I have found solace in writing and telling stories, both real and imagined, for nearly all of my life. It first started to come to me when I was only three and four - I loved to open picture books and make up my own story to the images. My mom was also an avid reader, and she was reading anything and everything to me from the very beginning, the most notable being The Lord of the Rings series.
My first attempts at actually putting pen to paper was in a little journal, where I painstakingly wrote a sentence or two about my day. I was so new to letters that my e’s were still backwards and I was always confusing my d’s and b’s. That somehow led me to start reading short books and then copying them over onto my own notebook paper, page for page, just for the sheer joy of carefully rewriting the sentences.
But those were someone else’s words. Even then I knew there was more, and it wasn’t long before I started writing my own poems and short stories. I even started a couple of novels in elementary school with the best of intentions to finish them (I never did).
But it wasn’t until I was older and facing greater stress with school and relationships and searching for my own sense of spirituality that I fully realized the incredible ways that writing not only improved my life but also saved it. Having said that, here are my top three reasons why I write and why you might want to start too.
Writing eases my depression and anxiety. In other words, writing saved my life. That probably seems a bit melodramatic, but it’s the truth. This was especially true in high school when I was abusing alcohol, drugs and sex on a regular basis. Because of my lifestyle and overall immersion in a society and friend group that was superficial and unfulfilling, I was almost always suffering from some level of depression and anxiety. Contemplating suicide, even when I was sober, was a common thing. But writing helped me to connect to my true self, the self that wanted peace, a regular Yoga practice, kale and a connection with my Higher Power. It didn’t matter whether it was journaling or free verse poetry or a short story. In the end, the effect was the same: I could breathe freer, the world was brighter, and my inner world was quieter. A journal article from the University of Rochester Medical Center says it very well: “When you have a problem and you're stressed, keeping a journal can help you identify what’s causing that stress or anxiety. Then, once you’ve identified your stressors, you can work on a plan to resolve the problems and, in turn, reduce stress.”
Writing helps me make better decisions. This goes hand in hand with my first reason, but it has been so important to me, especially as my decisions are beginning to have much bigger consequences now that I’m in my early 20’s, I made it its own section. Writing eases the heart and calms emotions, thus leading to better decisions 100% of the time (for me, anyway). When I’m not consumed with anxiety, depression or overall hopelessness, and instead I am clear headed and hopeful from a good writing session, I eat better, sleep better, talk better, love better, study better, drive better, cook better, teach Yoga better, meditate better… you get the point. There’s something about getting it all out there on paper and looking at problems from an objective point of view that turns a mountain into a single kale chip. It works in a similar way that meditation does: you become the observer, the “Witness” instead of being the poor soul sucked right into the pit of F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real).
Writing enhances my Yoga practice, my meditation practice, and my sex life. Yep, you read that correctly. I don’t claim that lightly, trust me. But it makes sense, doesn’t it? When my heart and mind are clear, when my problems and worries are on paper instead of in my head, I am more present in my Yoga practice, my energy flows stronger and faster, my meditation is peaceful and rejuvenating… consequently, my sexual experiences are intense and satisfying, and that is saying something for me, because I have been through several traumatic experiences in the last four years that have greatly affected me and my sexuality, from rape to abortion. But through it all, my love and dedication to writing has brought me from darkness into light, from a depressed teenager to a healthy, flourishing yogini in her twenties.
What I hope you as the reader will take away from this post is that you won’t read the rest of this paragraph, and instead you will run to your journal or to the store to get one and begin writing immediately! But if you must read ahead to procrastinate a little, then hear out another little reason why you should write and share your writing that has nothing to do with benefitting your spiritual practices.
Perhaps most importantly, sharing your writing (aka, your soul) is of great benefit to those around you. You may think that you have nothing to say and no good way to say it, but I know for a fact that isn’t true. We all have our unique stories that are a mixture of sadness and happiness, triumphs and joys, ugliness and beauty, and sharing them with other people creates a sense of community and open-heartedness that I think our whole planet needs right now.
I understand that it can be very scary to put pen to paper or hand to keyboard, but if you feel stuck, just remember that what you write could change someone’s life for the better. There’s nothing quite as comforting as knowing there’s someone out there who understands you, and that is what writing does. It gives us the privilege of sharing our hearts with each other and seeing we’re not so different after all.
“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”