Writing For Your Life. Why I Write Every Day.

LeftyI have always been a storyteller and a writer. But as a kid, growing up in a blue-collar family, I was not encouraged to pursue writing as a profession – starving artist theories and all. So I didn’t. But I never stopped writing and here’s why.

Storytelling is intrinsic to being human. Don’t believe it? Just eavesdrop on little children at play. They’re telling stories to their stuffed animals, making up families and roles and situations. It’s how children make sense of the world.

Imagine if you could make sense of your world! As an adult! How powerful would that be?

Daily writing helps you make sense of things.

You don’t have to make your living from writing, or any money at all for that matter. You don’t even have to share what you write with anyone. But if you are willing to put pen to paper on a daily basis, it will certainly make your life better.

Here’s what I know for sure about daily writing:

1. It helps you understand who you really are and what you truly care about.
2. You can use it any way you want: ritual, meditation, prayer, play.
3. It gives your mind a safe place to go and rest, ruminate, and create.
4. We tend to believe what we read, especially if we write it ourselves.

How to begin

This is my method. It will help you get started. Eventually you will know what works best for you. But first you must develop the discipline of daily writing.

Use cheap notebooks: I prefer college-ruled, none-spiraled. (I’m left-handed so the metal spiral bothers me.) Remember, this isn’t your memoir. You don’t need a fancy leather notebook. You’re going to fill up a lot of pages in a year’s time, so keep the cost down. Also, using a cheap notebook gives you permission to be sloppy, make mistakes, and cross things out.

Get good pens that don’t skip: I use Pentel R.S.V.P. (Not a product endorsement, just my choice.) Use ink. There is no need to erase or correct anything. If you make a mistake, cross it out and move on. But be aware that some thoughts you don’t particularly care for will appear on the page. Don’t be too quick to cross them out; they’re trying to tell you something.

Turn off your internal editor/censor: Just write whatever comes to mind. Unfinished sentences and misspelled words are fine. Wrong punctuation? Who cares? Your middle school English teacher isn’t going to be grading this. No one ever has to know that you can’t spell conscienceness, conciousness, consciousness.

Note: You must write longhand. Typing and writing are not the same thing. It’s essential that you don’t let yourself (or your software) edit your work. Besides, there’s something magical about moving the hand across the page.

Write first thing in the morning: If this means you have to get up a little earlier, do it. The best stream-of-consciousness writing comes when you first wake up, before the day starts getting inside your head. Let others in the house know that this is your time. No interruptions allowed.

Stream-of-consciousness is a brain dump: Don’t let your hand stop moving across the page. If you’re awake, you’re thinking. So write it down. It’s okay if a new thought comes in mid-sentence. Incomplete sentences are part of the process. Let it flow. This may be hard at first, but it gets better with practice.

Write a minimum of one page per day: Some days you’ll be on a roll and want to write more. If not, don’t force it. Accept where you are at the moment.

Here’s an actual excerpt randomly selected from my morning writing. You, too, have permission to be this disjointed.

….I need Luzma’s voice to be strong. And Faye’s. The others I think stand. Ana will read it but I’m not giving it to Jeff, even though he wants to see the draft. I think he and his wife are living somewhat off the grid. Unplugged. That woman at the gym yesterday was watching some show about fashion (?) and spoke to me as if I’d know. She said it was better when Joan Rivers hosted. Is Joan Rivers still alive? I think she may have passed. I haven’t watched TV in years. How would I know? So the Jim thing isn’t working out. What now? Get serious about the novel….

Pretty rambling, huh? This is how the brain works. Let it work.

This writing isn’t meant to be pretty or scholarly. It is meant to get you in touch with yourself. Writing in stream-of-consciousness mode will unveil thoughts you never knew you had.

Flannery O’Connor once wrote: “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

So, back to the benefits of daily writing, along with a few examples from my own life.

1. It helps you understand who you really are and what you truly care about.
I found out that I care much more about people than I care about the bottom line. This meant that it was time to leave my corporate management job. It just wasn’t a good fit anymore.
2. You can use it any way you want: ritual, meditation, prayer, play.
I admitted that I had to give myself up to a higher power. I’d exhausted all my ideas for helping my stepson, and I just had to trust. That day I wrote – I’m all out of ideas. Show me the way.
3. It gives your mind a safe place to go and rest, ruminate, and create.
It’s safe to rant, rage and whine prior to getting into your day. More than a few times, dumping my emotions onto the page kept me from dumping them on the people in my life. Other times my thoughts became poetry or stories or song lyrics.
4. We tend to believe what we read, especially if we write it ourselves.
A word of caution here. Try not to write negative things about yourself; you might internalize them. But affirmations written in your own handwriting can be powerful. During a very painful period in my life I began each day writing a simple phrase: I am strong. I am strong. I am strong. It was good to be reminded of that.

Remember, you don’t have to write for a living to be a writer. You can do it for yourself, for clarity, for meditation, for stress relief. And you can get started for about three dollars.

3 thoughts on “Writing For Your Life. Why I Write Every Day.

  1. Buen articulo.
    A veces creemos que sólo con un tema que dominamos, una idea narrativa o quizá una emoción que nos lleve al poema, podemos escribir, decir o narrar algo. Es claro, en tu artículo que no es asi.
    Lo cotidiano está a la mano.
    Saludos y un abrazo.


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