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How Writing Can Make You a Better Person
"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."
~ Maya Angelou
I wish I knew that five years ago.
That's when I was an audacious newbie writer who dreamed of publishing a bestselling novel. Ambitious and naive, I couldn't understand why no one wanted my stories when I considered them writing masterpieces!
Well, as they say, what goes up must come down.
To make ends meet, I've become a web writer. Sure thing, business blogs and fiction novels are far from the same. And the mantra "those who can write – publish books; those who can't – become bloggers" made me feel stupid and miserable. I thought I couldn't create anything worth reading, let alone write a bestseller and become famous.
This feeling left me frustrated. It made me consider blogging nothing but hackwork to bring home the groceries. Dozens of articles about writing practices and their influence on skills and mood caused nothing but a wry chuckle...
But, to cut a long story short:
I got so-called 3D: depression, disappointment, and the desire to quit. If someone had told me that writing a diary could restore self-confidence and make me stop plagiarizing from others, I would have laughed right in their face.
But it came so.
The trick was simple: to think of writing practices as a way to become a better person, not a better writer.
And psychologists stand with me here.
We all document our lives one way or another: through social networks, personal blogs, or diaries that help to make a statement, share news, or bend somebody's ear. Many say that such writing can have a therapeutic effect, so they recommend using it for maximum benefit.
The problem is that far from everyone knows how to practice writing properly.
Writing practices are more than meets the eye: not all of them are therapeutic, not all work for a particular person, and each has a specific purpose.
Writing Practices: What's the Difference?
Most writing practices don't serve to analyze your life. They solve problems.
So, if you want to find your true identity, diaries or free writing won't help. (Try Ira Progoff's method instead.) But if you want to think through emotions and old wounds, then follow my example and commit to alternative writing practices.
The 280 Daily and 750 Words methods deserve attention. They are reminiscent of diary writing and motivate you to get results. And yet they don't provide any structure or limits, which might be dangerous for anxious people who get lost in a brown study while writing and can't distinguish the moment when it's time to stop.
Kathleen Adams offers another writing practice: don't write long texts but finish separate sentences. This might be as follows:
- "My biggest fear is..."
- "What I want right here and now is..."
- "Today I feel...", etc.
Kathleen says it would be great to set time limits for this exercise. Five minutes of such writing is enough to make a positive impact. Short but regular notes in a diary will do a power of good to your character.
Do Writing Practices Equal Therapy?
A diary can be both a central or secondary element of psychotherapy.
Therapists admit the value of committing your thoughts to paper, but they would hardly call it a 100% efficient cure. For those in need of psychological help, writing a diary will not cure you but it may help you to understand that something has gone wrong and that you need to visit a doctor.
All you need to know is how to use writing practices for good.
How to choose a writing practice and do no harm.
Writing practices are many, and you are welcome to try them all. However, I would recommend reading some psychotherapists’ books on the topic as this may help you to choose a practice that meets your needs.
My favorites are The Healing Power of Writing and Journal to the Self. With their assistance, I've come to the conclusion that my perfect practice is free writing. But be careful with it: no time or topic frames can hurt, especially for those in the prostration of mind and spirit as well as those dealing with traumatic situations.
Not sure if diaries and free writing work for you?
Try the long lists technique: write 100 Things I Value, 100 Ways I Help Others, 150 Things I Will Do This Year, and so on. Yes, this doesn't sound creative but it let you bring logic and subconscious mechanisms into action.
The writing practice of unsent letters can do wonders as well. It helped me deal with painful emotions, which I didn't want to take out on other people. It is a simple approach: write a letter to someone but don't send it. Address it to a person you hate, fear, or admire; you are welcome to write to someone who's died, or go beyond and write a letter to yourself.
With no concern of what impact your letter might have on others, you will express thoughts with no fear and gain clarity about your ideas and issues. It's a great tool to release, resolve, and let go. Probably, and that's an answer as to why the blog Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self has become so popular.
And when you need to come up with ideas, mind mapping is the writing practice to try. Mind mapping helps to capture thoughts and bring them to life, allows you to unleash creativity and improve memory, and serves to refresh your mind.
My recommendations on writing a diary are:
- Remember that it serves to make you better so, if you don't see any positive changes, stop writing for a while or try a different writing practice instead.
- Write when relaxed, where no one disturbs you, and when you don't have to worry about unfinished tasks.
The #1 rule of every writing practice is to be honest with yourself. Don't worry about your writing style or grammar and spelling errors; just write to express your thoughts as clearly as possible.
Do you write? What is your #1 writing practice to consider?
About the Author
Lesley Vos is a content writer from Chicago. Contributing to publications on writing, lifehacks, and motivation, she doesn't forget about her dream of publishing a novel. Lesley is a nature lover, wanderer, and traveler with a spiritual home in the mountains of Ukraine.
Follow @LesleyVos to say hi and see more of her work.