Vermeer. A Lady Writing. Image Flickr:Gandalf’s Gallery.
Hw can writing be helpful to us psychologically? What can it give us?
Below are 7 ways writing can be therapeutic for us.
1. Writing Gives a Sense of Purpose
Writing can give meaning to our lives; it can sometimes take us over take over, mostly in a good way. Often writers become some engrossed that for a while they forget to eat; they develop a feeling that their craft gives them a raison d’être, a deep aspiration and ambition in life.
The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true – John Steinbeck
Furthermore, having a sense of purpose in itself can improve our wellbeing. (Andrea Bonior.)
Writing offers us a sense of who we are; it is also a kind of evidence that we are, or have been, a part of this vast universe:
“I have written, therefore I must have existed.”
Joyce Carol Oates. (Quoted in Bolton)
2. Involves Creativity
Research has indicated that being creative can benefit our health:
Creativity can also help lower stress and anxiety, enhance resilience and contribute to a sense of playfulness and curiosity. Engaging in creative activities and art-based therapies has also been linked to improved physical and mental health.
Creativity involves a taking of risks, a thinking outside the box, a stretching of accepted boundaries of thought and theory.
We can ‘play’ with ideas, develop new and innovative ways of thinking and give ourselves the opportunity to be different and unconventional.
If we allow ourselves space and time, we may surprise ourselves with the groundbreaking ideas we can create :
“I urge you: don’t cut short these thought-trains of yours. Follow them through to their end. Your thoughts and your feelings. Follow them through and you will grow with them.”
3. Makes it Real.
Writing concretises and externalises our thoughts and words. They become more real as a result.
Our ideas might feel abstract, impressionistic until they have been written down. We may then edit, write and rewrite, of course.
Writing is a way of organising our thoughts; through this process we transform the esoteric into something physical and material.
4. Writing As Therapy .
Writing is a way of expressing yourself, your real self. If done freely and intuitively, this process can be healing and therapeutic.
It can also be highly creative, releasing aspects previously hidden in our unconscious mind.
“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”
“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”
Gillie Bolton’s book (below) is a thorough and highly readable study of how writing can be therapeutically beneficial in so many settings.
This is a practical, sensitive and informative book on the subject.
5. Helps Develop Clarity.
Clarification of your thoughts and feelings is one of the benefits of writing….. it really does help us think and organise our ideas.
Simply by committing what we are thinking to paper or screen, we create something that will help us to, quite literally, see what our thoughts are.
As E.M. Forster famously said “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”
6. Expands Your Knowledge
Writing increases our intellectual as well as emotional development. We learn not only more about ourself but also about ourself and the world.
As we write, we discover, research, follow others’ leads, find quotations and generally acquire new thoughts and ideas. Within our work and that of others, is a whole galaxy of wisdom.
“The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.”
7. Writing Structures Your Day.
The routine that develops around writing, whatever that routine may be, is one that gives shape and purpose to many people’s day. We can learn from the way other writers do this.
It is easy to procrastinate as a writer, to surf the internet under the pretence of research, to have another cup of coffee before starting, to make that phone call, read that newspaper.
Having a fairly well established routine, whatever its structure might be, is important to many writers:
“Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.”
Quoted in Norregaard.
In his fascinating book ‘Daily Rituals- How great Minds make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work’, Mason Currey explores the daily routines of famous poets and writers such as Auden, Austen and Hemingway.
Who can unravel the essence, the stamp of artistic temperament! Who can grasp the deep, instinctual fusion of discipline and dissipation on which it rests!
Thomas Mann, Death in Venice.
Quoted in Currey.
“There are three secrets to writing a novel. Unfortunately nobody knows what they are.”
W. Somerset Maugham