Writing is a great way to express yourself, de-stress and learn about the inner workings of your mind, body and spirit. It is a very practical, personal and cost-effective way of bringing to light the feelings and thoughts hiding behind day-to-day existence. This subtle disciplinary action can provide insights into your true self and your relationships with others. It’s also a lesson in brutal honesty and the beauty of truth. By allowing us to confront hard truths about ourselves and our loved ones, writing can also help expel negative emotions and improve the quality of our relationships and our lives in general.
Everyone can benefit from writing, regardless of skill, age or talent. All you need to begin is a humble pen and a sheet of paper. Not only is writing a cathartic exercise for emotional, mental and physical healing and growth, it’s also a wonderful way to get in touch with your intimate wants, needs and desires. It provides clarity through expression and works as a valuable and productive way to escape the daily grind and have some all-important soul time.
The science of writing and the creative state
The act of writing often gives the writer a sense of control or clarity. It is also widely regarded as helpful for myriad medical conditions and emotional disorders. The concept of writing as a form of holistic therapy was first developed and scientifically researched in the mid-1970s by James W. Pennebaker PhD at the Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas in Austin. Dr Pennebaker, through testing thousands of individuals, explored the nature of self-disclosure, confession, inhibition, trauma and other disease-related conditions.
In his book, Opening Up, The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, Pennebaker writes: “Writing or talking about your experiences may improve both your physical and mental health. I am not selling a miracle cure. Rather, recent studies from around the world are uncovering some exciting findings that may help you in your coping.”
Closing your eyes, breathing deeply and relaxing induces brainwaves to slow down to the alpha state, otherwise known as the “creative” state. Many creative people have maintained that inspiration tends to strike when they first wake up in the morning and so keep a pen and paper beside their beds. This is because slower brainwaves encourage creativity and improve the ability to learn. When we are overly stressed and thoughts are racing around in our heads, it’s why it’s difficult to relax or to concentrate on the task at hand. It’s the slowest brainwaves, delta, that make way for a healing and intuitive state of mind and being.
When the brain is producing delta waves, a sense of intuition and heightened consciousness comes into play, which as you can imagine is brilliant for focusing on the self and creating. Our minds are allowed to wander and explore in a way we are unable to do while preoccupied and stressed about other things. This state perhaps also allows the writer to rise above a negative or self critical state of mind, even if for only a short amount of time.
“People talk about listening to music, looking at pictures and so on (in order to reach a meditative creative state). I think this is true, but I think we need to practise going into this state as it’s been so condemned by our culture, our education and all the voices in our head that condemn creative thinking. All those chinks in the day when we don’t have to be rational, we can go into that state and normalise it for ourselves. It helps us to be not only more creative, but happier.”
Award-winning Australian author Sue Woolfe has conducted extensive research into creativity and neuroscience. She believes it is both possible and necessary to think in an uncensored way in regards to this. “In my book The Mystery of the Cleaning Lady: A Writer looks at Creativity and Neuroscience, I wrote in detail about ways to escape, temporarily, from our normal judgemental, logical, rational way of thinking and to go into a freer, more imaginative state, but to always know that when we come out of that, we’ll feel self-critical. It’s as if we cannot escape these judgements, but knowing that is to arm ourselves against them.”