Why everyone should have a regular writing habit

I recently wrote my first book. It was by turns an uplifting and a disheartening process. On some days my writing seemed to flow like a mountain torrent, on others I simply wanted to jump off a mountain. Going through all of this, the good, the bad and the ugly, taught me one thing: everyone should write. Really? Do I mean everyone? Yes, I do. Not necessarily a book, but everyone should write something meaningful to them on a regular basis.

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Photo credit: Aaron Burden

Like most people, I’ve been writing since my early school days and I take it for granted. Until a few years ago, it was rare that I wrote for any reason except to achieve a task (send an email at work, text a friend to arrange to meet, fill in a mortgage application). Writing for any reason but to get things done would probably have seemed a luxury, something bohemian and, perhaps, a little elitist. But writing a book encouraged me to do even more ‘non-essential’ (which is to say ‘more meaningful’) writing and even take up a journal. The benefits I’ve gained from this have convinced me that everyone should write. Here’s why.

Writing helps you work out what you believe

Surely we know what we believe? Why do we need to write it down? Just the act of sitting down to write what you believe will answer this question for you. You will probably write a couple of bold statements (as I did) and then re-read them and think of something else which contradicts or substantially changes what you’ve already written down. In a short time you will have written down, crossed out, added and removed dozens of beliefs. They probably all existed inside of you, but just hadn’t been questioned. Writing them down on paper is the only way I’ve found to marshall these thoughts effectively. You may ask why it’s important to know clearly what you believe. How else will you navigate the difficult decisions of life with any kind of clarity if you don’t?
This isn’t simply a once and done activity. You will need to revisit it, because, if you are writing regularly, you will find that your beliefs are being shaped and modified daily.

Writing clarifies complex situations

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Just as writing helps us to work out what we believe, it helps us to simplify the complexity of what is going on in our lives and in our heads. Whenever I feel overwhelmed or down I sit down and write. I write down the things swirling around my brain and the feelings they engender.  The simple act of writing gives me a sense of regaining control over these thoughts and feelings. Once they are on a page in front of me, I can identify the important and the unimportant, dismiss the unimportant and start to address the important. Trying to address these thoughts and feelings in my brain just causes clutter and stress. Writing them down gives me the space to work out what to do about them.

Writing regularly fixes memories in your mind

This is perhaps the best reason to write regularly. My memory of recent events has improved dramatically. Writing down the events and feelings of a day force you to re-live them and in so doing this fixes them into your brain much more securely than relying on simple memory. The most effective revision technique I found at school and university was to re-write my notes. It’s taken me many more years to realise the value of this in life more widely.

Writing regularly improves confidence

Photo credit: Green Chameleon
Photo credit: Green Chameleon

This is not a product of writing alone, but of writing and sharing. Writing something and showing it to other people is scary, no matter how many times you do it. You feel you’re putting yourself on the page to be critiqued. However, the more I do this, the more my confidence generally (and not just with writing) grows. If you are taking up a writing habit, I would recommend you keep your writing to yourself as you start out, but at some point you should start to share it with close family and friends who you know will be supportive. Even showing to these people to begin with will be daunting, but the more you do it, the more your confidence will grow. Another wonderful by-product of sharing my writing has been realising the widespread and genuine support I have among the people I know (even with those people I might not have expected it from).

So, what’s holding you back? Or, if you do write regularly, what are your reasons for doing so? Please do leave a comment below to let me know.

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