Writing Letters to the Editor – Controlling Anger, Healing – NaBloPoMo – Day 6

by Sheila Finkelstein on July 24, 2009

In previous posts here I’ve written about Haiku writing as a means of gaining control when angry and I’ve written about Morning Pages and free flow writing from prompts. There is also “letter writing”. Often simply the act of writing a letter expressing feelings, then tearing them up, never sending them is more than sufficient for healing.

This morning I was reminded that “Letters to the Editor” of our newspapers is also another access to freely expressing ourselves, powerfully so, when there is a point rather than the act of simply “venting.”

Writing to my local newspaper was something I did quite frequently many years ago when I was involved in my community both in library organization and then when I was teaching art in the public schools in my town. Mostly they were to inform.

The particular letter I thought of today that’s the seed for this post was one I wrote during an election campaign for our local Board of Education, particularly volatile with one candidate who was president of the Board, or became president. I probably still have the letter, written more than 40 years ago.

One of the main phrases that I recall was my statement that “[he – the candidate] was doing nothing but throwing empty phrases to brew a burning cauldron of hostilities.”

During that same time period, I went back to college to get my degree in Fine Arts Education. Painting and Drawing was the first Art course I took. My professor, recently retired, had mostly criticism for whatever I produced. Toward the end of the semester she told me my “work lacked emotion” and I “should drop out of school and join a local guild to satisfy my housewifely ambitions!”

Anger flared and I immediately thought of the above-mentioned letter to the editor. “That was certainly FULL of emotion!” I went home grabbed a masonite board, a newspaper, paints, glue and match sticks and put together an assemblage – painting the fire and the cauldron, filling it with “hate” and other “anger” and “war” words cut from the newspaper, adding the matches to reinforce the fire.

Burning Cauldron of Hostilities

I proceeded to bring it into the next class. I don’t recall what her response to it was. What I did realize years later was that, in fact, this piece did not convey the emotion of the feelings. What I had done was illustrate the seething emotions that had been behind the expressive words in the “letter to the editor”. Also, I still find it interesting that although I am known as a visual artist when it comes to expressing emotions I immediately go to words and writing. (The emotions expressed in my art, mainly my photography, come from a whole different, unidentified, subconscious level. )

Words of Anger and Hate in the Cauldron

Words in the Burning Cauldron of Hostilities

A close-up of the words, headlined in my newspapers in the late 60’s, used in the collage. I find it interesting observing now that the only word I cut up was “hate”, used three times.

In conclusion, several forms of self-expression were covered here. What is and are yours? If anything has opened up for you from my experiences described here, I’d love to read them in the comments here. Thank you.

(Note for those who may be curious about what happened insofar as “dropping out of school”: I did take the next semester off and then went back. I did not think one had to be a good or great artist to be an effective art teacher. Having stopped attending school board meetings, where I might be likely to speak out and ruffle feathers, I did get a job teaching art in the elementary school in my district where I taught for six years.

Thirty years later, an email from a former student attests to my having made the right decision! There were also many letters to the editor and School Board from parents and teachers when my teaching position was eliminated due to decline in enrollment.)

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Marifran Korb July 24, 2009 at 11:56 pm

Thanks, Sheila, for your thought-filled blog today. In answer to your question about self-expression, in the past I was not confident in the visual arts, so generally I stuck to the verbal arts with writing as my focus.
With your support, I have ventured out into photographic self-expression, and I love it. I know I have more practicing to do and I appreciate that you introduced me to the joys of it. Now I understand how one photograph can speak a thousand words.
Thanks for teaching.
Thanks for asking.


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