Writing can save you if you've fallen through the cracks
It saved me
A pen and a notebook saved my life. Honestly… It sounds ridiculous I know, but it’s absolutely true. After three years working with writing I’ve witnessed how it helps people, on many different levels and in many different ways. I’m not talking about writing novels or poems, but writing just for yourself. Specifically, free writing: uncensored, stream of consciousness, ‘get it all out’ writing.
Free writing brings relief from all the internal shit that can make life a struggle. Shit that made my life miserable for a long time. Self-doubt, criticism, not feeling ‘good enough’, anxiety, panic and much, much more. However my life has changed for the better – and it really has - writing has absolutely been a part of it.
It’s my hope that if you’ve fallen between the cracks and are feeling stuck and a bit hopeless about life getting better, more enjoyable or more satisfying, that you’ll read on and be inspired to pick up a pen.
“Today honesty shall release you and you shall be unburdened”
One of my favourite sayings is ‘Today honesty shall release you and you shall be unburdened.’ I found that saying on a tiny piece of paper at the bottom of one of those money boxes you have to destroy to get the treasure.
That saying spoke to me. It would change me though I didn’t know how back then. It wasn’t until I found writing - a way to be truly honest with myself - that the lesson kicked in.
Slipping through the cracks
I had slipped through the cracks. I probably appeared just fine on the outside but I was miserable, stuck, hopeless, using alcohol amongst other things that just made it all worse. What got me there isn’t really important. We all have ills. It doesn’t really matter what they were, how bad they were or how damaging. What matters is whether or not we’re still letting the messages we learned from those bad experiences run our lives. I was, and I had no idea to what extent.
Getting it all out
Writing helped me to get it all out onto the page so I could look at it, feel it, move on, or stick around to stay with anything interesting that arose. I was having therapy during this time too, but things really started shifting when I started writing.
In fact it was my therapist who recommended writing to me. I would never have gone “Oh I need an outlet for 40 odd years of built up emotions and a better way to deal with life, I think I’ll try writing.” What I did instead was the classic trying to find myself ‘out there’, which as we know, thanks to Dorothy and others, does not work.
The writing workshop that saved my life
During the weekend workshop I attended at the Gestalt Centre around eight years ago, I wrote my little socks off – spewing out all the clogged up stuff from many, many years of not having a way to express myself. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t poetry or prose. It was line after line of swearing and exclamation marks. Anger, frustration (sadness took a while to surface) came whooshing out – to the point sometimes of ripping the paper - and I felt a taste of freedom. I was excited.
I was energised. I wanted more. I’d found something important that I knew had changed my life. How I had longed to be able to say that something had.
Beyond the initial splurge, I started to get to know and understand myself more through writing. To express myself and how I was feeling in a full disclosure way that was liberating and thrilling. I’d been brought up – as are many – to believe that my ‘bad’ emotions (sadness, anger etc.) weren’t welcome, now I had a way to embrace and express them all. It’s true that when you try and supress one emotion, you supress them all. Brene Brown brought that fact to my attention. And it’s really true. Once you start letting out the ‘bad’ stuff, out comes everything else.
I then started to use writing to explore dilemmas, challenges, decisions and more, and it really can help with almost anything. Best of all is writing with other people. To be able to share and be seen, and to witness other people’s stuff. It’s still my favourite way to write. It catapults us beyond the surface, edited stuff we might say and gets to the juicy, interesting, truly ‘us’ stuff underneath.
Spreading the word
After that weekend I wrote and I wrote (I haven’t stopped yet) and I got others to write with me, anyone who would humour me. I asked pretty much everyone I knew. I now have my own gang of writers to write with. They’re made up of people who come to my workshops and other writers I’ve met along the way. Of course I also write alone. Just me, my pen and some paper, and oh what lovely chats we have - with much less swearing these days.
How writing helps
If I had to sum up the power of writing, I’d say it:
· Stops the spin cycle (thoughts going round and around in my head) by getting thoughts out
· Connects to my unconscious goings on
· Contains my feelings – writing it down it makes it something I’m experiencing rather than something that’s happening to me, I take back some power
· Allows me to be honest with myself
· Grounds and calms me if anxiety takes hold and helps to work out what’s actually going on
· Gets me in touch with myself – all the different parts of myself
· Manages the parts of me that want to over-protect me (which come out as self-criticism, not-good-enough-it is etc. and by the way, those parts always have good intentions)
· Gets me clear about what it is I want
· Gives me a way to play with my creativity and have fun – I know it doesn’t sound fun. Writing is reserved for study, boring reports and emails at work but it can be lots of fun, I promise.
There’s definitely more, but hopefully I’ve grabbed your attention, or at least piqued your interest just a bit?
Do try it, at least just once
Writing helps me with all these things, every day. I want it to help you too. That’s why I do what I do. That would be my wish. For you to, at least once, have a go. If you prefer running, cooking, music, football or whatever your outlet is, then happy days, but I want you to try, just in case.
Don't just take my word for it
I have a podcast where I get every day people talking about what writing does for them. Whatever their background, and whatever their interest in writing, pretty much everyone says that it helps them to work things through and make sense of themselves and the world. Plus there are loads of studies to show that writing really is good for our well-being. So don’t just take my word for it.
Your pen and paper are just waiting for you to bring them together, and open the door to awareness, perspective and insight. You’ll get relief, a sense of freedom and loads more. And writing is there for you 24/7.
So get your pen out and get ready to be released and unburdened!
Try it now
Set yourself a 5 minute timer and commit to keep writing until the buzzer goes off. Write the following and then just keep going wherever your pen takes you:
‘What if I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be…’
Writing alone is a great start, but writing with others is so much more dynamic. The shared experience adds rich layers to the process. That’s why I run loads of workshops and writing sessions, because I know it’s easier and more enjoyable to write with others. To find out more about workshops, courses and more, go to cpsdayoff.com.
Photo by Erik Odin on Unsplash