Thursday, December 5, 2013

Why I Love Writing, and How You Can, Too

I love writing. From a very young age, I’ve enjoyed the simple practice of putting pen (or pencil) to paper and just letting my thoughts flow. The first time I can really remember writing was in third grade, when my teacher would put daily writing prompts up on the board for us to complete. They would usually be something like this (with my answers looking something like this):

“I opened the box, and inside I saw…” 
(a giant, hairy spider)
“My favorite thing is… because…”  
(my dog, Tequila because she likes to snuggle and loves me a lot)
“The door opened, and in walked…” 
(my dad. He just came home from a business trip and brought me a new necklace!)

We always started out the day with about ten minutes to complete our journal entries, and each week our teacher would collect and review our notebooks. This simple activity is something I now believe to be a genius idea. Not only did it promote creativity, but it also made writing an informal event that we all got used to. Plus, when she would review the notebooks, she’d gently correct grammar and spelling and always wrote comments at the end. She connected with us. When my dad came for back to school night, I got to write him a note, and he wrote me one back. It’s one of those memories I will always cherish. Oh, and I still have that notebook.

Writing can help relieve stress, improve mood,
and even physically heal the body.
Image: Shutterstock
When I was in junior high and high school, I mainly wrote for school—both creative and academic pieces. I kept journals on and off (I would love to say that I’m an avid journaler, but I’m really terrible at it). When in college, I wrote poetry and short pieces that really delved deep into my emotional state and helped me reflect on what was happening in my life. When a friend attempted suicide, I wrote about it. When my grandfather died, I wrote about it. When I saw incredible acts of kindness, I wrote about it. When I saw a pretty leaf dancing in the rain, I wrote about it.

The important thing is this: I wrote. And I completely believe that it has helped keep me sane all these years. As I’ve delved deeper into career life, it’s become harder to keep up with personal writing, but whenever I do manage to sit down and write something, it has an incredibly therapeutic effect.

I am a perfectionist by nature, so when I read over my infrequent journal entries, my creative works, and even my third-grade journal, part of me wants to lament over the bad grammar and spelling, the awkwardness of phrasing, the way it just isn't as good as [insert famous writer]. I know that’s an impulse lots of people have—and it’s often what keeps people from writing. But it shouldn’t.

Writing has been linked to a multitude of benefits for both the mind and body. It can promote emotional healing through expression of emotion (rather than bottling it up). You can always talk to paper, even if you can’t talk to a person. It can also improve attitude, especially in people battling potentially terminal diseases like cancer. And attitude, studies have shown, can affect everything from whether you actually get better to how much you enjoy your life.

Writing can also help us remember what we’re thankful for in life. It can get things off our chest before we go to bed for the night—meaning that sleep could be more restful as well. Improved mood, lower stress and depression levels, healing and more have all been linked to expressive writing.

You don’t have to be “good” at writing to love it. You just have to do it.