The one thing that has got me through everything, regardless of what the universe throws at me, is writing. It used to be short little stories about an adventurous heroine when I was a child (complete with elaborately coloured title-pages), heartbreaking love songs when I was a teenager (I used to be a recording artist - whaaaaat?) and dark and brooding novels or poems as an adult.
My publisher just gave me the heads up that my latest story is formally launching in the spring and it got me thinking about how grateful I am for writing. My story was for an anthology titled "Dreams and Nightmares" and I wrote about looking at the dead body of a loved one. This story is fiction, but based on seeing my father's dead body when I was a child. The story personifies emotions such as Embarrassment, Grief, Hope and even Death, making them physical creatures in the room with the protagonist. It's dark and eerie, but was immensely healing for me to write. I sobbed while typing, listening to something dreary from the Civil Wars or You + Me. Once I had exhausted everything in me, knowing the story was done and needed to be put in the hands of an editor, I collapsed and slept for a long time. I'm not sure if I would have expelled these really repressed feelings without the outlet of writing.
Writing is so good for you. And you don't need to be a writer to reap the benefits of tickling your creative bone. "[Writing is] being able to take something whole and fiercely alive that exists inside you in some unknowable combination of thought, feeling, physicality and spirit, and to then store it like a genie in tense, tiny black symbols on a calm white page." [Mary Gaitskill]
WHY YOU SHOULD WRITE MORE
1. DISCOVER YOU
Writing is a way for you to explore the hills and valleys of your subconscious. Sometimes you have thoughts or ideas, but no way of expressing them. Sure, you could tell your best friend about it over coffee, but it has no context and loses a bit of its magic. By writing down some of your strangest or most complex thoughts, you can explore them more and potentially learn something new about yourself. You might know who you are, but your subconscious doesn't speak the same language as you do and it may reveal some big surprises. A great way to explore this idea is through automatic writing. "The goal of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say." [Anais Nin]
2. LOWER STRESS
Writing improves your mood and lower stress levels, thanks to expelling your thoughts or emotions that you may not outwardly express otherwise. By writing them down, it is a way to get it off your chest. Writing relaxes you.
3. GET POSITIVE
Writing increases motivation and positivity. By regularly writing out what you are grateful or thankful for, studies have shown that this habit positively affects our mental state by increasing our drive, encouragement and our outlook on life. Simply thinking about what you're grateful for isn't as effective. By taking time (once per week) to reflect and focus on what you're grateful or thankful for, our brains begin to feel more and more happy with their life and future.
4. IMPROVE YOUR COMMUNICATION ABILITIES
Writing improves communication. By practicing writing regularly, regardless whether it is journaling, creative writing, or something else, it helps you to better verbally express complex ideas, better articulate your emotions and even improve organizing your thoughts.
5. ACTUALLY DIGEST WHAT YOU'RE LEARNING
Writing helps you learn more thoroughly. There is a reason why taking notes is so effective - and it's not just to revisit what we were listening to. By writing things down, we remember them better and even understand what we've written more thoroughly. By just listening to a lesson, a podcast, radio interview, etc, we may lose some of the information due to being distracted - someone may interrupt us or our brains may begin to wander... did I switch the laundry? But reading requires our focused attention as does writing. And while our minds can still wander while we read, its even less likely that it will wander when we write. This is even more effective if you write by hand rather than typing on a computer.
6. STAY SHARP
By writing (not typing), you help to keep your cognitive senses sharp. Think of it like Lumosity and all those brain exercises they tout. Writing is a mental workout. It's brain training.
7. LEARN FROM YOUR DREAMS
By practicing dream recall, (writing your dreams down as soon as you wake up) you can begin to better understand your subconscious. Sometimes you might not remember your dreams, and other times you may only remember colours or vague details. But as you practice, your dreams will become more and more sharp, and you'll begin to notice patterns. Understanding these patterns can help you work through your subconscious, potentially healing some old hidden wounds, or discovering something interesting about how you tick. Dreams are truly magical and people have studied them for years to no avail. Every dream is unique and fascinating. You're unique and fascinating. Writing your dreams down can help reveal that. As Charles de Lint once said, "Don't forget - no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell."
8. GROW AN IMPRESSIVE VOCABULARY
Writing expands your vocabulary. By playing with the english language, you uncover really beautiful words. I'm reminded of Robin Williams in "Dead Poets Society" when he addresses his class, "Avoid using the word 'very' because it's lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don't use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys - to woo women - and, in that endeavour, laziness will not do." Texting and internet languages have completely squashed our vocabularies - we don't even write words out anymore. Everything is an acronym. Lol. G2G. BRB. ROFL. But how captivated are you when someone speaks really beautifully? Eloquently. Sharply. Dig deep into the well of your vocabulary and practice pulling out some of those beautiful words.
9. HEAL YOUR PHYSICAL BODY
Writing about traumatic events has proven to reduce illness and depression, improve liver function and lower blood pressure.
10. ATTRACT A WEALTHY MINDSET
Financially successful people are usually regular writers. Warren Buffet says writing "is a key way to refine his thoughts," and Richard Branson said, "My most essential possession is a standard-sized school notebook." EVEN Bill Gates blogs! And here is one more by William H. Gass: "The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words."
**Bonus 11. CROSS OFF YOUR GOALS
Writing down your goals makes you more likely to achieve them. ;)
"Every secret of a writer's soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works." - Virginia Woolf