When we were younger, school and parents provided us with a routine. Now that we’re older, we’re in charge of managing our own time and cultivating our own good habits. Having a routine makes us more efficient, creates structure in our lives, and assists in achieving our goals, among myriad other advantages. Similarly, investing in a writing habit will add to your life in ways you never expected — and you don’t even need a literary agent to reap its benefits.
Let’s take a look at just a few of these advantages.
1. Writing relieves stress
Writing is a good way to get negative thoughts and experiences “off your chest” — to achieve catharsis. According to studies, expressive writing, or writing about feelings and events that affected you emotionally, leads to fewer doctor’s visits and an improved mood.
Expressive writing is also a healthy way to get out of your head. The act of constructing a story about a traumatic event helps you break free of the mental cycling it may be doing. It could also enable you to be less emotionally inhibited. Instead of bottling up anger at your neighbor who had a loud party last night, you can have a good “yell” on paper.
When you feel stressed, daily journaling can help you identify what is causing the problem. Likewise, writing about positive experiences for as little as two minutes per day can improve your mood. Remind yourself of things you are thankful for, or events that lifted your spirits. This will shift your perspective and allow the positive to peek through — even in an otherwise bleak day. And if you really can’t think of something positive to write about, you can always take a quick break from reality with a writing prompt or two.
2. Writing is a way to get to know yourself
In addition to relieving stress, writing in a journal can help you discover aspects of yourself that even you might not be completely familiar with. As the writer Flannery O’Connor said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” Daily journaling assists in processing what has happened during a busy day and lets you reflect on what may be lying under the surface.
Journaling is also a great way to gain insight into your interests and goals and how you feel about them. When you practice the act of free-writing — the act of letting your thoughts freely flow without censoring what lands on the page — you can discover unexpected words or themes arising out of the deepest recesses of your mind. What dreams did you not realize you had? What ambitions have you been afraid of telling someone else about? By consciously writing about them, you’ll get to know yourself a lot better.
3. Writing creates order out of chaos
When things feel out of control and you’ve just added an extra cup of coffee to your midday routine, writing can help you restore some order to your life. We all have a thousand different thoughts fluttering through our heads on any given day, and we certainly don’t remember them all! But whether it’s a grocery list or the meaning of life, writing your thoughts down immediately gives permanence to your most pressing concerns.
If someone were to ask you what’s on your plate today, it would probably be difficult to give them a coherent list. But writing things down solidifies your thoughts so your mind can fully focus on the idea at hand. Once your ideas are down on paper (or screen), you’ve cleared your mind to make space for other important thinking.
4. Writing is an important life skill
Writing is a form of communication, and one that is increasingly crucial in our digital world. Whether you are writing an email to a colleague or texting a friend, chances are that you already communicate through writing every day. But have you ever been at a loss for words during an email exchange, or failed to explain something effectively to a coworker? Honing your writing skills will help you think (and write) on your toes, increasing your overall fluency. And as with any skill, the more you do it, the more proficient you become.
If you’re not sure where to start writing, you could always let your thoughts flow or try a writing prompt, as mentioned above. And once you’ve written something you like, you might even consider publishing it so that other people can enjoy it, too!
Taking to the written word has endless advantages. With a little persistence and consistency, you’ll be enjoying those benefits in your daily life before you can say “my life coach told me to do it.”