by Michelle Berberet
from our rage,
and takes only
delight in our joy.
My mind is racing. I
am stuck where I stand because each leg is trying to go in the opposite
direction. What do I do?
What do I write?
Anything. I may write, "My mind
is racing and I don’t know what to do,” and see what follows from there. I may list all the chores some part of me
thinks are matters of life and death and another part doesn’t want to do. It doesn’t matter what I write, though I
often gain insights from my scribbling, more on that later; what matters is the
act of writing. Once on the page, the
chore list loses its power.
Writing acts as a firm gentle brake on a careening
mind. Perhaps it’s the drag between the
paper and writing instrument or the fingers pressing the keys that creates just
enough friction, just enough resistance to slow the mind and allow the writer
Writing is a way of bringing the all-powerful, limitless
mind that can take the imagination to either end of the spectrum, horror or
delusions of grandeur, into the real world here and now. It compassionately reminds us of our
physical, emotional and mental limitations.
After a few minutes of writing, the mind is calmer, no longer a
frightened child running amuck.
Of course, a person doesn’t need to wait for a crisis to
enjoy the benefits of writing. Writing
regularly – and "regularly” will mean something different for each person – can
even prevent the panicked mind scenario.
Regular writing assures the writer’s mind, body, and spirit that their
needs, fears, dreams and wisdom are heard.
Over time, the writer develops the ability to make decisions with the
whole person in mind. And with this
assurance, there is less need for the mind to scream for attention. A person with a practice of regularly writing
hears the whispers of discontent early and is able to address them by
It is always interesting to see what lands on the page after
writing freely. The writer can discover
what he/she values and what hidden fears surface. Our culture of information makes it so easy
for us to think we want or need what others tell us is "new and improved.” Through writing we find out what we really
need and what we really want.
The first rule of keeping a journal is that there are no
rules. I don’t even like to use the term
"keeping a journal.” You may decide to
write and immediately destroy or delete your words.
The following are some suggestions for developing a writing
Don’t worry about spelling. This may seem obvious and simple, but this is
one of the primary reasons I have heard people give for not writing. I used it myself for years.
Feel free to write anything; it’s called "free
writing.” Write anything, knowing you
can burn, shred or soak the pages in water (soaking documents in water is a
good way to destroy them.) The page is a
100% safe confidante who will not share your secrets, will not laugh or
judge. My writing ranges from to-do
lists to thoughts and feelings. I daydream
on the page and I often write the dreams I had at night. I map out strategies, practice conversations
and write poems that amuse me.
If you do plan to keep your writing, date each
entry. This is helpful if you come back
later so see what you have written. I
write only on the right pages of my journal.
I use the left page for later comments and additions.
Write in the manner that is most comfortable for
you. Use a pen or pencil on paper or
compose on the keyboard. Studies show
the benefits are the same.
If you want to write, but the very thought of it turns your stomach or
you cannot imagine adding this practice to your busy life, don’t give up. Buy a notebook, and leave it by your bedside
with a pen or pencil. Put a small tablet
or index cards and a writing instrument in your pocket or purse. Create a Word document called "Journal.” Web sites, software and apps exist for
journaling, but keep it simple. After
planting one of these small seeds, wait.
It will grow if this practice is meant to be part of your life. No pressure.
You write to enhance you life, not burden it.
These are just a few tips to help you get started. For more information on the power of writing,
I recommend the following resources. For
a powerful and clear discussion of the benefits of free writing, turn to Julia
Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. She recommends writing daily "Morning Pages,”
three pages (or 30 minutes) of free writing first thing every morning. This is a wonderful, effective practice, but
perhaps a goal a beginner can aspire to if such a commitment seems overwhelming
at first. A clear, clever Web site designed
for doing Morning Pages is https://750words.com. It keeps track of when and how much you write
and you can accumulate points and badges as rewards for consistently writing.
For more technical reading on the subject, look into works
by James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Psychology at the
University of Texas at Austin. He is an
expert on the writing and health. You
can also visit his page "Writing
and Health: Some Practical Advice”
Experiment. Enjoy creating
your own writing practice; enjoy discovering your own voice.
lives in Alexandria, VA with her husband.
When she isn’t writing in her journal she writes poetry, personal essays
and fiction. She also volunteers at the
Arts and Humanities Program at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer
Center where she writes with patients, family and staff. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.