When you write it lets you get your thoughts in order and helps to clear your mind. It aids concentration and has a generally calming effect because it induces a state of mindfulness. It keeps you be in the present and provides focus. And if you are troubled by intrusive thoughts, it will also help you ignore that mental chatter.
You don’t have to be able to turn a perfect phrase and what you write doesn’t even have to make sense. When it’s just for you it becomes a uniquely personal pastime that can reduce tension and anxiety, boost your sense of self and your confidence.
I spend a lot of my time as a writer. It is satisfying because it helps me clarify my ideas on a given topic, and sometimes it forces me to think more clearly. But in terms of my sense of satisfaction and contentment, not all writing is equal.
We are all used to doing it. We prepare lists, write emails, prepare reports… This is a functional activity, to fulfil a specific purpose. Subject as we are to external pressures it’s often done to order, and to a deadline.
But there’s another sort of activity I’m thinking of here. Call it writing for pleasure, spontaneous writing or capturing a stream of consciousness. From this perspective it is an act of the imagination and – and here’s the big bonus – it unlocks our ideas and creativity.
Clear the clutter
I don’t just mean creativity in the literary sense. When you write it helps clear a cluttered mind, germinate ideas, process our emotions, daydream, and imagine how things might be. When we allow the writing to guide our thoughts – rather than the other way round – it facilitates conceptual thinking, which is where new and often unexpected ideas come from.
Not so many people these days keep a diary or write a journal, and it’s not necessary to record your thoughts daily to benefit from this style of writing, but in my view it does require the basic discipline of regularity. It doesn’t have to be the same time every day (though many writers insist that it does), ‘regular’ can mean recurrent opportunities. The commute, for example, or coffee breaks.
In a more structured way, there’s an exercise called Morning Pages. This involves filling three sides of paper with words, stream of consciousness-style, first thing every day.
According to it’s fans, making a regular habit of putting pen to paper in this way (which seems to work better then ‘fingers to keyboard’) can have a liberating effect. You can write about whatever’s on your mind: cares and concerns, great ideas, troubling thoughts… But is must be done first thing, immediately on waking. Above all you should let it flow with no thought of editing, getting it ‘right’, or being clever.
Get it down
Try it, you’ll see. To start with never mind what you write. The important thing is creating the space to do it, and don’t bother with doing anything worthwhile, smart or meaningful, just write. Writing unlocks the imagination, so just get on with it.
By the way, don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Writing creates inspiration, not the other way round. So write today, and every day.