Writing is a powerful force. It can trigger emotions, inspire action, and save memories before they fade. I’ve been writing for 20+ years but for most of that time I didn’t enjoy it. I kept writing because it kept benefitting me. Admission offices loved my essays, 20 page papers got me through college, and grant proposals helped me stand out at work. I became a decent writer and I hated writing. Sure, I could explain the impact water-borne diseases have on the world’s poor, but my writing lacked soul. It was simply a tool to get further in life. A means to an end.
It wasn’t until I started a personal journal that I fell in love with writing. It’s not the output that I love, it’s the process. These days I journal most mornings and write blog posts weekly. I like the final product, but it’s the act of writing and re-reading my work that keeps me coming back. That time at the table when my thoughts can have all my attention and my hands can say what my voice can’t. It’s liberating. It’s therapeutic. It helps me stay sane.
I bet you have something to say. I bet at times you feel trapped in your head. Maybe you just want to try something new. Give writing a shot. Here’s why you’ll love it and how to get started.
Writing helps us process.
I’m always thinking. The problem is the voice in our head always has an opinion and that opinion can argue either side. If we’re not careful, that voice becomes a fact without us realizing it. We’ve created a false reality for ourselves in a matter of minutes. Something different happens when we put thoughts on paper. There’s no accountability when we’re thinking, especially when we don’t voice our thoughts. Writing, on the other hand, makes our thoughts tangible. Something we can’t deny. And that’s a good thing because then we can face them! Here’s how I approach it.
- I free-write the first draft, letting my thoughts flow freely on paper. The words are often hypocritical, embarrassing, and honest.
- I take a break. Maybe 20 minutes. Maybe a couple days.
- I review the first draft, look for patterns, and scrutinize the work. I ask myself, is this truly how I feel? I edit as needed. I repeat this step 2-3 times.
That’s it! Letting the words flow freely gets the thoughts out. Facing those thoughts and refining them until they feel right helps me process and better understand myself. I’m yet to find another habit that so consistently helps me work through my fears, challenges, and uncertainties.
Writing is a window into your state of mind at that specific moment
My memory is mediocre at best and generalizes the past. I remember being heart broken, but not the specific feelings. Writing keeps those details alive. I can review journal entries from tough times and re-experience the emotions, joy, and pain I felt. While this may seem counter-productive, understanding my state of mind during tough times in the past helps me persevere through challenges in the present. It gives me confidence. It helps me understand my emotions. It shows patterns that led to bad decisions. Reliving my past through the words on the page helps me learn from my mistakes and approach the future with a little more confidence I’ll get through whatever challenges lie ahead. It’s easy to do. When you’re feeling down, stuck, nervous, curious, or uncertain – read through your journal. Relive those moments. Look for patterns or red flags, and think about if/how they apply to what you’re feeling today.
Whether we recognize it or not, we are all writers. Think of the thank you notes you sent your grandma or the book reports from your youth. It’s hard to get started. It’s wonderful when you find your flow. Give it a try. 15 minutes in the morning/evening can help you process the present, understand the past, and move forward with a more aligned future.
Send me an email and let me know how it goes.