by Gay Norton Edelman
For me, writing is not only a way to earn a living and help people. It’s also a way to get to know who I am and what I believe. I’m talking morning pages, gratitude lists, free writes, written dialogues with my higher power, and more.
And that deep stuff is just a start. Writing is also a way to get through everyday life. On a morning that’s feeling like a slog, a three-page freewrite can clear my head and point me in a useful direction. (Or at least make me less crabby.) On a day when the juices are flowing, wonder of wonders, this decades-long journalist cranks out a poem or two. I haven’t published any of them yet, but you know what? I’ve seen a side of myself I really, really like.
I can’t promise you’ll turn into a poet (and maybe you don’t even want to), but I can assure you that putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard can take you to some surprising places. Experiment to see what works for you.
Here is what writing can do for you:
- Relieve Stress & Help You Work Through Problems. Getting your frustrations up and out is a way to dissipate them. Kind of like scratching an itch. Or being your own therapist. Let’s say you’re up to your ears in work and homeschooling, and your bestie isn’t available to listen to a phone rant. Now what? Let your worst rip in your journal or any old scrap of paper lying around. Then make a ritual of shredding the pages as a way to discard the stress. Or take a couple minutes to write an affirmation over and over. Example: “I am enough, I have enough, I do enough.” Or, for you worker bees beleaguered by impatient bosses or riddled with doubts about yourself, “I do beautiful work for beautiful money.”
- Feed Your Creativity. When we write, we access not just our thoughts and feelings but also our deep mysteries. And in those shadows lurk the seeds of our next brilliant move. What’s your deepest delight? Don’t know? Ask yourself—set a timer for five or 10 minutes and scribble away. Or try a “nested” writing. You write a phrase, then rewrite it again and this time add a phrase. Keep repeating and adding until you hit a new emotional place. And don’t forget lists. On any given day, make a list of five things that light you up—rocking out to your favorite album, walking briskly through the park, yoga, or Tai Chi. Then make sure to do at least one.
- Build a More Centered Life. Writing just for you is like clearing your closet of the junk you don’t need, because you create space for the inner power that is your birthright. A lot of us in the west suffer from low self-esteem. And what is that, but a trip far, far away from what’s actually true about each and every one of us. Follow the lead of Liz Gilbert—she of the book Big Magic—and write a letter to yourself from love. Or write a letter to your present-day self from you in five or 10 years. Similarly, write one from your past self, noting your growth. Or gain a little perspective by writing about yourself in the third person.
- Develop Personal and Creative Resilience. Whether you’re simply building skills or facing your inner demons, using your words makes you strong and supple in the face of everything life throws at you. Your introspective writing doesn’t have to be narrative or linear. You can write a letter to yourself from your inner child using your non-dominant hand. Facing your past like this is a way to self-love, particularly if you do so regularly. It helps to be super kind if you decide to reread what you wrote (you don’t have to). There is real power in that gentleness.
- Tap Into Your Deepest Joy. As you deal with life, heal your troubles, and express your soul with words, you find life’s greatest riches: your powerful spirit. Years ago, a mentor suggested I keep a journal specifically dedicated to miracles. Start collecting them, she said, and the act of writing them down will lift you up. A pink-sky sunset, little Seamus next door padding after his big sister, a draft blog that comes out halfway decent. Yes! Recognizing the good stuff is a super cool way to realize that even in the midst of mayhem, there is beauty.