Why Write?

 

The benefits of writing . . . .

I think most people who write with any degree of seriousness or purpose are well aware of the benefits of writing.  Even more so, there are benefits of writing with a pen or pencil, rather than sitting at a keyboard.  There are lot of articles and studies which show there are benefits – psychological, physical, emotional, and health – that are produced in writing.

The Huffington Post had this article about writing concerning some ways in which writing can transform your health:

  1. Writing by hand can help you learn better.
  2. Expressing emotions through words may speed healing
  3. It could help the way cancer patients think about their disease
  4. Consider it a fundamental part of your gratitude practice
  5. Writing down what you’re thankful for could help you sleep better
  6. It make your mind and body better

Jordan B. Peterson and Raymond Mar have produced a lovely document in pdf entitled The Benefits of Writing.  What is especially enriching – if you like research – are their cited works at the end of their article.

Another article discusses five benefits of writing everyday.  These include waking up your brain, stream of consciousness purging, recalling dreams, vocabulary maintenance and expansion, and evening contemplation and relaxation.  Writing about traumatic experiences helps, too, especially if you express things you have never expressed before. Stepping back from an experience can be done with writing, and change your perspective; writing also can trigger dopamine!  Much of who we are is chemical, mysterious, and still unknown, but we do know a few things! There are definite health benefits to writing expressively.

A return to writing, with a raison d’etre . . . .

For many years, I kept a journal.  It was really a way to whine, and at one point, after 50 volumes, I was ashamed of my whining.  There was no purpose, and it had become an addiction in a negative sense – I would write about problems, feel better after the writing, but not do anything to change a direction or attitude.  I think it made me more passive and less purposeful.  I’ve shredded and burned those journals.

Today, I find myself not really happy about my life as there is so little mental and emotional room for creativity.  I get up, go to work, come home, clean up, go to bed and return to the pattern the next day.  Half of my life is shot on a weekly basis – 10 and 11 hour days are draining.  Mere existence is a waste of appreciation for the life I have been given, doing a job that has increasingly lost value and meaning.  I plod on as retirement is in the near horizon.

As that horizon approaches, I know I must change my outlook on my remaining time and tune into that core value for my own sense of well-being:  creativity.  Years ago I gave up painting and artwork as I searched and searched for the answer to a seemingly unanswerable question:  what is the purpose and meaning of art?  After years, the answer was clear:  it means what it means to me.

Pretty simple, huh?  But in those intervening years, I stopped.  I lost – and can never regain – 30 years of productivity, of creativity, of growth and exploration.  I did pick up the pen, to whine, but not produce.

So now, I am journalling again, but with a purpose.  I am choosing something to write about, to explore, to consider, to see how something fits into my life or can benefit me – and in turn, benefit those I love.  I am working on short stories, writing about ideas, and being creative in the blotches of time my work schedule permits.  (I am also practicing for my retirement!)

Leaving the meetup group was a good thing – a good trigger for regrouping my perspectives.  What was a traumatic, negative experience helped me realize and focus on what I already knew.  So, thanks to the geezer and needy group leader, I am more focused, and a lot happier as a result!

 

Disappointment & Enlightenment

Disappointment:  The meetup experience did not go well.

Being interrupted and being told “you are wrong,” in no uncertain terms by an old geezer, and then being attacked by the group leader for telling the geezer to let me finish talking and stop interrupting, is wrong.

Further in the session, the geezer told someone “those are the rules” without clarification.  What rules?  How to put a sentence together?  What do you mean?  Explain, please.

My initial impression of the moderator was not impressive – he felt needy and off-balance somehow.

Facing the geezer, my first thought was here is a man used to being in power and control, who feels it is okay to interrupt others.

Rudeness and ego-centrism do not have a place in a group such as this.  Other groups I have been in have not had these elements from either members or the moderator.

I am sad, too, as I had looked forward to becoming part of a community of writers.  The other members of the group were good, and there was some talented writing.

Enlightenment:  While disappointed by this experience, it also served to make very clear to me something which had been rumbling around in my head for some time:  Scheduling things to do on my days off does not always work in my favor.

Each time I schedule something that needs some work – such as a writing meetup – it means a lot of focus on that event.  If it becomes something that takes up a lot of time and energy without reward, ultimately I am exhausted.  As an introvert, quiet time with self-reflection and thought is a necessity for self-renewal.

Scheduling time with people I value, doing things I enjoy, is a completely different thing.  I come away refreshed and joyful.

I knew this before the meetup.  I know this now even better than before.  My choices are very clear.

 

Ramping Up

Moving from the idea of putting in a lot of time painting to writing was a big, important psychological and creative shift.  Choosing words over color was pragmatic:  I do not have time to paint.  I do have time to write.  I can write early in the morning, at work, outdoors on the patio, at the library, or sitting on a bench in the park.  In short, I can write just about anywhere.  Painting, not so.  But I can sketch.

This morning, I am going to my first of (I hope) many meetups with a local group of writers.  We were sent stories and excerpts to read and to critique – what works, what doesn’t work – with the admonition to do more than say, “I like this!” or “This sucks!” Giving reasons for a like / dislike helps the writer, but it also helps the critic get in touch with his own writing.

Of course, we all have our preferences for reading matter, but reading things which are not to our liking is no reason to push it aside.  My own prejudices have steered me away from otherwise good literature . . . just because I was told “You will like it!” or, worse, “You should read it!  It’s a classic!”

I hate being told what I should like, should believe, and should do in any form.  It’s the word should that makes me say “No!” immediately.

And sometimes, I am wrong.  Thinking about what makes something work creates a different mindset in the reading altogether.  I’ve learned something prior to even getting to the first meeting!

Reflection

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the “happiness factor” – creating an active pursuit of doing the things which make me happy.  This has been a conscientious activity on my part.  One large element in this activity has been to simply write about things that interest me.  Approaching journalling this way, instead of my historical whining about things making me unhappy and trying to figure out how to fix them, is proving to be beneficial.  Add a few floor exercises in the morning as well, and life appears pretty darn nice.

I am not an especially intellectual person, nor am I spiritual or religious.  Put simply, I am nothing extraordinary.  What I am, though, is creative, and creativity for me involves working with my hands and with my mind and eyes.  Sitting at a computer to write provides some satisfaction, but more comes from thinking and using a fountain pen and a piece of paper.  I think pretty well with a pen and paper; here is something I wrote on 4/25 while drinking coffee and thinking about something I’d read about measurements:

4/25/2017 Tuesday

Today I read about measuring, and how measuring shows information.  Once there is information, change can follow.  And following the info can be some really ugly truths.  These ugly truths can also lead to more info, and more truths, and in turn, more changes.

Is change always good?  Who knows.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Today, I am thinking about the last few weeks, and I can say that I have a better sense of satisfaction in my own daily life.  I have felt alive rather than just in a suspended state of living, waiting for the weekend.

This has been brought about by writing every day about things I read or see or do – not what I am whining about.  This approach is the key – to move from the internal tumult to the external world and experiences, and then mull them over.

This conscientious effort has produced for me a measurably increased satisfaction and overall happiness.

Words, Words, Words

Paper is wonderful! Recently, it has been replaced by the computer, which makes a lot of things easier and convenient, but it is not quite, quite the same.  

For the last several days, off and on, I have been working on a story I started last January, using Scrivener as the editor.  My Chrome book is also seeing use.  And finally, paper and pen when I just don’t want to look at another monitor, or just want to go outdoors and enjoy myself.

While I am not going to go into what I am writing, I do want to explore the process of writing.  As the title of this entry suggests, words are very important.  One of the things I find so irritating in an author is a failure to provide a variety of terms.  For instance, I recall a very popular recent author whose use of the same word within a few sentences has driven me to distraction!  What is wrong with finding a synonym?  In prose, variety is important, but in poetry, the repetition of sound creates a very different pattern, and so the usage of a word numerous times may be very appropriate and artistic.

This is where paper and pen can come to the aid of the computer-produced manuscript.  I like to take what I have written and give it double- or triple-spacing.  Then, stapled together, I take it someplace outside or at a coffee bar and sit with a pen to edit.  I circle, I cross out, I re-write.  In short, I edit with a different perspective because I am seeing the writing on paper.

While I love the convenience of computers and such, I also love the feel of a good pen on a piece of paper.  The experience is physical and sensual and intellectual all at once.  And it is a very real experience – just like we are trying to create for our readers.