Write Out Of It. Why expressive writing makes life better
I’m interested in this because one of the trickier parts of the website making process is asking people to provide written content for their website
That’s often the point where the Door of Contact slams shut, the emails dry up and there will be tumbleweed drifting along the corridors of communication
It’s not just me, it happens to every website maker I’ve ever met
I think that’s because whilst people can very often explain themselves effectively in conversation, they don’t always feel they have that fluency when trying to express themselves via the written word.
This makes them feel like someone crossing an ice rink in ordinary shoes, at any moment they risk taking a tumble and making a fool of themselves.
This makes perfect sense. Most of us will have several conversations during any particular day but if we’re not professional writers we may go weeks or months without having to express ourselves on the page.
It takes practice and here’s why that practice is good and it’s not just good for business, it’s good for everything.
1. Managing anxiety, mindfulness made easy
Gathering thoughts, searching for the right word, these are highly absorbing activities.
This degree of concentration means that one is existing entirely in the present. Anxiety, which can be defined as a disproportionate fear of what may be about to happen, loses its grip as both the future and the past, temporarily disappear.
2. Letting the tiger out, gently, gently
This works best for situations we can’t change. These are those situations which are the most likely to make us angry, because we feel trapped by them.
The Artist’s Way Morning Pages practice of filling three sheets of paper with any thoughts that enter one’s head at the beginning of the day, can allow negative emotions to make a harmless exit from the brain instead of sticking around and hurting us, or others.
3. Stories, even short ones, help make sense of experience
If we don’t deal with painful experiences they’ll stick to us like a hard lump of misery, weighing us down and doing us no good at all.
Expressive writing forces emotions and memories to move from the background to the forefront of our minds. As they detach and loosen we become better able to examine them.
Once we pinpoint WHY whatever happened made us so unhappy, we reduce it to one particular, more manageable, thing, instead of a pervasive cloud of nameless pain.
4. Chucking out the rubbish
We absorb information throughout a day and process it in our dreams.
Not all information we take in is necessary or helpful. Writing down the thoughts that come into our heads releases the ones that don’t matter or do us harm, leaving space for the thoughts that help us.
5. Writing and physical health
Over the years a number of studies have shown that expressive writing can help lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, improve lung and liver function and lower the number of days spent in hospital, and visits to the doctor.
6. Increasing clarity of thought by choice of words
Whether we’re practised at it or new to the process, searching for the words that precisely express what we’re trying to say, with all its shades and nuances, help us to understand what is at the heart of our thoughts. It guides us towards a better understanding of who we are.
7. Weight training for the mind
Writing is hard because it requires focused thinking, and effort, to do it well.
The discipline needed to write even for short periods builds our ability to concentrate and that improves all aspects of our lives.
7. Future benefits, future pleasures
Like anything else the more you write the better you get at it.
Writing can become a refuge during difficult times, it will improve your ability to communicate with others, and there are very few occupations that don’t benefit from the ability to express oneself effectively using the written word.
Without the pressure of needing to make a living from it, for most of us writing is just writing. It’s putting the words on the paper or the screen, one after the other, that’s it.
Whether we do for five minutes a day or for much longer, and whatever we write about, it is good for us.
It may never be seen by anyone else, that is within our control, but if there is one place in life where you have freedom to let it all go, it is on the page.
If you pick up a pen (or place your fingertips on a keyboard) and that empty page seems like a ringmaster with a whip, and you’re the lion who is too scared to leave his cage, then write down how hard it feels to write.
The words will come.