About This Site

(This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License).  Author’s permission is required (see below) to cite any portion of this site.


Welcome to When Words Heal, an online resource designed to encourage anyone writing, or wishing to write, out of life’s difficult chapters.

Why do we write?  A significant number of studies demonstrate that it can actually be good for us.  When we repress emotions and silence our stories, our ability to heal is weakened.  Writing offers the safety to unearth and express all that we think and feel.

As you begin, your writing may be raw, without shape or clarity of thought.  That’s how everyone begins, writing, as Henry James once observed, from a “port of pain.”  Gradually, you begin to shape those thoughts and feelings into stories or poems.  That’s when you can begin to make sense of things, gain insight and cope more effectively with the emotional roller coaster  debilitating or painful life events may trigger.

Writing is also an art, a form of creative self-expression.   But unlike many art forms, you don’t need  special materials or a studio.  You can write just about anywhere:  at home, on the train, in a waiting room, or at a cafe.  All you need is a pen, paper or laptop and permission–yours–to express whatever is in your heart and mind.

So what’s stopping you?

The prompts on this site are meant to encourage and inspire you to write, in whatever way you like–it doesn’t matter. What matters, whether writing for healing or simply writing from your life,  is that you make time for writing, and when you do it, you write deeply, honestly, and freely.

I’ve been leading transformational writing workshops and courses with many different individuals for several years.  Some write from cancer; some write from loss; some write out of life’s most challenging or unforgettable experiences.  I know how powerful writing can be–for others and from my personal experience.  For the past decade or so, I’ve posted online writing prompts for cancer patients and survivors at www.writingthroughcancer.com  (Or .ca) but over time, I’ve discovered  many more individuals than just those living with cancer come to the site.  When Words Heal is intended as a natural outgrowth and expansion of the Writing Through Cancer site, as gradually my reflections and writing prompts have broadened to include many different challenging stages and experiences that life hands us.   In time, the two sites will be merged into one.

Here’s how it works:  Each week, I post a reflective essay and related writing suggestions designed to inspire your writing.    The prompts will be available in the site archive for one year, allowing you to refer back to them or even use the same prompt to write something different or expanded upon from your first effort.  (For past prompts, see www.writingthroughcancer.com).

I hope that you’ll find some inspiration and encouragement from When Words Heal, and giving you a gentle nudge to write and discover its healing benefits.

Best wishes to you from Sharon Bray

(photo by Chad Thompson)  About Sharon

I’m a writer, teacher and author of two books on the healing power of writing during cancer:   When Words Heal:  Writing Through Cancer (Frog Books, 2006) and A Healing Journey:  Writing Together through Breast Cancer  (Amherst Writers Press, 2004). In 2007, I co-edited, together with Pat Fobair, LCSW, Learning to Live Again,an anthology of cancer patients’ writing  published by the Stanford University School of Medicine. I founded and led the writing program, “Writing Through Cancer” at Breast Cancer Connections, Palo Alto from 2001-2007, and later, at the Stanford Cancer Centerfrom 2004 until September 2013).  From 2006 – 2017, I  initiated and led  expressive writing groups for men & women with cancer at  Scripps Green Cancer Center, and UCSD Moores Cancer Center in La Jolla, CA, and continued to lead twice yearly one-day writing retreats for The Writers’ Workshop at Stanford Medical School — specifically for faculty, students and staff of the Stanford Medical School, which I’d began leading in 2005.  From 2003 – 2016, I taught an annual week-long summer course, “Writing as a Healing Ministry,”  at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA, and from 2007-2017, online classes in transformational writing and creative nonfiction for the  UCLA extension Writers’ Program.   I have a doctorate degree in Applied (Educational) Psychology from the University of Toronto, Canada, and also studied creative writing and transformative language arts.  I now live in Toronto and currently lead an eight week expressive writing series for Gilda’s Club of Greater Toronto.

Contact Sharon.  Sharon’s other sites:  www.writingthroughcancer.com; http://www.sharonbray.net

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