“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. ”
― Joss Whedon
The past couple of weeks, I haven’t been regular with my blog posts. This got me thinking. Because I’ve done this before – started writing a blog with enthusiasm, slowed down as days went by, and eventually I gave up on it. So perhaps I’m heading the same way again? That thought had me concerned.
The truth is I’ve been working on a story, a book that’s leading me into fascinating and unexplored territories, in my writing and in my life. And it’s taking up a lot of my time. This is probably the first time that I’ve ever mentioned writing a book in public. Except for a few people, no one knew about it. No, it’s not some secret mission. I’m taking it seriously now and it makes sense to tell people about it. As I’m juggling my time between a number of writing projects, I wanted to tackle the slack in my blogging by reminding myself why I began writing in the first place. And it turns out, it all began with worrying … a lot.
I used to worry about my career, about my life, about where I’m going in life. I love jigsaw puzzles. It’s thrilling to figure out how the pieces fit together. But in my life, when I couldn’t find a piece or I didn’t know how the pieces fit together, I would worry. My eyebrows would furrow and I would squint at the pieces with everything I had to find some connection, and I would worry. My imagination, though extremely helpful while writing, would take flight unbound, and I would worry. The result: a muddled mind filled with uncertainty. And I waited almost in a limbo to be sure, for things to be clear. When that didn’t happen, what did I do? I worried.
That’s when I started writing. I don’t know why, but that just seemed like what I needed to do. I wrote and pages filled up. Perhaps my imagination was preoccupied with writing, but clarity that I sought found its way into my life. So I wrote more. My writing improved. Strangely enough, I stopped worrying. I was happiest when I wrote. The words that appeared on the screen were like the magic wand that cleared the clutter in my head – I could finally label things. From a sense of feeling emotionally retarded, I could express what I felt with my writing. I had to write, for my own sanity. Writing became my catharsis and I know it’s going to remain so for the rest of my life.
Writing has brought me so much joy, I wanted to share it by blogging. The more I read why people write, I realised, I was not alone in using writing to face my fears and doubts. That’s how I found the courage to share my writing with the world. I didn’t know if anyone would want to read it. But once you have taken the leap of faith with writing, you want to jump as high and as far as possible.
I read this brilliant article on the benefits of keeping a journal, where writer Susan Sontag says, “Superficial to understand the journal as just a receptacle for one’s private, secret thoughts—like a confidante who is deaf, dumb, and illiterate. In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could do to any person; I create myself. The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent. Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather — in many cases — offers an alternative to it.”
If you are unconvinced by the astute writers in that article, let me tell you, science agrees with them. According to a 2005 study on the emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing, the researchers found that writing regularly can improve your health. The article, Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write, highlights several other studies which have found that writing helps people evaluate their lives and get through traumatic events, thereby reducing stress. In fact, one study suggests that blogging might have the same effect as running or listening to music by releasing dopamine in our body.
So here’s what I’ve learnt – don’t worry, just write. You don’t have to necessarily open your heart to the world. You can share as much as you are comfortable sharing. If you don’t want to share, that’s fine as well. It doesn’t have to be a blog or a book or even a story. It can be a journal, your observations or thoughts, or just a series of events that happened to you. But trust me on this, you want to write. You may or may not find that book in you, but I promise you, you will find yourself. You will be surprised, you might be puzzled. But if you keep at it, you will be amazed by the insights you gain, about your life and the world we live in.
In a world addicted to instant gratification, writing gives you a few precious moments to pause and think, to figure things out for yourself, so you are not blindly swept away by the ever changing trends and what’s “in”.
The beauty of writing is that it forces you to stay in the present, to live in the moment. Try as you might to dwell in the past or project into the future, you have to be here, in this moment, to write your thoughts down. In that moment of solitude, you are free, to see what’s important, to feel what you want to rather than what you think you should. You are free to be who you are, instead of all that you thought you should be. You find connections that you didn’t know existed, the common threads that bind our universe together. When you connect the dots, make sense of things in life that seemed meaningless, that appeared to serve no purpose, it’s a rush you are better off experiencing yourself. A word of advice, that leap of faith I mentioned earlier, you have to want to take it. You must be willing to launch yourself from solid ground into the unknown. When I started writing, I had to let go of many preconceived ideas I had about myself and my life. It was not easy. But it was necessary and it took me a while to see that. So take the leap, open your mind and jump into the unknown. Just … write.
How has writing helped you? Why do you write? Do you want to write but don’t know where to begin? Share your thoughts in the Comments.