I look back at my teenage diaries and cringe. I didn’t recognise that hormones or chemicals were often at the root of difficult feelings. I would write long lists in different coloured pens of ‘reasons not to be sad’ – and feel like a failure when I was sad anyway. I wasn’t using writing to help me. I didn’t realise that I could. It felt like the world was wrong. The world was making me sad. All I was doing was dwelling on it. So I stopped writing.
Writing to Change Your Perspective on the World
It was since I restarted writing that I became more aware of how writing could help change my perspective on the world – which is much of the battle.
There seems to be a division is between writing ‘in the moment’ and writing afterwards. They serve different purposes. This post will look at writing in the moment – often privately.
Writing in the Moment – Letters, Lists and Post-It Notes
For me, writing in the middle of a difficult period (trying to make sense of emotions, feelings or situations I can’t seem to get my head around) is still very private. You might find that privacy allows more freedom; you need not worry what others will think or how they might be influenced.
Writing doesn’t have to represent the truth of you – many people write out their anger in unsent letters or use their writing as a place to explore sadness that can then be set aside as a result. Writing in private means you don’t need to create an accurate picture of your life for others. Writing became more of a process – an action in itself.
- Write letters to people you want to feel closer to, letters to help you work out what you want to say in person – and what you don’t need to.
- Scrapbook. Stick in writing from others to give you a sense of who you are in the world and remind you of those who love you. Include poems or words that speak to you.
- Write in the third person. It takes you outside yourself and gives an interesting external perspective on things.
- Write lists. If you know why you’re doing it, there is a place for lists of positive things in your life. Noting down 5 things a day that made you happy can help you find and focus on those parts of your day that might otherwise go unnoticed.
- Use post-it notes. If you can’t make sense of your thoughts, use post-it notes. Catch the thoughts one by one and write them on post-it notes. Stick them on the page. You might find that as you pull them out of your head and onto the paper they start to make sense again.
- Try free writing. Put pen to paper and, without thought, see what comes out. Externalising thoughts and penning them, even in a jumbled way, can sometimes help you to see more clearly that important thing we so often forget – thoughts are not facts and we too often treat them like they are. On paper it’s easier to see thoughts as just thoughts – and when they’re written down exactly as they come into our heads, easier still.
You might find that journaling helps you manage your wellbeing – and that’s enough. You might find that your entries inspire your creative writing. Or you might choose to share some of your thoughts on your own blog or someone else’s and enjoy the buzz when someone tells you they like it, that it strikes a chord with them or gives them hope. It’s entirely up to you.
I decided that sharing my own experiences and vulnerabilities would help make discussion of mental health and emotional wellbeing more mainstream. Maybe everyone writing together can change the world as well as our perspective on it!