Thursday, September 14, 2017

I Choose Writing (Over Wine, Opiates, Laudanum...)

When I'm upset, if there is a choice between having a glass of wine or writing my thoughts down on paper, I'll always forgo the wine and instead find a pen to write my feelings down on paper. I've released my emotions through writing for many years now.  I call this habit "Therapeutic Writing." I just let all my words flow out in a stream of consciousness until my mind is finally less foggy.

As a teenager, this essential outpouring of feelings most often took the form of song lyrics, stories and poetry. But in my early twenties, I was given a gift of a blank journal with inspirational quotes on each page called a "Book of Days." At the same time, I'd been indulging in reading my first Diaries of Anais Nin. Inspired by Anais, I decided to write in my "Book of Days" daily, under each labeled day. By the end of the year, I filled the book up completely, even if some days only contained one sentence. I was amazed at how there was always SOMETHING I could come up with to write once I formed the habit of sitting down every day. I believe this is how I developed the "necessity" to write.

These days, therapeutic writing is no longer a conscious habit. Instead, it is now a sense of urgency where as soon as I feel emotional about something, I just HAVE to get it down onto paper. Even if it's on bits of scrap paper that I tear up afterwards, just the act of emptying my thoughts from my mind through my hand makes me feel so much better.

A coworker once told me that my emotions are all at the surface. I asked her if this was good or bad. She said it was good. She said it meant I was in touch with my emotions. I know that when I get upset, my thoughts are completely ruled by my emotions. Most of the time when I have a desperate need to write, I am either angry or very confused. Somehow, the act of writing my emotions down allows my brain to understand what I'm feeling. Even if I can't solve the problem, I do gain a sense of clarity, and I don't stop writing until the familiar feeling of relief comes over me. Suddenly, something that seemed insurmountable just minutes earlier has now become clear, and I'm finally calm. I am able to write down the facts of my situation and to identify the fears that are behind these emotions.

Speaking of coworkers, years ago, I noticed that two of my coworkers seemed constantly upset. They were very negative in general and always conflicted about decisions they had to make. So for Christmas, I gave both of them blank journals and told them about my very essential, daily writing habit. I suggested they write something in it every day, even if it's just a sentence, just so they can develop the habit. I explained that in no time, they will be able to use their journal as a mental medicine that will help them think clearly about what is positive in their lives and to identify their inner thoughts in order to enable them to make decisions. Sadly, I don't think either of them took me up on it. Maybe they needed an expert in the field to guide them and to confirm my beliefs about the benefits of therapeutic writing. I believe that the book I'm reading now, "Writing For Bliss," by Diana Raab, Ph.D. would have convinced them!

I met Dr. Raab through our devotion to Anais Nin because we both contributed writing pieces to Volume 13 of the Anais Nin Literary Journal "A Cafe In Space." Another thing we have in common is that both of us use the word "Bliss" in our titles! My first novel's title, "Bliss, Bliss, Bliss," is based on a quote that has the word "Bliss" in it several times and is from "The Early Diary of Anais Nin, Volume 4." Dr. Raab's new book is a great starting point to learn how to use writing to heal and to release the usual everyday tensions and stressors in a healthy way through writing rather than engaging in destructive outlets.

Dr. Raab describes the importance of journal writing in these quotes from "Writing For Bliss":

"A journal, diary, or notebook - whatever you choose to call it - can play many roles.  It can serve as a vehicle for self-expression, a tool for clarity, a repository for observations, and a container for thoughts.  A journal may also be a powerful tool for comfort during difficult times...Journal writing can be as calming and grounding as meditation is.  It can orientate you and stabilize your emotions."

I highly recommend Dr. Raab's step by step guide, "Writing For Bliss," which is extremely thorough and includes numerous exercises to get you in the habit of therapeutic writing. It is a good way to get real with yourself and to confront painful memories from the past. It helps you to learn to write from your heart, which is where the truth is, rather than from your mind. It also helps get you started on writing your own poetry and memoirs, if you've ever considered doing that.

Basically, I don't know what I would do if I didn't have writing to release my tensions and emotions. It's truly amazing how something so simple and cheap can heal so much!


  1. Hi Chrissi, your comments here about therapeutic writing is good advice and important for any writer, whether a nonfiction writer, creative writer or casual blogger. I have wrote in diaries and journals since I was a kid and teenager. I usually write several personal journals for myself every year which include the highlights and lessons I experienced throughout the year, plus my insights, ideas and thoughts on any topic I am interested in. I often separate those kind of general topics from personal therapeutic type emotional purging into a different journal. There have been many times that I was drawn to re-read an older journal, which gave me a new insight or perspective or reminded me of something important.

    I think it is important for writers to keep everything they write, whether they think it has value or not, because they could decide a year later that it would be good subject material for a blog post, book, song, movie, etc. You never know who might benefit from your words and who might appreciate your writing.

    I also want to share with you and your readers another good resource is The Artist's Way books by Julia Cameron, in which she and her co-authors describe their practice of writing "morning pages" which is a therapeutic writing practice done daily to allow oneself to express our various inner voices. Journaling (privately) allows writers to express their different "inner selves" which express in the mind and emotions as different personalities, such as our inner child, our critical adult, our optimistic, hopeful self, etc. Like characters in a book! :) When we allow our inner selves to express themselves fully through our private journal writing, we are freeing ourselves up from the negativity and stress that usually happens when these inner voices are suppressed and not allowed an outlet.

    A writer can also choose to share their private journaling publicly on a blog if they want, which can be helpful for other people to learn how to use journaling therapeutically as well as creative inspiration.

    1. Hi Carrie! Thanks for reading! I really can't stress enough how essential I believe therapeutic writing is. I think everyone could benefit from it, not just writers. I hope more people give it a try!