Morning writer Matthew on the therapy of putting pen to paper
The job is to reconcile my ingrained likes and dislikes with the essentially public, non-individual activities that this age forces on all of us. – George Orwell
I write every day because it’s one of the only ways to make sense of what’s going on in my head.
The mind tends to be reflective of what’s going on around us, and the world around us is changing pretty rapidly, possibly at a rate that the mind hasn’t evolved to fully cope with. As such, my mind can be incredibly busy.
Eventually, thoughts start to repeat, over and over again, but I just can’t quite fully formulate them. Repetitive thoughts can be especially demoralising if you’re going through some kind of transition, like the end of a relationship or a career change.
What I’ve sometimes done in the past is try and dismiss these thoughts for being ridiculous or pointless and looked for proven methods of distraction, like mindless scrolling though my phone or watching rubbish TV or YouTube videos. As much as this may work to temporarily sedate the mind, the mind is still working. By consuming more visual sedatives we’re actually giving it more information to process.
Writing works for me as a way to bring my thoughts into the real world, no matter how ridiculous, scary or bizarre. It’s like taking a jumbled echoey mess of ideas and feelings that had been shaken up and tangled by the spinning and fast moving world and then lining them out, word by word on the page.
And then once the words are written, you can visibly see your thoughts and where these ideas have come from. You can also see, perhaps, that they’re not that crazy, and the same repetitive thought could actually be revealed as a dream or idea worth pursuing or investigating. Maybe it’s worth applying for that job, or completing that course, or messaging that attractive man or woman you met.
Writing doesn’t always bring out the truth, sometimes it IS crap. But after writing stuff out, I find that I tend not to think about it any more. I find this hugely useful when I’m feeling low, and my thoughts tend to fill with negativity and self-damnation – PURE crap.
Writing pulls the demons out, lays them out on the page where they will stay, so I can get on with my day. Everyone has their own ways of dealing with suffering, writing works as one of my strongest anti-depressants.
Plus there are the benefits in the action of writing in itself. I think it’s a hugely therapeutic practice. You can use it as an opportunity to practice some mindfulness too; focusing on how the pen feels as it scratches against the page, or if you feel the need to type; the resistance of each key as you push them down into your laptop.
I often realise that the best ideas come out of my writing. Below are some rules and ideas for useful writing that have come to me while writing this article:
1. Write for you
Don’t write for anyone else. In a world of tweets, statuses and where everything we produce has to be marked, assessed or reported, you may surprise yourself by trying to remember the last time you wrote anything out that wasn’t eventually judged by someone else. Write honestly, and for yourself, train yourself to not care what the final outcome is. No one else will read it.
2. Keep what you’ve written – but don’t necessarily re-read it
I have an A4 notepad I keep just for my “morning pages” as I like to call them. Once I have finished one full page of A4, I close the pad, put it away and get on with my day with a clear mind.
3. Write a full page every day – it doesn’t matter what fills the page, as long as it gets filled
Get into the practice of putting your thoughts onto paper. You only need to set aside a few minutes each day to do this, I would recommend the beginning of the day BEFORE looking at your phone – beware the digital sedatives folks. Before you know it, you just might get ‘good’ at writing.
4. Keep a diary as well as your journal
What matters most to me will show itself in my writing. I can then plan easy tasks for the rest of the day, which I know will keep me going in the right direction. Ticking them off keeps me in control of my life. Does this perpetuate my busy lifestyle? Probably, but then I was only going to be busy doing these things I had to do, or become distracted. This way, I am ticking off lists which consist of things I really want to do. Plus when it comes to the times in the day I want to relax, I can relax my mind too (something I once thought impossible).
Over the past few months I’ve practised daily writing and I’ve achieved more of my own personal goals than I had done in the entire previous year. Writing has literally helped me realise my dreams.
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