The therapeutic nature of writing

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Writing encourages your brain to filter your thoughts, and empathise with your listeners.  Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Writing, whether it’s a journal, a poem, a story or an article, is a therapeutic venture.

You begin with a human mind, a bundle of experience, and a blank screen or piece of paper.  You can write anything you like.  Even at this point, writing is therapeutic, since the waiting page doesn’t judge you; it just listens quietly, waits for you to say what you choose to.  If you don’t want to say anything, that’s fine by the page – it’ll just stay clean, waiting expectantly, but not pressurising you.

Perhaps you begin to chain some words together.  As you do, your mind begins creating a funnel between the chaos in your mind and the lines on the page.  You have set in train a natural human thought process, in which your brain helps you to filter down and select, from all your competing thoughts and feelings, something that makes sense to you, something that summarises, in some way, where you’re at.

A very subtle process starts to take hold, involving several levels:

  1. Your energetic mind begins to offer a wealth of possible thoughts and feelings to take account of
  2. You observe and notice what your mind is offering, maybe choosing a word or a phrase that catches the flavour of your thoughts
  3. You start to chain together some phrases, using the rules of grammar to find subjects, verbs, objects…
  4. You watch what comes out, appraising it, evaluating whether it captures coherently what you might want to say
  5. You amend and edit the stream of words, holding it accountable for sitting on the page coherently
As you continue to write, the above process repeats itself cyclically.  Your mind offers more and more focused possible thoughts, as it realises what you are writing.  Your choice of words becomes more acute and apt.  As you realise what you are writing, your review and editing become even more focused.

From the chaos of your mind, something that makes sense is emerging now.  You don’t know if it’s ‘right’ in a traditional sense, but it is what you wanted to say, moulded into something you think might be listened to and understood.

THE COMMUNICATION IN WRITING

Another way of thinking about writing, is as thoughtful communication.  As well as filtering your own thoughts onto the paper, you are performing an even more subtle process – attuning your expression to a listener.  This, again, involves several levels:

  1. You hear in your mind a phrase you want to use
  2. You listen to it with the ears of a possible hearer: what will they hear; what might they think?
  3. You catch it before you have said it, and ask yourself if there are possible alternatives which better match the communication need
  4. You review and revise the phrase, choosing a grade of softness, simplicity, kindness and clarity suitable to the ear of the listener
  5. You consider the order of your expression, possibly rephrasing and reorganising to give maximum value to the listener
So, on top of the basic act of writing, you are undertaking an in-depth evaluation of how your audience hears, and how others’ minds work.

THE THERAPY IN AUTHENTICITY

Of course, if your writing or speaking is a defensive act, designed to obfuscate, lie, and manipulate others… then you will not find it so therapeutic.  This whole thing only works if a mutual aim is enlightenment, increasing understanding.  If you want to manipulate and distort, then perhaps you are better off being silent, until you have something to say.

But, if you are willing to begin selecting words with a truthful mind, listening to your inner conscience, testing words for their sparkle and suitability… if you are willing to put in the work, then writing is its own reward.

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SUMMARY

Writing is a therapeutic act.

In your own mind, you are doing 5 things: generating thoughts, noticing themes, chaining phrases together, appraising those phrases, and editing them.

Furthermore, in your communications, you are doing 5 more things for others: hearing your own phrases, listening to yourself with others’ ears, using judgement to meet the hearer’s needs, refining your presentation with a suitable register and tone, and constantly reorganising your communication for maximum value.

If you lie to yourself or others, it won’t work, and the value will be lost.  If you bring to your writing a truth-loving conscience, and a sensitive ear… then, and only then, will you feel the growth that writing can provide.

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