Using Writing Towards Healing 

On Tuesday, March 16th, The Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center hosted the “Writing Toward Healing” workshop, facilitated by writer, Pam R. Johnson Davis through an online presentation. Pam is an accomplished poet, with her first book of poetry Seasons (I’ll Be Seeing You): A Collection of Poems about Heartbreak, Healing, and Redemption winning the Best Urban Poetry Book Award at the American Book Fest in August 2020. Throughout the workshop, she not only shared advice on writing but also imparted life lessons to listeners she had acquired through her own struggles. Pam encouraged participants at the beginning of the workshop to grab a pen and paper and take part in responding to the writing prompts that she gave for, “Your own eyes and heart.”  

The workshop was based on her book of poetry, which in writing she found her own sense of healing. Pam shares how she wrote the poems from 2013 to 2020, a period in her life where she navigated difficult situations such as divorce and homelessness, along with coping with the powerful emotions that sprung from these painful situations. She also learned through her writing skills of self-love and how to accept love from others.  

Pam never intended to publish her poetry, calling what she wrote at that time, “Poems written in the dark”. These poems allowed her to make sense of the mess she was in and find healing through it. Through the publication of her poetry, she found another exercise in expressing herself unapologetically. She encourages people to find their own healing in many different art forms, even beyond reading and writing, from theater to spoken word. Pam says, “The things that you enjoy and bring you pleasure are part of your healing journey.” 

Before Pam began the writing session, she had participants take part in an exercise called “Bring Yourself Into the Room.” This exercise was to encourage everyone to feel each other’s energy and presence during the workshop despite not being physically together. Everyone was told to bring themselves into the workshop as the people they are today.  

Pam’s poetry collection is divided into nine sections, and in the workshop she shared work from some of the sections, beginning with the poem “Becoming Myself” from the “Seasons” section. After reading the poem she shared a writing prompt, which had participants write down all of the roles and titles they carry, such as mother, love, teacher, etc. Pam explains how this exercise is one of self-reassurance, saying, “Knowing who you are will help you when that voice in your head tries to convince you of what you are not.” She encourages continually adding to the list so when moments of fear or self-doubt come, so one is equipped with a list that shows all that they are and are able to hold their head high after reading it. 

The workshop continued on with similar exercises such as the first one, with Pam sharing an excerpt of her poetry and then a writing prompt that connected to it. Through these various exercises, participants were encouraged to find their true authentic self in their writing, just as Pam was able to. The workshop illustrated how writing and other art forms can be true forms of healing for those who are struggling under the weight of their worries and self-doubt.