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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Top 3 Expressive Therapeutic Writing Tips

Photo by Julie Jordan Scott via Flickr
In my last post, I gave you a taste of the history and benefits of Expressive Therapeutic Writing. My hope is that those of you who read that post have developed an interest in writing, and perhaps you may be wondering how to get started. Lucky for you, I am extremely passionate about writing and am sort of a self-proclaimed expert.

Many writers talk about needing to be inspired to write. Well, so do I. But my inspiration is slightly different than the average writer’s. My inspiration comes from within. When it comes to Expressive Therapeutic Writing, what inspires me is the need to express myself. Whether it's good, bad, or ugly, I can tell when I need to write. No matter what it is that I am feeling, writing offers me an outlet to express that feeling. This has proven to be very calming for me, and when I am calm, I can deal with whatever is on my mind.

Writing can give you a sense of relief, it can clear your head, it can give you a voice, and it can help you understand. Whatever your reason for wanting to write, I know that you have the potential to benefit from it. So, how can you tap into these benefits?

Here is a list of my top 3 writing tips (in no particular order):

1. Write now!

As soon as you have the urge to write, do it! Keep a journal or notebook beside your bed, in the living room, in your desk at work, and anywhere you spend a lot of time. That way, as soon as you need to get a thought out of your head, you can do so with ease.

2. Write often.

On that note, make sure you write on a regular basis. If you let your emotions build up without releasing them, you will run the risk of hampering your creativity. With all of those thoughts milling about in your head, you are bound to feel confused and lose your desire to write. But, if you write regularly, you will avoid that buildup all together.

3. Write freely.

Don't worry about spelling and grammar (yet)! If you are writing for yourself, then spelling and grammar and all that fun stuff isn't necessary. If you plan to pursue publishing your writing, then this is a step that will come much later. Unless you plan to use your very first draft as your final manuscript, then don't worry about it!

For even more tips, stay tuned for my free download (coming soon)!

What are your top tips for Expressive Therapeutic Writing? I would love to hear about them!

Please comment on this post and spread the word!

Much love,

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Expressive Therapeutic Writing

When I began writing poetry, I had no intention of ever sharing my work. It was for my eyes only. Writing was my therapy when I couldn’t find the help I needed, and nothing I did seemed to work. Recently, I began to wonder about the science behind it. Why has something as simple as writing been such an essential outlet for me during my darkest hours? Is writing something that might be as useful to others as it was to me? 
Photo by Denise Krebs via Flickr
In an effort to satisfy my curiosity, I have done quite a bit of research on this topic. I would like to share some of this research in order to encourage others to give it a shot.

While terms such as “expressive writing,” “journalling,” “writing therapy,” and “therapeutic writing” are often used inter-changeably, I have chosen to use the term “Expressive Therapeutic Writing”. For me, Expressive Therapeutic Writing involves using the written word, in any form, to relieve the negative symptoms that you are experiencing. This could mean pouring your feelings into poetry, writing short stories with an uncanny resemblance to your life, or recording your thoughts and feelings in a journal. In my opinion, Expressive Therapeutic Writing is much like Depression: it looks and acts differently for everyone.

Many people who write on this topic credit James Pennebaker for pioneering the study of Expressive Therapeutic Writing. He stated that "when people transform their feelings and thoughts about personally upsetting experiences into language, their physical and mental health often improves" (source). In other words, when you can put into words, or onto paper, whatever it is that is troubling you, you will usually experience a relief from symptoms.

So, how does this work? Well, like most scientific inquiries, there is no conclusive answer. While researchers don’t know exactly why it helps, they do know that it is likely a combination of many different theories and factors. In my experience, and as far as science can tell, putting confusing or troubling thoughts into words (and onto paper) can help you make sense of a situation, identify what might be causing you distress, and define what you need and want to find relief (source).

For example, I often find myself feeling troubled without really knowing why. It is almost always helpful for me to write down my thoughts, step away, and then re-visit what I have written to try and find out what is troubling me. I might not be able to figure it all out right away, but writing it all down usually gets me on the right track. I also find that writing is very cathartic. While most research debates this, I know that it is a relief for me to take all the negative shit out of my head and put into onto paper. It’s almost like I’m taking out the trash, only mentally.

Long story short, the research doesn’t have much to say about why writing has been such an outlet for me. It does, however, reassure me that the benefits that I experience from writing are real. They aren’t imagined, and they don’t live in my head. 

The beauty of Expressive Therapeutic Writing is that it doesn’t need to make sense. There doesn’t need to be theories and explanations behind it. It works for me, and that’s enough. I hope it can work for you too!

Here are some other great resources on the topic of Expressive Therapeutic Writing:

Did you find this interesting or helpful? I would love to get your feedback! Comment on this post, and share with your friends!

Wondering how you can tap into the benefits of Expressive Therapeutic Writing? Stay tuned for my next blog post, “Top 3 Expressive Therapeutic Writing Tips”!

Much love,
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