“The possible’s slow fuse is lit by the imagination.”
Emily Dickinson

When veterans attend a SongwritingWith:Soldiers retreat it can be difficult to describe how they feel immediately after writing a song. They have unexpectedly connected with someone they didn’t know and then created something entirely new, together. Something profoundly personal and beautiful—a song, out of some of the worst things they have been through. It’s a big deal.

What we often hear them say are things like, “that’s amazing…I never thought I could do something like this…” and “thank you…” Sometimes their voices are soft and thoughtful, sometimes booming with relief.

What we see is direct eye contact, ease of posture, tears wiped from cheeks and wide smiles.

And then what happens?

Winnie Smith
photo by Stacy Pearsall

Our program is specifically designed to acknowledge and amplify the powerful effects of these collaborative songwriting sessions. From the very first song written we have witnessed a boost in positive emotions following the sessions. Though the writing journey may be challenging, touching on painful memories at times, the impact of the connection with another person on such a deep level is profound.

What we know from the science of Positive Psychology* is that a boost in positive emotions often broadens our view of things, increasing our open-mindedness, creativity and hope. We feel possibility.

Think about it — Do you feel more inspired or less inspired when you are happier? How about feeling a little bit more alive?  For many of our veterans, that’s a big deal.

Our songwriting sessions spark positive emotions. We help fuel that flame of possibility in our participants. We provide opportunities all weekend – and beyond – to connect with others, to try something new, to ramp up creativity through writing, cooking, photography and more.  What can this renewed inspiration lead to?  The possibilities are endless. At our retreats, the results are often life changing.

Palermo Deschamp
photo by Stacy Pearsall

Participant Winnie Smith wrote a letter after her retreat saying, “I hear leaves crunching under my feet… I can see Roley Poleys again…” She spends more time outside, more time with her kids. And her dog. She shared a poem she had recently written.

Palermo Deschamp shared photos of his carved walking sticks. Other veterans have told us how their lives have opened; some continue to write songs, others have taken up acting, drawing, writing blogs, applying for new jobs and much more.  All were sparked by the connections made through writing their song.

Here’s to honoring and paying attention to the positive sparks we feel in our lives – and then taking time to amplify them!

* Positive Psychology is the scientific study of human flourishing. Resources for those wanting to learn more:

  • Flourishing by Martin Seligman
  • Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson
  • Love 2.0 by Barbara Fredrickson
  • The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky

“One of life’s most fulfilling moments occurs in the split-second when the familiar is suddenly transformed into the dazzling aura of the profoundly new.”
Edward B. Lindeman

© 2017 Mary Judd