I always wrote in a diary growing up. Well, sort of. I would get a diary every year for my birthday, write in it religiously from January to March (always making sure to hide it from my brother), and then promptly discard it once it felt like a chore. Lately I’ve been attempting to sort through my belongings at my parents’ house (an ongoing task) and I’ve found years worth of sparsely filled diaries stashed in the back of my closet out of guilt. I told myself that I should write, and it ultimately didn’t work.
That’s not the kind of writing it down I want to talk about today. The shoulds of writing are akin to the shoulds of going to the gym, flossing, or filling out insurance paperwork (alright, the shoulds of filling out insurance paperwork are a non-negotiable). Still, you get the idea.
Writing because you feel like you should is never a good thing.
Writing because you…
- want something to happen
- need to get something off your chest
- feel like gaining clarity
- want to
… can be transformative.
Writing because you want something to happen…
Every time I try to figure out my next step in life, I write whenever I can. Often, those ideas that I feel the need to write down but don’t know entirely why are in fact what I really needed to notice all along. When I made my most recent (and most dramatic) career shift (if you haven’t read how I changed my story, it’s right here), I actually wrote down on my calendar “Julie’s last day at ----”, several months before I even thought clearly about leaving my job to start The Storyologist. It didn’t make any sense, and I didn’t know why, but I felt like writing it down made it happen.
Writing because you need to get something off your chest…
Do you ever just feel overwhelmed? Writing can help. Admittedly, sometimes I’m not able to write as fast as my thoughts come, but it still helps to get it all out. Looking back on my diaries, I actually noticed that the times I did write were the times when something was wrong. It’s not that much fun to read back, and if you read it like a story it wouldn’t be very uplifting, but it definitely helped to sort out my feelings. Elizabeth Sullivan, a licensed marriage and family therapist in San Francisco, says: “When you use your hands to pen or type something directly from your brain, you are creating a powerful connection between your inner experience and your body’s movement out in the world.”
Writing because you feel like gaining clarity…
Writing can help you move forward with your life. Numerous researchers are looking into this phenomenon. They contend that once you figure out clarity and direction and write it down, you can often more easily achieve your goals. One, Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, a professor at the University of Toronto, created an undergraduate course called “Maps of Meaning” in which he asked students to complete a set of writing exercises combining expressive writing with goal-setting. His students reported life-changing results.
Writing because you want to…
Do you ever just feel like writing for no reason? Those rare times are my very favorite. Sometimes, I sit at my computer and watch in awe as my fingers nimbly type out poetic phrases and deep thoughts. Other times, I curl up on a couch or in my great Aunt Mabel’s rocking chair and furiously scribble in a journal. When those times come about, don’t hesitate to drop everything and write. Trust me, those times can be few and far in between.
Writing doesn’t have to be a chore or a should. It could very well be an integral part of your next step.
In the comments below: I would love to hear how writing something down has impacted you!