Many people use writing as a go-to means of creative expression or record of past events. Some like writing prose or even keeping a journal of daily memories. Not to place myself on a soapbox, but writing means something different to me. It’s so much more than that.
I realize that may sound a bit inflated, but let me explain. I always received positive feedback on my writing for assignments during both high school and college, but never thought writing would be anything aside from a means to an end. When I informed family and friends of my paid pursuits in writing, I actually anticipated more shock than I received. The news was met with happiness, and weirdly enough, those around me made it seem as though they knew it would happen.
They said things like, “We always knew you would end up back in writing someday.” I suppose it ended up being differences in perspective, because I personally never saw it coming. I always had my sights solely on therapy and medicine without giving anything else a second thought.
Fast forward to present day where I can see how I have used writing as a medium through which to calm myself. During the writing process itself, I didn’t view it as such. I never really realized any satisfaction from my work and never felt more accomplishment than after I turned in an essay or written project. Before I even received a grade for the assignment, I felt as if I were reaping the reward simply due to its completion.
Perhaps this is because of my Type A personality (crossing items off a list is truly what gets my heart pumping), or possibly due to the feeling of independence it promotes. Think of it this way: whether you intend it to be or not, preparing for an exam can lean toward a joint effort. You join a study group to swap strategies and facts. If someone mentions their use of a mnemonic, you pick it up and use it yourself. But writing is different—for me, at least—it’s my work and my expression, and it makes the reward that much sweeter.
Many have said the release of emotions can be cathartic, and I wholeheartedly agree. At a fairly young age, I specifically remember the feeling of pure happiness after handing in a written assignment. This is still the case for me presently, as I like to start my days off with writing—both for the purpose of needing to meet a deadline and for the purpose of emotional relief; starting my day off on a good note.
The emotional effects of writing have been documented and lauded by many, and it is increasingly coming to be known as a way to relieve stress. Writing is even being used in therapy sessions to improve mental clarity and processing of information.
These mental results can also have a positive physical impact on writers. Personally, I feel a wash of relief cleanses my body after writing. This doesn’t have to be a full article or an entire assignment, rather simply any part of the ideas swimming around in my head onto the paper. Being able to document thoughts as they come to me, or crafting them into well-worded verbiage truly makes me feel physical relief more than it does emotional at this point.
This could be due to the strong relationship between emotional and physical health, where stress relief can be observed in many ways. I tend to have a hard time feeling myself actually relax. (Relax? What is this word you speak of?) I frequently experience tense upper back muscles and a clenched jaw. However, my upper back and shoulder muscles relax more after doing some writing than if I were to get a 60 minute massage. I mean every word of that: the last massage I got barely scratched the surface of getting the knots out of my shoulders. This alone is all the proof I need to take the hop in my step and looseness in my muscles as a serious, bonafide effect of the wonders writing can do.
The physical relief felt after writing could also be the feeling of a weight lifted after getting your ideas out of your head and onto paper. The writing process somehow forms those random thoughts into something that makes just a bit more sense. Ideas can be expressed verbally, sure, but the act of writing them down somehow solidifies them and perpetuates their being. Possibly due to the fact they can be shared with quite literally anyone and everyone with the click of one button. Our thoughts are quite a bit more accessible nowadays than they used to be, and it can be a solace to know they do not need to stay inside your head for long. Instead, they can be shared, commiserated with, and used to generate actions, projects, and overall camaraderie.
I believe the finality of self-expression is understated, especially if it is purely for good. I hope my experiences with writing and overall good health can inspire others to get out and write today. No matter the forum, I believe a world of good can come from simply writing about something, anything.
Happy writing, all!