More than words

Writing group about 'developing yourself'


Key points ¤ Women's Writing Group ¤ Tuesday nights ¤ Cate Potyen's office, 320 Oak St. ¤ Women must be interviewed before joining. ¤ $20 a session ¤ Call 879-2111

Jeanne Upbin thought she was writing about her feet. She recently had discovered the pleasure of being barefoot. As she wrote, her thoughts wandered from her feet to her life change two years ago, when she became a yoga instructor.

She started associating her ability to be barefoot at work with a newfound freedom.

"I'm no longer a professional where you have to wear shoes that match the outfit," she said. She stopped writing and noticed, "I started by writing about my feet but realized I was writing about where I am in my life."

That simple act of putting pen to paper is transforming the lives of four women who meet weekly in Cate Potyen's Oak Street office.

The writing group started in March, based on a therapeutic style of writing developed by James Pennebaker, Ph.D.

"What therapists have discovered is when people write about life events and relationships and they add their feelings about those things, their immune system goes up, and their depression goes down," Potyen said.

Potyen, a psychotherapist, started a similar group years ago to help women deal with their feelings in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. The group is called "Women and War."

When the women had written through their feelings about Sept. 11, they moved onto other topics. The group continued for 1 1/2 years and ended only when Potyen left for California for an extended period away from Steamboat.

When she advertised another women's writing group, Upbin called immediately.

"I had been in Cate's previous writing group, and it had been so successful for me," she said. "You take a subject or a thought and see where it takes you. You just ramble at first, but it really allows you to open up because it's so internal, rather than talking to someone else. The process really works."

The group meets in a small room decorated with soft pastel colors, comfortable chairs and a commanding view of the mountains outside.

The women are taken through a few writing exercises to get them warmed up and then given a topic, but the group is not only about writing. There are no writing critiques. "The group is not about developing writing skills. It's about developing yourself," Upbin said.

"The group has allowed me to put myself out there by putting it on paper."


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