was writing the self-love letters to myself as affirmations that I am worthy and deserving. But to also remind myself that if I kept looking within, everything would come as it should.
Initially, the notes were for just me. I shared them with friends here and there sometimes, though. One of them told me to stop “hoarding my happiness.” I asked her what she meant. She told me: you have a story here. So many people are going to be able to relate to this. You should self-publish this collection.
I didn’t have a social media following then; it was just me and my therapy tools. A few more friends suggested I publish the work, so I did.
Bearing my soul publicly required a lot of vulnerability.
It was hard because I was still young, I was still healing, and I had a 5-year-old daughter that I had to be mindful of. I was writing these notes to myself as I learned how to turn inward. I taught myself how to pull validation from deep within. It’s been a journey!
In the end, my friends were right. People loved the work and words. Many wrote their own notes to self and shared them with me. That is something I still appreciate daily. This entire process has built community, and that’s what I’m here to do.
October 19 - 21, 2018
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1440: How does writing work as a vehicle of self-inquiry?
Alex: I love self-inquiry.
I’m a big believer that if we aren’t tapping inward, and we aren’t learning new things about ourselves on a regular basis, then we’re stuck.
I try to take time every day for meditation or time outside. In those moments of quiet, I ask myself questions like, “Who am I? Who am I today? Who do I want to be tomorrow? How am I walking through this life? What am I leaving behind?” Sometimes I don’t have answers; I’m just asking and getting the introspection flowing.
Ultimately, I may journal the questions that come to the surface. I may explore it and its offerings, but if I don’t have an answer, I don’t have an answer, and I honor that. That’s a part of introspection—the not knowing. I’m kind of a control freak and like to know what’s happening, but we can’t know what’s going on all the time—that’s not realistic.
However, there are moments when an answer comes to me, and I honor that too. It’s all part of the learning and evolving. I intend to stay on this road of introspective thought and dive deep within to discover certain questions, affirmations, or whatever else that comes up.
1440: Do you write with a pen, by hand, or on the computer?
Alex: I do both, but I really like the pen and paper. I love journals. I love the feel of the pen strokes. I’m a huge pen junkie, so I love using my collection of pens in journals. But I also use my computer.
1440: How do you teach others to use writing as a means of self-exploration?
Alex: I gravitate towards starting with self-love letters and positive affirmation writing. I always lean towards having people use pen and paper. Don’t type it on your phone. Don’t email it to yourself. Just sit down with your pen and your paper, or your pencil—something you can touch and feel—and do it that way. Because that is where the real magic happens.
When you have to X something out or erase it instead of just backspacing, it’s more real.
Writing this way is a meditation. I like my students to find writing as a personal practice and a personal meditation.
1440: What do you suggest when someone sits down to write but nothing comes?
Alex: Even if it’s, “I have nothing to say today,” write it down and honor it. That’s okay. You’re still going through the process of getting out your journal, flipping to a blank page, getting your favorite pen, testing out the pen on the paper. If we slow down, and think about the process, that can be a meditation, especially for people who say, “I don’t meditate.” The little things are meditations. Washing your face can be a meditation. Going through the writing process with pen and paper can help people get in touch with not only themselves but their stories.