To some people, it is a form of torture not dissimilar to being drawn and quartered. I have had people tell me that they would rather have the fingers removed from their hands (in a bit of a gory, over-dramatic way), than to write something when they didn’t have to. However, there is a group of us out there that don’t have to have a gun to our heads to write. It isn’t torture or a chore. For me, it is an expression. An outlet. Even a cheap form of therapy. In this post, I am going to be talking about how writing can help in ways you might not expect and I hope to maybe cause a few to rethink this pastime. You might be surprised how spending a bit of time with paper and pencil can even help your heart!
This is for you alone.
Gone are the days filled with writing assignments and red-pen critiques. If you are done with school, I want to challenge you to rethink your thinking. Writing, as an adult, is for your eyes alone, if you so chose. You will not have to do rough drafts and revisions, and there will be no grades. No one will be looking over your shoulder. Think back to the days before school sucked out of you any love you might have for writing. Put away negative associations, because as adults, we can make choices, and those choices include making new associations! No one is correcting your spelling (except Spellcheck) and no one is making sure you are writing in complete sentences! This writing is for you.
Use a journal or computer, whichever you are most comfortable with, and set aside time to just write. Write about your struggles. Write about what you wish you could have said to your neighbor. Make lists of the blessings in your day. Write down your goals and hopes and dreams. It doesn’t matter. Just write! Our brains are like muscles, and technology and media today can have a zomifying effect on our creativity. Thinking and writing exercise part of our cerebrum that is getting very little use these days and that is to our detriment.
It can cause catharsis.
I know. That sounds like something you would go to the ER for! But in reality, writing is great therapy! For me, when I sit down with my laptop or my pen and beautiful floral notebook, the spinning and whirring in my head slows. It is as if my brain knows that relief is at hand. When I am sad or struggling, I can use my pen to channel my emotions into words, and words bring order to scattered thoughts and wings to heavy loads. I can see the truth of my thoughts in front of me and that enables me to see more clearly how to think or what actions need to come next. I can feel the load that my heart and mind must carry being laid down, bit by bit on the page, as my words trail into sentences.
I want to challenge you to try writing when you feel like you are struggling. You can express emotions with no one getting hurt. Once our eyes see the words in our hearts, it gives us a chance to see the power in those words and gives us a chance to make them better when they come out of our mouths. Maybe you just feel “unhappy” or “confused.” Writing down your thoughts behind those words will help you see that the “unhappy” is actually loneliness or regret or insecurity. Your “confusion” is really a need for more information or better communication. And then, with that giant stew of emotions identified and clarified in your head, you can see more clearly what you need to do to make the best of whatever situation you are in.
Writing can be fuel for creativity.
If you allow yourself to begin to love writing, you might find those little tiny buds of creativity beginning to change into blossoms. Creativity is food for the soul, it is healing for the heart and it has scientifically proven health benefits as well. I know, I know. You are thinking that you just aren’t a creative person. Well, the truth of the matter is the only thing I excel is mediocrity. Not trying to be a whiner. Just calling a spade a spade. Creativity is no different, though, than the plants in a garden–give it some time and attention and before you know it, you got yourself somethin’ purty.
Give it a try! Set aside 10 minutes a day to think and write creatively. Look up writing or journaling prompts on Pinterest. Try to write a short Dr. Seuss styled poem or story. Write a description of the room you are in but use your online Thesaurus to replace words you usually use for ones that are different. Take an ordinary word like “very” and try to think of as many synonyms as you can for it, and then look up and write down all of the options. Use 10 descriptive sentences to write about something you find beautiful. Write a letter to your younger self. Write a letter to your future self. Write about what inspires you. What was the last thing you celebrated? Describe it like you would to a blind friend. There are so many ways you can exercise your creativity muscle and before you know it, those 10 minutes you spent writing, have turn into an hour.
Prayer journaling can be life changing.
I am a huge advocate of prayer journaling. We are believed to have between 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day. Even though the Bible tells us to pray without ceasing, I feel like my prayers get mixed and muddled up with “Did that bill get paid?” “Did I put quinoa on the grocery list?” and “What doctor’s appointments do we have this week?” When I write my prayers in my prayer journal, it is a focused conversation with the Lord. The pen and paper bring with it, order, and I can pour my heart out in complete thoughts. The prayers in my journal sound just like they would if Jesus were sitting next to me and I was telling Him what weighs heavy for me.
One of the greatest benefits of prayer journaling is being able to see, in writing, how God has answered prayer over the years. When we encounter trials, we are often quick to feel like God has forsaken us and that we are on this planet alone. Reading through God’s work in past trials reminds us, in present trials, of God’s promise to never leave us, that He is working all things out for good and that He is the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Trials have a way of rattling our brains. What we always knew before, now we question. But, friend, if you can look back at all the work that God has done in your life and at all the ways He has answered your prayers, when you see it IN WRITING, the brain fog and the reeling thoughts being to calm and you are reminded of the character of the God you serve.
Stick your toe in the water!
This all might seem pointless and time-wasting. I know you have a million things to do. I believe this is important, though. Caring for your heart, clearing the muck out of your cranium and replacing it with creative, thankful-thinking has many side effects–GOOD side effects, like a lightened emotional load, clarity, stress reduction, a deepened relationship with the Lord, strength in times of trial, building the creativity “muscle,” increasing positive thinking and best of all, there just might be a little stirring in your heart from a wonderful little thing called joy!