There is a certain power hidden in putting things down from pen to paper, or in more modern times, fingertips to keyboard. The act of writing in itself is a cleansing, creative, and thought-sharpening endeavor, regardless of what you write about, how you write it, or how long that you write. Writing is an essentially human thing to do – and we, as a species, have been doing it for a long time.
When I was a child, I wrote in diaries. I still have some of them. I’m not sure how I got into diary writing; I do remember that I liked reading, and I have read The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole in primary school, so maybe that had sparked the interest in me to start writing, as well. I had a purple notebook with a princess and a rainbow on the front page, and there was a little lock and key on the side. I was the sole key owner.
At that time, writing wasn’t a daily thing, but more of a “sometimes” thing and this little notebook became a place to express thoughts that were buzzing inside of me at any given time, but not expressed out loud. Generally, I wrote about significant events in my life that sparked certain emotions, i.e. confusion, anger, sadness, happiness, desire, jealousy…all of them and more. The diary became a safe place for me to discover and explore any overwhelming state of mind that I had found myself in. Since a young age, it was a way to tame and understand emotions.
I remember re-reading my own entries after I had written them, and it was like I was listening to myself from the outside. This helped me gain new insight into what I was going through. It would also lead to a certain emotional release, like a reordering inside my mind where previously chaotic thoughts suddenly turned to some kind of order. The attached emotions did not disappear with the act of writing, but the sharp edge was often taken off them.
When used for expressing the inner states, writing can be a powerful tool that supports us in developing a mindful attitude towards our own mind and heart.It helps us to observe and accept them. It actually builds up “the observer” part of us, which is the silent part that does not get caught up in the whirlpool of emotion or thoughts: the “I” that neutrally looks at what is happening and names it.
It is the “observer” in all of us that helps us to overcome and learn from adversities. Writing helps us open that door.
The benefits of developing an observing and accepting attitude have been well documented in psychology through its use of ‘talking therapy’, mindfulness, letter-writing, and so on. Writing, in particular, can greatly assist us in achieving this. Also, humor – as nothing beats humor in terms of healing. If you can look at something and laugh at an aspect of it then you are well on your way to truly overcoming it.
Both writing it out and laughing it out give us an opportunity to develop a different perspective, which is the ultimate healing bit.
So, if you are struggling with something, start by writing it out. You may be surprised at what insights you gain from reading your own thoughts once they are outside of you. If you find something funny in what you have written then that will be the cherry on top of it all in terms of healing. You have discovered a different perspective.
Aside from being a healing tool, writing is also a creative and communicative tool, and it is inherently relational. You will either interact with yourself – as you read your own writing – or with others, as you read theirs and/or share yours.
Communication is established either within yourself and/or with others. Written material can inspire and bring joy, but it also takes joy away (e.g. in cyberbullying) to the point of driving people to contemplate suicide. Words are, therefore, very powerful. In fact, they are the cornerstone of our mental health. Words are the backbone of our beliefs about ourselves or the world, and they can be used to uplift, to entertain, and to hurt. It’s up to each of us as to how we use them – both within ourselves and in interactions with others.
So, if you would like to start writing more then I can help with ideas around how to start writing, given that I am currently practicing these tips daily:
- You do not need a lot of time – If you have ten free minutes let’s say just before bed – that is enough. Get a notebook and pen or if you are a more modern creature, take a laptop into your hands. You most likely won’t finish what you started in ten minutes (unless it is a haiku), but you might get further than you thought you would. Also, you will feel a sense of accomplishment, even if you have only one paragraph there. Congratulations, you have done it.
- You do need to be away from distractions– This is a hard one, as we always feel we are missing out on something if we are not glued to a screen, even though we can easily spend 30 minutes just scrolling through Facebook news feed or browsing Netflix (damn the choice paralysis it creates!). So, if we could just borrow 10 minutes out of that Facebook scrolling time for writing then guess what – again, you have done it.
- What you want the most is generally on the other side of fear – Okay, this one is the pinnacle advice. You may want to write, but you are scared. Am I good enough? What if it isn’t good? What if I realize I’m no good at it? What if, what if, what if…? Fear. Well, yes, all these things may turn out to be true, but a meteor can strike Earth tomorrow and we could all die. You will not have written a word – and if that is what you really want to do then you will regret it. ‘What ifs’ are the worst questions to have… So if you do suck– who cares? At least you did what you wanted to do, and trust me, you will have no regrets for the fact that you gave it a go.
Enjoy the journey.