Friday, May 14, 2010

How Writing Helps Me

Somebody recently asked me to describe what writing meant to me. That question feels a bit unmanageable, but I think I can describe some of the ways in which writing helps me. Here is a non-exhaustive list.

Morning Pages
Every morning for the past few years, when I wake up, before getting out of bed, I write Morning Pages, an exercise from The Artist’s Way. This means filling three pages of a notebook with stream of consciousness writing—in other words, a brain dump, writing without editing, preferably without really thinking—just letting your hand move across the page.

This practice helps me realize what’s lurking in my mind—things I don’t want to think about, things bothering me or nagging at me. It allows me to vent frustrations, give voice to negative feelings and fears, and by not repressing them, I lessen them, become aware of them and sometimes even find steps to take or solutions. Ideas for the novel sometimes surprise me in the Morning Pages, and the practice of writing without editing myself makes writing first drafts of anything much easier.


In writing fiction, I can let my imagination roam, I can create. I love to let my fingers fly over the keys see what comes out. Through fiction I explore questions, I watch characters work through difficulties, and in the process, I gain inspiration and ideas I apply to challenges of my own. Plus, it's just great fun.


Nonfiction is scarier than fiction for me because I have to hew to the facts, like it or not. And if I’m writing about myself, I have to be brave. But this also helps me. I often don’t know what I feel or think about something until I write about it. If I put words on a page, play with them, arrange and rearrange them, at the end of the process, I’ve figured something out, I’ve realized something, and I’ve created something, which is its own satisfaction.


I don’t write a lot of poems. For me, they are a last resort, when plain old prose cannot capture the moment or emotion I want to describe. Sometimes writing a poem is the only thing that makes me feel better, because even when a situation is awful, there is comfort in creating something beautiful from it.

In all its forms, writing helps me figure out what I feel and what I think. After writing something I’m a little savvier, a little more self-aware. But maybe my favorite way that writing helps me is the satisfaction I feel when someone tells me that my writing has helped them in some way.

Does writing help you?


Ted said...

I just got to know you better. Thats one thing I like about reading. I have surprised myself at how much I enjoy writing. I forced myself to start blogging and I really enjoy it. Sometimes I write non-fiction, sometimes non-anything. I haven't really tried fiction...maybe thats next. I always feel a challenge and then a pride upon completion of something. I really enjoy it.

Just said...

That post is really interesting for me, because I feel safer with non-fiction, I guess because with academic writing I put less of myself on the line. I find poetry most challenging of all because it's technically difficult and also so personal. Writing really does help me clear my head though, blog entries, letters etc.

Just said...

Hi Julie. Thanks for your comment on my blog- it was nice to hear about your experience of changing jobs, very reassuring! I found your blog just surfing through blogger one day, and decided to follow because I found it interesting.

Karolina said...

writing always helps!

Friko said...

Of course it does, why else would I blog?
Writing is a way of flushing out toxins, re-living experiences, good and bad, enjoying events and people all over again, letting the mind wander where it will, creating, creating, creating, putting ideas into words, communicating.

Odd Bob said...

I like that idea of 'morning pages'. I haven't heard of that before. I'm not sure I could do three pages in a morning, but I may have to have a go. If nothing else it's a good chance to write dreams down before they fade.

I said in response to your earlier post that coming up with stories helps distract me from worrying. I quite often live in my own little world and I need to get those ideas onto paper more often. I have discovered 'nanowrimo' (bit of a mouthful, shorten to nano) which runs November each year and challenges you to write 30 000 words of a novel in 1 month! It's a challenge but there's forums and help sections and advice and all in all it's a good way to force yourself to make some serious headway.

Natalie said...

Writing has helped me to figure things out that are going on internally...particularly when writing about dreams. It has been especially interesting and helpful to go back and reread what I wrote (mostly stream of conscious writing) at a later time to try to process and put the pieces together.