- The Benefits of Writing in Daily Life
- 1. Writing Helps Your Clear Your Mind
- 5. Improve Your Verbal and Written Skills
- 10 Benefits That Writing Gives You
- 10 Ways Writing Helps You Heal
- 5 Unconventional Ways to Become a Better Writer (Hint: It’s About Being a Better Reader)
- 4. Walk away and take notes
- 5. Fight back
- How Writing Makes You Happier, Smarter, and More Persuasive
- Writing makes you happier
- Writing can lead to better thinking + communicating
- Is writing an outlet for handling hard times?
- Writing can keep you sharp with age
- Writing may lead to increased gratitude
- Writing closes out your “mental tabs”
- Writing leads to better learning
- Writing is leadership at scale
- What will you write today?
The Benefits of Writing in Daily Life
This is a guest post for Skills You Need.
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See also: Writing Effective Emails
Although it may appear at first that the people who have the most to benefit from writing are writers, managers, businessmen, journalists, or keynote speakers, that cannot be further from the truth.
Each and every one of us can take away something from developing and honing our writing skills, even if it’s just a simple practice of keeping a journal.
As human beings are social animals, we need to communicate with each other on a daily basis.
Although the majority of that interaction is carried out verbally or non-verbally, a great deal of communication requires us to write. The most obvious example of this is posts or messages on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. This also includes text messages we send each using our smartphones, or through platforms like Skype, Viber, and WhatsApp.
Of course, emails still have their place and some even still hold on to the lost art of writing letters. These are all instances where we are required to write, but what about benefits of writing just for the sake of writing? How can we make use of that?
The following list contains eight reasons why good writing skills can improve your life, and make you a well-rounded, happier individual.
1. Writing Helps Your Clear Your Mind
We’ve all sometimes felt the need to vent and speak our minds in order to get our point across.
Well, writing can help you do that.
Try and write down all of your thoughts, grievances, doubts, fantasies, and pretty much everything else that crosses your mind. Just write, without thinking about what lands on paper or your computer screen. It may seem like the end result is something pretty chaotic, but that’s not the point.
The point is for you to clear your mind, so that you can go about your day, working, solving problems, and just enjoying life. Without all those thoughts in the back of your head distracting you, you will find it easier to work and focus, no matter what your profession is.
2. Writing Will Help You Recover Memories
You will be surprised at how writing is able to bring back old and almost forgotten memories.
Start writing down those which you do remember. Before you know it, a certain word or a phrase you’ve put down on paper will trigger some other memory you would never have thought of otherwise. Some of those memories won’t be pleasant, but you will be able to look at them from a distance and put them perspective, and ponder how much you have learned from those experiences.
On the other hand, happy memories will put a smile on your face, and you will remember events and people you care about, driving you to get in touch with them again.
3. You Will Be Able to Stockpile Ideas
It is a good rule of thumb to always write down ideas that pop up out of nowhere because you will be less likely to forget about them that way.
You can try and keep them inside your head but, seeing as we live in a digital age, we process an insane amount of information. We are bound to forget most of them, and that includes some great and precious ideas.
However, when you write them down, you will not only save them from being forgotten, but it will be easier for you to develop them and connect them with one another. You can even come up with new ones through brainstorming.
4. Put Your Life Events into Perspective
One of the most basic examples of this is keeping a journal, but it’s not the only way of putting things into perspective.
Writing fiction will also help you analyze things and look at them from a different point of view. You will be able to draw parallels between those fictional events and situations, and those which took place for real in your life. This will help you look at them in a more objective light.
Another effective way of doing this is to start a blog. This will make you think long and hard before you write anything down since your work will read by an audience.
5. Improve Your Verbal and Written Skills
When you are writing something down, you become more careful in choosing the right words. This means your writing will be more eloquent, concise, and elegant than your actual speech.
But, if you keep at it long enough, plenty of those beautifully put together words, phrases, and sentences will begin to find their way in into your verbal communication skills. You will start to use an expanded vocabulary, which will leave a better impression of you on the person you are communicating with. Both your personal and professional lives stand to benefit from this.
6. You Will Feel like You Have Accomplished Something
You know that pleasant sense of accomplishment after building or fixing something, or winning a simple game?
You will also get that feeling once you finish writing a short story, your daily blog post, or your latest journal entry. Those who are more ambitious can take on writing a novel, or a book, which is even more satisfying and brings a greater sense of accomplishment. But, for the time being, stick to shorter forms and, who knows, you might even be able to publish some of your work down the line, or earn some money on the side thanks to your writing skills.
7. It’s a Great Mental Exercise
Keeping in shape doesn’t just apply to exercising your body regularly. You can do the same for you mind as well. Writing activates a number of different cognitive processes, and unleashes your creativity.
All of this will keep your brain sharp and active, and it can even act as a preventative measure against some mental illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways in which you can benefit from writing on a regular basis, even if you are not a professional writer. All of these tips will lead you to become a more accomplished, eloquent, and satisfied person.
Great writing skills go a long way toward establishing you as a more complete person too. You will be able to improve your social life, and become a better professional.
Start writing today and reap the benefits.
About the Author
After a few years being a freelance teacher, Laura decided to become a freelance writer and editor instead.
She has worked many happy years as a writer, where she helps to edit the work of some of their most diligent and professional writers.
She one day hopes to own a ranch in Texas and has already started saving for the deposit. You can contact Laura via Twitter @LauraJonson13.
How Writing Can Make You a Better Person
10 Benefits That Writing Gives You
Jason Fried says in his book Rework that in Basecamp, company in which he is co-founder and CEO, one of the abilities that they are interested in when hiring people is their writing ability, no matter if they are sales people, programmers, or designers. The reason is simple: Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Good writers know how to communicate, they make things easy to understand and they know when to leave out the unnecessary.
Does this mean that you have to attend literature and grammar classes to be more effective when carrying out your tasks? No, you already have all the necessary knowledge. You learn how to write by writing. If you get used to express this way your ideas, feelings, goals, etc., you will achieve important benefits:
- You will communicate with clarity. Unlike talking, when you write you look for more sophisticated words and expressions to describe what you have in mind. This helps you build a structure that will allow you to express yourself better and communicate complex ideas in a much more effective way.
- You will eliminate stress. In the same way as in GTD you empty your mind—by capturing everything that comes to it—in order to eliminate the stress that causes having many things hitting your head, writing and developing your ideas produces an amplified effect since not only you take them out of your mind but also the whole process of rationalization that otherwise would abstractly stay in there.
- You will be more productive. Writing activates the neurons in your brain and gets it ready to overcome the rest of the tasks (you can use it as a kind of warm-up at the beginning of the day). In addition, writing down your tasks with the appropriate words prepares you to carry them out properly. Finally, it’s demonstrated that setting your goals in writing increases significantly the possibilities of achieving them.
- You will learn more. Writing in your own words the information that you receive helps you assimilating and consolidating knowledge that otherwise you would forget soon.
- You will gain awareness of your reality. If you write down what you have in mind each day, what you expect to achieve and how you feel according to this, you won’t need a psychologist to explain you who you are. You will realize yourself.
- You will make better decisions. When writing you clear up your thoughts and, obviously, a clearer thinking allows you to make better choices.
- You will be happier. It’s an immediate consequence of the two previous points. There is no need to write a public blog, a sort of personal journal is perfectly valid.
- You will live more focused. If you constantly write about your thoughts you will never get out of sight what you want to achieve, which your dreams are.
- You will overcome tough moments faster. There is some research that suggests that those that write about what is happening overcome tough moments quicker than those who don’t.
- You will have a lot of written memories. If you write each day, you will have a historical record of your thoughts, probably something much more interesting than a simple photo album. And, who knows, maybe you end up publishing a book 😉
So write a lot and write every day.
Writing can be a relaxing and calming pastime. When I think about writing, the images that pop into my head are of someone sitting in a field notepad in hand or ensconced in a cozy office with a hardwood desk and stacks of books all around.
Writing should not be thought of as an activity only for those who write for a living or have time to enjoy such luxuries; it can be enjoyed by everyone. Some of the benefits of writing include expansion of your perspective, a greater appreciation of the joys of life, and increased mindfulness and self-awareness. All good!
If you aren’t sure how to get started so you can enjoy the benefits of writing, here are some tips and tools that may help.
Keeping a journal
The most common way to get into writing and to practice getting your thoughts down is to keep a journal. This is similar to a diary, but you’re not just writing about what happened in your day, you are writing about anything and everything that you want.
You can start by writing once a week, or even once an hour; it’s completely up to you. Whether you are writing about your day, putting down goals you want to achieve, or just elaborating on a random thought that pops into your head, keeping a journal allows you to easily log and manage your thoughts.
There are a number of books that describe the personal benefits of journaling, including Joyce Chapman’s Journaling for Joy and the Joy of Journaling by Bonita Wasniewski.
Set goals and targets
Putting goals and aspirations in writing makes them more concrete and can help you reach them. Instead of just thinking, “Okay. Today, I’m going to eat healthily and do lots of exercises,” thoughts that can quickly be forgotten if it’s simply floating around your mind, write it down.
Periodically read your goals back to yourself as a way to motivate and inspire yourself in everyday life. It doesn’t matter how big or small each goal is, whether you’re going to eat a better breakfast, get up earlier, or try and aim for a new career, write it down and aim for it.
Progressing your career
Of course, writing is a huge part of any business, and writing on your own time will help improve your writing skills over time. This can directly affect your performance at work in a positive way. You’ll be able to communicate better with people in the workplace, as well as with customers, which will make you more effective with the people you interact with.
“Writing in the form of a journal or diary can help you plan what you’re doing in your career, helping you to progress further than you thought was possible,” says Nick Smith, a writer from Elite Assignment Help.
Improve your listening skills
Of course, it’s entirely possible to write simply about what you know and what you’re thinking, but this isn’t real life. In your life, you’ll always be talking to other people and listening to what they say, as well as their point of views.
By purposefully writing to become mindful, you will find that you start to listen more to conversations and give people your full attention, helping you become more present throughout your day-to-day life.
Use online tools
It can take years to master the art of writing, and it can get quite frustrating when you’re not as good as you want to be. Here are some tools that can help you get better and better.
- Grammarix or Grammerly – online grammar checkers
- Academadvisor – online writing service where you can connect with other writers who can share experiences and advice.
- Revieweal – online writing community that can help you improve your grammar skills.
- State of Writing – online blog with a ton of resources on everything related to writing
- AustralianHelp – online writing community full of professional writers who can help you write, as well as writing guides you can follow. This community is recommended by Best Australian Writers.
- My Writing Way – online blog with an extensive list of posts and articles on writing for mindfulness.
- Paper Fellows – writing service that can help you proofread and edit your work while improving your skills. The Huffington Post covered these services in their “Write My Essay“ feature.
- Via Writing – online blog with information that can better your overall writing skills.
Explore the world
To write properly, captivatingly, and for mindfulness purposes, you’re going to need a bit of an understanding of the world. The more you write, the more you’ll begin to explore new concepts and new ideas, feeding your curiosity on the world.
The more you explore the ideas in your head, the more you’ll want to get out into the world and explore everything, continuously adding your brain, mind, and memories, all the beautiful things that you want to see.
Helping you to come up with new ideas
Have you ever been stuck trying to figure something out, whether it’s a new book that you want to read, a new project that you want to involve yourself in, or even just a creative thought that you want to try out? Whatever is it, thinking about it over and over again in your head is typically one of the worse ways to approach it.
Instead, why not use writing, either on a plain bit of paper or even in your journal, to write down your ideas and to plan for it. This action will help you to organize your thoughts and can even help you to progress your thinking pattern so you can knuckle down and brainstorm effectively.
Increase your ability to understand
We all know someone who is completely closed off to new ideas and concepts and can’t accept them unless it’s something they already know. The more receptive you become to new ideas and the more you explore, hand in hand with the point above, the more you’ll be able to find out what you truly believe in and want out of life.
10 Ways Writing Helps You Heal
Starting in elementary school, you’ve heard that writing your notes on paper can help you remember them-a fact that, while noteworthy, probably hasn’t stopped you from typing your to-do list, business correspondence, and personal messages, right? But scientists and career experts alike continue to prove the benefits of writing go far beyond the classroom. From making you happier to healing you physically, here are 10 amazing reasons why the pen is in fact mightier than the keyboard.
It Can Function as Therapy
A groundbreaking 2005 study showed that victims of trauma who wrote expressively about stressful events for 15 to 20 minutes three to five times over the course of a four-month period had an improvement in both physical and psychological health. Since then, many other studies have also demonstrated the mental health benefits of emotionally expressive writing with arthritis and chronic pain patients, medical students, maximum security prisoners, crime victims, and women after childbirth.
It Can Help Your Career
“Keeping a journal is a great way to help you work through issues, analyze where you’re at in your job, and grow in your career,” according to career experts at The Muse. Use it to jot down ideas, note what professional skills you can improve, keep track of good advice from mentors, and think about opportunities for growth.
RELATED: The One Simple Trick That Can Make You Seem Smarter
It Can Heal Wounds
In 2013, New Zealand researchers monitored the recovery of biopsy wounds on 49 healthy adults who wrote about their thoughts and feelings for just 20 minutes, three days in a row, two weeks before the biopsy. Eleven days later, 76 percent of the writing group had fully healed, while 58 percent of the control group had not. The study authors concluded that writing about distressing events helped participants make sense of the events and reduce distress.
It Can Help You Remember Things
Research shows that the most effective way to study and retain new information is to write your notes by hand. A 2010 study from Indiana University found that neural activity in the brains of children receiving letter-learning instruction was far more enhanced and “adult-like” when the kids practiced printing the letters by hand than in those who simply looked at them. Another study from 2008 asked adults to distinguish between new characters and a mirror image of them. The adults had much longer-lasting recognition of the characters’ proper orientation when using pen-and-paper writing compared to using a computer keyboard.
It May Help You Write a Book
Many famous authors like Truman Capote and Vladimir Nabokov have professed to prefer writing by hand than by typing, but the evidence that paper-and-pen is more beneficial for writing a book isn’t only anecdotal. A 2009 study from the University of Washington found that elementary school students who wrote essays with a pen not only wrote more than their keyboard-tapping peers, but they also wrote faster and in more complete sentences.
It Can Keep Your Mind Sharp
As a Duke University neuroscientist told the Wall Street Journal, “As more people lose writing skills and migrate to the computer, retraining people in handwriting skills could be a useful cognitive exercise.” He adds that monitoring your handwriting can help diagnose memory issues if your it noticeably worsens.
It Will Help You Stand Out as a Job Candidate
After you interview for a job, sending an immediate email follow up is a smart idea, but it can often get buried in a busy person’s inbox. “In this day and age, when sadly we’re getting fewer and fewer letters in the mail, a handwritten thank you note, well-crafted on good stationery, will make a candidate stand out from others who chose not to take that extra, personal step,” writes Jessica Kleiman, co-author of Be Your Own Best Publicist: How to Use PR Techniques to Get Noticed, Hired and Rewarded at Work, on Forbes.com.
RELATED: 8 Email Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making
It Can Cultivate Creativity
Even if you don’t think of yourself as a creative person, you may be surprised at what comes out when you put pen to paper. Whether you keep a notebook with you at all times or journal before you go to sleep, simply jotting down notes can help spark you creativity, Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, writes on her blog. Rubin uses a process called “idea mapping,” which involves writing down ideas in a way that helps you see new relationships and possibilities. “I begin with a symbol or word in the center, and then map out my associations with that word-using single words and colored pens to keep the ideas vivid and clear. By mapping out my ideas, I get a new kind of insight into my own thoughts,” she explains.
It Can Make You Happier
A 2011 study from Southern Methodist University asked undergraduates to write about one of four topics 20 minutes a day for four days. The researchers found that writing about life goals was associated with a significant increase in subjective wellbeing, as well as decreased illness when compared to the control group. Similarly, research has found that keeping a gratitude journal can increase happiness and health by making the good things in life more salient.
It Keeps You Organized
Many experts agree that paper to-do list is more efficient than an electronic version. As Jenny Englert, a senior cognitive engineer at Xerox, tells Fast Company, “Paper provides a visual cue that persists spatially (it doesn’t disappear behind a computer screen).” It is also easier to edit wherever you are, and it’s harder, psychologically and physically, to let an item grow stale on a handwritten to-do list, especially if you’re crossing off other items around it, she adds.
- By Locke Hughes
5 Unconventional Ways to Become a Better Writer (Hint: It’s About Being a Better Reader)
There was a time in my life when I read voraciously, and then again times when work did not permit me to take a single book in my hand, apart from professional literature. That was a shame. Here in recent months I have been reading a lot, even books which probably would not interest me outside, but it is a big and important task to read everything valuable, or at least much that is.
Ask your friends or bookstore staff for recommendations if you’re not sure where to start. You could also try different formats if you’re looking for something new, like long form articles, audiobooks or poetry.
Nicholas Sparks writes that all writers should read, and shows how useful his varied reading habits have been:
Second, you must read, and read a lot. Did I say A LOT? I read over a hundred books a year and have done so since I was fifteen years old, and every book I’ve read has taught me something. I’ve learned that some authors are incredible at building suspense (see The Firm by John Grisham), I’ve read others that scare the jeepers out of me (see The Shining by Stephen King). Some authors can weave an incredible number of story lines into a single, coherent novel, with all parts coming together at the end that makes it impossible to stop turning the pages (see The Sum of all Fears by Tom Clancy), while other authors make me laugh out loud (seeBloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore). I’ve also learned that many, many authors fail when attempting to do these things. By reading a lot of novels in a variety of genres, and asking questions, it’s possible to learn how things are done—the mechanics of writing, so to speak—and which genres and authors excel in various areas.
Surprisingly, this includes re-reading books you’ve already read. I wouldn’t have expected this to be a productive use of my time, but Vladimir Nabokov’s Lectures on Literature explains why this is so important:
Curiously enough, one cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader. And I shall tell you why. When we read a book for the first time the very process of laboriously moving our eyes from left to right, line after line, page after page, this complicated physical work upon the book, the very process of learning in terms of space and time what the book is about, this stands between us and artistic appreciation.
4. Walk away and take notes
I came across this post by Shane Parrish recently that explains a trick to getting more out of the books you read. Essentially, it’s a matter of taking regular breaks to make notes on what you’ve read:
While on the flight to Omaha, he was reading. He took notes on the material itself, and every time he completed a chapter he pulled out a sheet of white paper and wrote a single page summary on what he had just read. He places the paper in another folder. This is how he gets his learning deeper and this also enables him to refer to summaries in the future.
This helps you to test your comprehension and give your brain a chance to assimilate the information before you continue reading. The post goes on to quote Daniel Coyle’s advice for retaining the information we read:
Research shows that people who follow strategy B remember 50 percent more material over the long term than people who follow strategy A .
Mary Gordon wrote about how copying sections from books and taking notes on what she’s read helps inspire her own words:
Before I take pen to paper, I read. I can’t begin my day reading fiction; I need the more intimate tone of letters and journals. From these journals and letters — the horse’s mouth — I copy something that has taken my fancy, some exemplum or casual observation I take as advice. These usually go into the Swedish journal, except for the occasional sentence that shimmers on its own, and then it goes into the handmade Vermonter.
I move to Proust; three pages read in English, the same three in French. In my Proust notebook I write down whatever it is I’ve made of those dense and demanding sentences. Then I turn to my journal, where I feel free to write whatever narcissistic nonsense comes into my head.
5. Fight back
Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style. – Kurt Vonnegut
There’s a reason social networks like Goodreads and GetGlue exist. We love to share our recreational activities. We love to have an opinion on everything, including what we read.
This is a great thing.
If what you read makes you angry, or sad, or frustrated, or whatever—use that. Finding something you care about is worth cherishing. If you want to rant against the author’s premise or post a rebuttal to their argument, go for it. This will make your brain work really hard, as you analyze their ideas and form your own in response.
It can even take place as marginalia—the notes and marks we make in the margins of our books. This helps us to not only remember the author’s original point better, but to form our own clear thoughts about what we’ve read, as pointed out in How to Read a Book:
Why is marking a book indispensable to reading it? First, it keeps you awake — not merely conscious, but wide awake. Second, reading, if it is active, is thinking, and thinking tends to express itself in words, spoken or written. The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks. Third, writing your reactions down helps you to remember the thoughts of the author.
This is an important step to take if you want to move from being in motion to taking action—putting pen to paper is the first step!
Whether you want to write a review or summary of what you’ve read, share some lessons you learned or simply explore some of the ideas it brought up for you, this can be a highly beneficial exercise. After all, storytelling has a profound impact on our brains. Bringing your reading and writing together might help you to notice how they relate more, as well. For instance, recognizing clever word usage in what you read or picking up style tips to use in your own work.
As H.P. Lovecraft wrote in his essay Literary Composition, merely learning rules for writing is not enough. We must all become better readers, as well:
No aspiring author should content himself with a mere acquisition of technical rules. … All attempts at gaining literary polish must begin with judicious reading, and the learner must never cease to hold this phase uppermost. In many cases, the usage of good authors will be found a more effective guide than any amount of precept. A page of Addison or of Irving will teach more of style than a whole manual of rules, whilst a story of Poe’s will impress upon the mind a more vivid notion of powerful and correct description and narration than will ten dry chapters of a bulky textbook.
And as Paul Graham said, “writing doesn’t just communicate ideas; it generates them.” So get reading, get writing, and watch the ideas start flowing! And especially if you’re writing online, you can become very scientific about how to share on Twitter, Facebook and finding titles for your blog to make your writing and reading life even easier.
If you need some help finding great work to read, this Medium post is a good place to start.
Image credits: Public Places, Dennis’ Photography, Auzigog
Originally written Jul 9, 2013. Last updated Mar 18, 2016
How Writing Makes You Happier, Smarter, and More Persuasive
When you attempt to envision a “writer,” I’d posit many of you see a quirky recluse, hunched over a desk in some cabin, crumpled paper strewn about as they obsessively work on the next great American novel.
To me, writing is so much more than that. Writing is thought put to page, which makes all of us writers — even if we don’t have the chops to spin beautiful prose.
Personal and non-fiction writing is a fascinating topic because I get the sense that many successful people are secretly regular writers:
- Warren Buffet has described writing as a key way of refining his thoughts (and that is a man who reads and thinks a whole lot).
- Richard Branson once said “my most essential possession is a standard-sized school notebook,” which he uses for regular writing.
- Bill Gates has described writing as a way to sit down and re-evaluate his thoughts during the day.
There are obviously many more examples, some of which are beautifully highlighted in the book Daily Rituals.
In these cases, writing has just become another tool for thinking, expression, and encouraging creativity; cabin dwelling novelists be damned.
So, should people who don’t consider themselves writers bother with trying to make writing a regular habit?
Writing can be an incredibly useful outlet for many people, but let’s look at some of the research on how writing can affect the mind, and you can make the decision for yourself.
Writing makes you happier
It seems much of the literature on the benefits of writing deals with “expressive writing,” or putting what you think and feel to paper (or, let’s be honest, to the keyboard).
For instance, one form of expressive writing might be thinking about and writing out your goals in life—an activity that research has shown is beneficial for motivation.
Even blogging “undoubtedly affords similar benefits” to private expressive writing in terms of the therapeutic value.
Expressive writing has also been linked to improved mood, well-being, and reduced stress levels for those who engage in it regularly. As Adam Grant explains:
Research by Laura King shows that writing about achieving future goals and dreams can make people happier and healthier. Similarly, there’s plenty of evidence that keeping a gratitude journal can increase happiness and health by making the good things in life more salient.
And Jane Dutton and I found that when people doing stressful fundraising jobs kept a journal for a few days about how their work made a difference, they increased their hourly effort by 29% over the next two weeks.
Perhaps people shun expressive writing because they don’t fully understand what it means. It doesn’t necessarily require spilling your guts in essays starting with “Dear Diary.”
Writing can lead to better thinking + communicating
Laziness with words creates difficulty in describing feelings, sharing experiences, and communicating with others — especially true when it comes to persuasive messages.
Constantly having that “tip of the tongue” feeling, or being able to flesh out thoughts in your mind only to have them come stumbling out when you speak is very frustrating. It paints an unfair picture of you, and regular writing can keep this from happening.
In both emotional intelligence and in hard sciences like mathematics, “Writing can help the brain to develop the logical functions required for successful math and science learning.”
Writing also helps eliminate “it sounded good in my head” syndrome. It forces ideas to be laid out bare for the thinker to see, where it is much less likely that they will be jumbled up like they are in your head (hey, it’s crowded up there!).
Is writing an outlet for handling hard times?
The connection with expressive writing and traumatic events is quite complex.
On one hand, I’ve seen a study or two that shows especially stoic people tend not to receive many benefits when they write about their troubling times.
On the other hand, there are some pretty amazing studies that conclusively show writing about trauma is a powerful way to come to terms with what happened, and to accept the outcome.
In one study that followed recently fired engineers, the researchers found that those engineers who consistently engaged with expressive writing were able to find another job faster.
The engineers who wrote down their thoughts and feelings about losing their jobs reported feeling less anger and hostility toward their former employer. They also reported drinking less. Eight months later, less than 19% of the engineers in the control groups were reemployed full-time, compared with more than 52% of the engineers in the expressive writing group.
In an older study, writing about traumatic events actually made the participants more depressed… until about ~6 months later, when the emotional benefits started to stick.
One participant noted: “Although I have not talked with anyone about what I wrote, I was finally able to deal with it, work through the pain instead of trying to block it out. Now it doesn’t hurt to think about it.”
It seems that timing is critical for expressive writing to have an impact. “Forcing” the process to happen may only worsen things, but if it is an activity that is engaged in naturally, the benefits seem to be clear for many traumas.
Writing can keep you sharp with age
Writing is a thinking exercise, and like physical exercise, it can help keep you “in shape” as you age.
While the only research that I’ve seen discussed mentions hand written ideas as a good cognitive exercise, I don’t think the leap to typing is all that far.
Just like how friendships help keep you happy and healthy through their ties to social interaction and dialogue, writing seems like the private equivalent — it keeps you thinking regularly and helps keeps the mental rust from forming.
Writing may lead to increased gratitude
Counting your blessings is an activity that is proven to enhance one’s outlook on life.
As the authors noted in this study, subjects who reflected on the good things in their life once a week (by writing them down) were more positive and motivated about their current situation and their future.
The thing was, when they wrote about them every day, the benefits were minimal.
This makes sense. Too much of any activity, especially something like reflecting on one’s blessings, can feel disingenuous and just plain boring if it is done too often.
In spite of this, it is interesting to me that writing about the good things in your life has such an impact. Perhaps because it forces you to really look at why those things make you happy.
Writing closes out your “mental tabs”
Have you ever had too many Internet tabs open at once? It is a madhouse of distraction.
Sometimes I feel like my brain has too many tabs open at once. This is often the result of trying to mentally juggle too many thoughts at the same time.
Writing allows abstract information to cross over into the tangible world. It frees up mental bandwidth, and will stop your Google Chrome brain from crashing due to tab overload.
Although I’ve heard it argued that the information age might be making memories worse, I’m inclined to cite the quote about Hemingway from that very same article:
Hemingway’s words came from experience. When his wife lost a suitcase that contained all existing copies of his short stories, the work was, to his mind, gone for good. He had written himself out the first time around. He couldn’t recapture it–whatever it was–again.
Getting important ideas down alleviates the stress caused by anticipating this dreadful outcome. I’ve personally never felt inclined to not work on something just because I “archived” the idea with some notes or an outline—in fact, I’m more likely to work on it since it has already been started!
Remember these wise words from Mitch Hedberg:
I sit at my hotel at night, I think of something that’s funny, then I go get a pen and I write it down. Or if the pen’s too far away, I have to convince myself that what I thought of ain’t funny.
Don’t let that happen to you.
Writing leads to better learning
Information often better stays with us when learn as though we need to teach.
This concept of having a “writer’s ear” never fully clicked with me until I started writing regularly.
There’s a certain discipline required to create interesting written work that demands the individual be receptive and focused on finding new sources of information, inspiration, and insight. I’ve read books, listened to podcasts/radio, and watched videos I may have normally put off in order to learn something interesting that I might write about later.
Simply being a curator of good ideas encourages deeper thinking, research, and “heading down the rabbit hole” in order to find unique takes on topics that matter to you.
Committing to creating a volume of work also allows you to tackle big ideas more effectively.
From humble beginnings, writing around a certain topic for some time will allow you to build off of older thoughts, utilizing what you’ve already written down to develop ideas on a grander scale (I’m sure many writers have had a paragraph lead to an essay, which lead to a series of articles, which lead to a book).
Writing is leadership at scale
Despite the fact that the world is now being suffocated by ‘new media,’ there are obviously a lot of interesting opportunities that an “anyone can publish” world brings about.
The ability to leave an impact at scale through your words alone is a pretty amazing concept.
The emails I’ve personally received, both for my personal work and my writing at Help Scout have been truly humbling. There’s a bit of a “creative shock” the first time someone emails you thanking you for the work you’ve put how, and how it has helped them.
Without a doubt, the positive feedback for this “leadership at scale” leads to a feeling of gratitude and happiness for the writer.
Even in the face of criticism (a guarantee online), writers learn to build thick skin like few others. Criticism, even unwarranted criticism, is the breakfast of champions.
What will you write today?
This was just a small sampling of the research on writing, but I hope it was interesting. It is a habit that I hope researchers will explore much further.
Whether it is recording a small moment of insight in a journal, or sitting down to spill yourself onto the page… I’d love to hear about what you plan to write today.
Gregory Ciotti writes at SparringMind.com, where he explores the intersection of creative work and human behavior. To get his best writing (featured on NYTimes, DiscoveryNews, PsychCentral and Forbes) sign up for the free newsletter.