The Impact of Writing on Well-Being and Self-Development
Creative writing is known to serve as entertainment. When a piece of fiction is written, it is usually created for others to read, as the writer often hopes the reader will derive something of significance from their work. While sharing work and creating pieces for the public is important, right now, the focus should be on writing for oneself. With the increasing amounts of stress due to COVID–19, and the unexpected turmoil it has produced, everyone should be reaching for a sheet of paper and a pen. Having a journal to document experiences and feelings can help ease current anxieties and strengthen the mind. Writing has proven to provide numerous benefits for mental health, and this is through both journaling and creative fiction. Many well-known celebrities have experienced the benefits of journaling firsthand, and continue to keep steady with their practices. While it seems like it may be a tedious activity, it is easy to become absorbed in the cathartic process and grow fond of the emotional release. From journaling for mindfulness, gratitude, or writing creative fiction, the boundaries are limitless but the impact will be significant.
Journaling for Mindfulness
Journaling does not need to be a redundant or lengthy process. In fact, journaling is something that can be done for just 15 minutes a day. It’s not about how much you write; it’s about adhering to the practice and trying to build a habit of doing it everyday. It should become part of a routine. It can be a morning activity performed after that first cup of coffee, or it can be a calming process at night to end the day on a positive note. Journaling is unique to each individual. A question some people may have: What should I write about? Well, once again, this differs for most. However, the mindfulness approach to writing consists of writing in the present moment and staying connected to what is going on right here, right now. It is essentially a stream of consciousness. There should be no consideration of what sounds good or what would be more politically correct.
A key thing to remember is that only the writer will be the reader. The journal belongs to whomever writes in it, so there should be no worry that anyone will be reading its contents. Write about feelings, struggles, hopes, worries, or fears. By being present in the moment, the writer has a chance to both recognize and process their feelings. Some emotions may be festering subconsciously, but they are unknown until provided the opportunity to sit with the mind and uncover its thoughts. This can be an extremely therapeutic process, as it is the divulging of emotions, thoughts, and feelings that need to rise to the surface. In some ways, it can be more beneficial than confiding in a person, as there is no need to refine or hold back any thoughts or opinions. The most important part of journaling for mindfulness is honesty. The only way to see prominent improvement is to be honest with oneself and acknowledge all feelings, good or bad. Set aside time once a day to be true to the mind and its emotions, and the ways in which it can alleviate anxieties and release stress will be both noticeable and beneficial.
A Gratitude Journal
Gratitude journaling is another great exercise that doesn’t even need to be performed daily. With this type of journal, it is perfectly alright to make entries twice or three times a week, as long as there is a weekly effort. Many people choose to dedicate a whole journal to expressing their gratitude, allowing for them to appreciate and give thanks for their blessings. Sometimes, people encounter challenging hardships, and it simply feels like everything is falling apart. It is a hopeless, painful feeling, but gratitude journaling should serve to remind people that there is still always something to be thankful for. In these unprecedented times, dealing with the virus and its emotional and physical impact, it is important to be mindful of the fact that there are still things to appreciate. Gratitude journaling doesn’t need to be a page-long list; maybe one day it’s just about being thankful for that nice, steaming cup of tea. Once again, there are no rules or restrictions. Everyone expresses gratitude and appreciation in a unique way. The gratitude list doesn’t even need to be a list. Perhaps taking photos of things that evoke gratitude and pasting them in a notebook is how someone chooses to express their thanks: anything goes.
It’s also okay to be thankful for something that had a negative outcome. Maybe there has been a personal negative situation that ended poorly, but the result was a positive one. Positive lessons can be derived from negative situations, and the resulting wisdom can be something which evokes gratitude. Feel free to be detailed about the source of appreciation. In this case, it’s definitely about quality over quantity. Elaborate on each item and be specific about why it evoked gratitude. The only way a gratitude journal will work is if there is an active decision to be thankful and acknowledge each blessing. Expressing gratitude becomes part of a lifestyle, and it is something each person must want before they can have it. Taking up a gratitude journal means there is a decision to be happy, and that’s a great first step.
Fiction as an Outlet
Currently, everyone is desperately waiting to return to the real world. The monotony of quarantine can often be upsetting, but if citizens can’t experience eventful extravaganzas, their characters can. This is not to say that a writer needs to live vicariously through their characters, but it is certainly alright to indulge characters in events that people can’t experience at this time. If it’s amusement parks that someone misses, they could write in detail about them, as if they were there. Describe the feeling of being on a rollercoaster, the smell of hot pretzels, the taste of pop on a scorching day. With both journaling and creative fiction, it is important to not shy away from detail. By immersing a character in a world that is missed, pieces of it can be kept alive through writing, until quarantine ends and the experiences are possible. Recounting detailed events as if they were lived can help fill the voids of all that is missed.
The Benefits of Creative Fiction
Fiction-writing has numerous benefits that can positively impact day-to-day life. Creative fiction can help build better self-image, as writing allows oneself to develop opinionated ideas and unique perspectives. Through creating stories, confidence can be built, due to the empowering freedom that comes with being in such control. The writer has control over the setting, their characters, and the plot, which can promote firmness in decision-making. It can even strengthen communication skills. As a person writes, they start to understand how they wish to phrase things and what exactly they mean to say. This helps to structure thoughts, opinions, and arguments, all of which are advantageous in the real world. Many times, a piece of fiction is written, and the writer subconsciously draws from personal experiences. As they write, they may not realize it, but they tend to incorporate aspects of real-life people and situations. This can serve as a form of catharsis, due to the fact that certain events and people can be addressed without actual confrontation. Thoughts, feelings, and emotions can be recognized, and opinions and outlooks can be expressed. Creative fiction is a form of self-expression, because the writer has the ability to do things they might not get to do in reality; writing about them can be a good alternative.
A General Journal
While different forms of journaling and writing have been suggested, this doesn’t mean that journals need to be exclusive to specific categories. If a separate journal for each is desired, that is perfectly normal. However, it’s also great to have a journal that can be used for anything: a general journal. Mindfulness journaling is great because it is about staying in the present moment and gratitude journaling serves as a reminder of blessings and invites positive, thankful energy. These are great things to welcome into journaling practices, but it is also good to have a fun space for writing. Perhaps instead of journaling, one wishes to write poetry. Creating sketches for an entry, scribbling song lyrics, writing personal stories, or whipping up fanfiction are all healthy forms of self-expression. Writing does not need to be specific to a category. The most important part is the writing itself. There shouldn’t be any pressure or restrictions; create what feels natural.
More Incentive to Get Started
If the benefits surrounding writing aren’t convincing enough, perhaps the celebrities who have found therapy and healing through journaling will be of persuasion. These stars that many people idolize include Jennifer Aniston, Lady Gaga, Emma Watson, Jessica Simpson, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Aniston uses her journal to dissect various relationships and aspects of work. Using a journal is her way of dealing with relationship issues, without having to engage in verbal disagreements. Lady Gaga likes to document everything in her journals as she tours the world. Her journal contains her thoughts and feelings, and it even includes sketches, photographs, and letters. Emma Watson has kept diaries and journals for many years, an indication that she has been privy to their advantages.
Jessica Simpson finds journaling to be extremely therapeutic, as her journals include themes of heartbreak and perseverance. She draws from her journal excerpts, using them as inspiration for her albums. Jessica’s journal is a great example, as it shows the many ways in which a journal can be used, such as for work or other creative projects. Finally, Joseph Gordon-Levitt keeps a journal and admits that he goes through phases where he uses it more and phases where he uses it less. Sometimes, day-to-day life can interrupt the process of journaling, and that’s okay. It’s just important to return to the practice. Joseph Gordon-Levitt especially enjoys journaling when he needs to work through something that has been of distress. Journals can be personalized to accommodate to everyone’s needs, and it is important to begin the process, in order to discover the ways in which it can be of personal advantage.
“I don’t know what it is. I’ve always kept and collected things, and I’ve always been interested in the idea of diaries. I must have 10 different personal diaries: I keep a dream diary, I keep a yoga diary, I keep diaries on people that I’ve met and things that they’ve said to me, advice that they’ve given me. I keep an acting journal. I keep collage books.“
— Emma Watson
Overall, journaling has proven to positively impact lives, whether that be through improving the mental state, serving as a form of catharsis, or providing a place to vent, be thankful, or sift through emotions. Fiction is just as advantageous, as it has a host of benefits, some of which are enhancing personal opinions, developing stronger perspectives, and creating a place where experiences can be created or relived. The advantages are unique to each individual, so it’s time to get started and explore the ways in which they can be of help. Journals are a safe-haven, because writers can be authentic to themselves, their beliefs, emotions, and perspectives. Writing is an outlet and a way to enhance the mind, so take advantage of this opportunity to improve upon lifestyles. Everyone can journal and write, as long as they have the will to change their lives.
- Author, Guest. “How Writing Can Improve Your Mental Health.” RTOR.ORG, 12 June 2019, https://www.rtor.org/2019/06/12/how-writing-can-improve-your-mental-health/.
- Studio, Minte. “5 Celebrities Who Keep a Journal.” Medium, 23 July 2018, https://medium.com/@mintestudio/5-celebrities-who-keep-a-journal-a6888bc2a42b.
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