I read this somewhere.
What is art?
It is taking one’s deepest sorrows, the fears, frustrations and making it visible for the world to see – or bringing it alive to the world to see – letting it manifest in the physical world. For me writing is the art. It helps me manifest my deepest sorrows, fears into this tangible elements. Once I let it out, my worries around is relieved.
Anne Frank says, “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
Writing gives me that ability to make my sorrow disappear. Writing helps my courage to be reborn. You can shake off everything as you write. Writing can help you with that.
“In a study led by University of Texas researcher James W. Pennebaker, a group of the jobless professionals got in touch with their feelings and wrote about it, diary style. 20 minutes. Writing. Emotions. Repeat. Daily.”
Dr. Pennebaker wanted to test whether this emotional writing practice could reduce stress and help solve the problems these engineers were having?
In the group that got all up in their feelings and put them down on paper, more than 26% found a new job. More importantly this kind of writing, can not only help you find better jobs, Dr. Pennebaker concludes, it can improve your health, your happiness, your goals, your love life … everything!
This got me thinking. I am a real-life proof for Dr. Pennebaker’s research.
A Bit of History
Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”—William Wordsworth
It’s no wonder then journaling is a practice shared across many centuries by icons—not only writers like Virginia Woolf and Mark Twain, but also inventors from da Vinci to Edison, cultural icons such as Pablo Picasso, military leaders such as general George Patton, and political leaders from Washington to Jefferson to Franklin to Truman to Churchill. Along with preserving a record of their ideas and experiences, journaling might have helped them make sense of stressful experiences, focus on their goals, and achieve success. As Richard Branson, the Virgin mogul says, “my most essential possession is a standard-sized school notebook.”
In language, God is accessible to all men, Ralph Waldo Emerson writes. Writing is medium through which one can talk to God. For me, language and writing is helps me access the deepest sub-conscious level of thinking through writing.
What Writing Means to Me
Writing is like unpacking. You slowly unpack the mysteries of life, your mind or living, using writing as a tool. But it is in this series of events, that sequence of times, that there is continuous thread of revelation. Go deep enough, there is bedrock of truth.
Writing will help you get in touch with the silence within yourself.
“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose.” – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
There is unknown silence in everyone’s inner self. It is within. For some, it is easily accessible. For some, it requires deliberate attempt at connecting. For more others, they don’t even realise the existence of that inner self. They live their life as it is. I belong to the second category of people. Though I realise there exists this inner self, its access to it has always been elusive. Writing helps me nurture that connection and get in touch within.
Ways of Writing
I started writing out of necessity rather than will. Writing lists, more specifically to-do list was my first, though powerful attempt at writing anything at all. I started this list making, slowly added ‘project journaling’ as a way to plan, record my work and thoughts. I found this deeply catherizing and I started taking it more seriously.
Sketching, Mapping, Journaling, Visualizing, Freewriting – were different names that got defined later to me.
Now after some serious journaling, I am realising it’s potential – for ideating, creating, personal optimisation, mental clarity, spiritual exploration and other things.
Most of the time, writing to generate a content is considered as a legitimate outcome. My concept is to flip the idea other way. What if writing as a process in itself an outcome – writing for writing sake.
Let me clarify. Here we are not writing to produce work of arts, instead we are writing as a process to heal ourselves, to think and to ideate. Let me be honest here. I am not going to make a writer out of you. I am going to see the value in writing as a tool to help yourself. And hopefully provide you with techniques in using this wonderful and remarkable to whatever purpose you could think of.
I am currently working on different writing styles:
- Write like freeflowing
- Write like a conversation between your future self and present self (from Mark Forster’s Dreams book)
- Write like a conversation with a friend to who you are explaining yourself to. It will be better if the friend of yours is similar to you, age, demography, thinking process (from Pat Flynn’s Ebook the Smart Way)
- Let me see how it could happen.
- More so, using writing as a thinking tool.
- Writing to bring clarity in head
- Use writing to generate ideas
- Now reading about Mark Levy and others as – using Writing as Thinking
You can read more about 10 different writing styles collated by fellow blogger James Grieg here.
How to Start?
Buster Benson runs this site called 750words.com. It was inspired by the concept of morning pages as described in Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. He cites the basic rules of free writing that were written by Natalie Goldberg.
- Give yourself a word limit. Write for 1, 2, or 3 pages, and then stop.
- Keep writing until the time is up. Do not pause to stare into space or to read what you’ve written. Write quickly but not in a hurry.
- Pay no attention to grammar, spelling, punctuation, neatness, or style. Nobody else should ever read what you produce here. The correctness and quality of what you write do not matter; the act of writing does.
- If you get off the topic or run out of ideas, keep writing anyway. If necessary, write nonsense or whatever comes into your head: anything to keep the words flowing.
- If you feel bored or uncomfortable as you’re writing, ask yourself what’s bothering you and write about that.
Benefits of Writing
From Dr. Diary, aka James W. Pennebaker:
When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health. … They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function. If they are first-year college students, their grades tend to go up. People will tell us months afterward that it’s been a very beneficial experience for them.”
For Physical Health
Writing can help you with your immunity.
Ever heard of T lymphocytes? Me neither, until I learned that regular journaling can strengthen these important immune cells. More research, chronicled at PsychCentral, also shows that journaling can reduce symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
Writing heals wounds. Yes, really. In a study in New Zealand, 72% of a group who’d done expressive writing after a biopsy were fully healed, versus 42% of a group who’d done no writing. Researchers think the writing may have led to better sleep and reduced stress, and therefore … heal-ier wounds!
For Mental Health
I actually of the opinion that every human being is a treasure house of wisdom and recommend everyone writing a memoir of their lives. Emotional writing can heal mental and emotional wounds … after about two weeks.
The research says. Initially, it would be difficult for you to write about your most worrisome incidents, your emotional upheavals. Write especially about the bad ones, rather than good ones. It would be difficult. But once you build a momentum, not only worries, but the emotional things. it’s like talking to your own personal counsellor. The answers usually tend to follow along with your worries. This innate wisdom that each one of us possess will respond to your deep questions with ease. Be ready to listen or write it down as it flows. And that is where most of my contents for writing comes too.
Autobiography is the best advice. I make content out of such writing from my own personal lives and convert it to message for my readers. May be that is the reason why most of my readers find a personal connect to what I write about – it is so personal to me and at the same time so universal.
I know I’ve been cheerleading for emotional journaling, but know this: the first two weeks will be rough. In one study, during the beginning of emotional writing, subjects got more depressed, and some of their blood pressures even increased!
Writing about trauma is uncomfortable in the short run, but after a brief period of time, the costs can disappear and the benefits emerge ― and they last.
As one participant admitted, “Although I have not talked with anyone about what I wrote, I was finally able to deal with it, work through the pain instead of trying to block it out. Now it doesn’t hurt to think about it.”
Writing to Solve Problems
“You can use your internal dialogue to throw open problems and brainstorm (or brain-write) ideas,” suggests Oliver Burkeman.
Writing could be an incredibly powerful technique for solving problems. It just involves simply writing it down. “It seems rather simple, but it can often allow you to solve problems you previously thought were impossible.” – says Scott Young.
An interesting tidbit on this from the study of the laid off engineer story at the very beginning of this article:
“Interestingly, expressive writing didn’t land the engineers any more interviews. It just increased the odds that they were hired when they did have an interview. ”
And it added…
“The benefits of expressive writing aren’t limited to negative events. Research by Laura King shows that writing about achieving future goals and dreams can make people happier and healthier. Similarly, there’s plenty of evidence that keeping a gratitude journal can increase happiness and health by making the good things in life more salient. And Jane Dutton and I found that when people doing stressful fundraising jobs kept a journal for a few days about how their work made a difference, they increased their hourly effort by 29% over the next two weeks.”
So there is quite a lot of evidence on other benefits of writing.
- Writing to heal
- Writing to think and reflect
- Writing to solve problems both in personal and professional life
- Writing to think. “Writing for me is thinking through my fingers.” – Issac Asimov
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” — Anaïs Nin
I believe that we all have an internal wise mentor who is always available to help us through difficult situations – both personal and professional. I strongly believe that you could access this ‘internal mentor’ through writing. Buster Bensen of 750words goes even further saying that writing is better than meditation. Though I don’t completely agree with him, but I hope I made a case for Journaling.
Start writing. Today.
- To start with check out Freewriting articles by Mark Levy of LevyInnovation.com
- Adam Grant’s article on ‘The Power of the Pen’
- 9 Reasons Why Writing in a Journal Should be Your only New Year Resolution. The article that prompted to write this post.
- Articles on Writing by yours truly: