How Writing Can Save Your Life
I AM ALWAYS WRITING.
But no seriously. This blog is a fraction of what I actually write in real life, and I've been writing for 20 years before #roadtorima was ever a thing. I write for so many different reasons, in so many different forms and places: I write to express my feelings, to find clarity, to find closure, to hold myself accountable, to get through to someone I love, to motivate myself; I write journal entries, poems, spoken word pieces, love letters; I write on paper, in the notes section of my phone, through e-mail, in one of my several journals, in my passion planner, in book margins, on good old fashioned paper with a good old fashioned pencil - so you know it's real. #erykahbadu nothing can stop me from writing, from doing what I was born to do. I don't know where I would be if I wasn't a writer.
WRITING HAS SAVED MY LIFE, COUNTLESS TIMES. WHY NOT LET IT DO THE SAME FOR YOU?
here is how writing can save your life:
Writing CAN GET YOU through heartbreak
heartbreak comes in many forms, as we all know. heartbreak is a [beautiful] part of life, whether we like it or not, and there are productive ways to deal with our pain. writing helped me get over any heartbreak as a more whole and healthy person. I have no shortage of journal entries and poems that vividly describe the heartache I was dealing with, but sure enough, I came out a better person. I have even shared these pieces with the person on the other end of my heartbreak. most recently, I wrote myself a love letter encouraging myself to stop going through toxic cycles. this letter kept me put an end to the toxicity and helped me get over him in a healthy wAY. HERE'S AN EXCERPT FROM IT:
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
FIRSTLY, IF MY LETTER APPLIES TO YOU, YOU CAN TAKE IT - IT'S YOURS.
WHEN DEALING WITH HEARTBREAK, YOU CAN WRITE YOURSELF A LETTER THAT IDENTIFIES YOUR PAIN AND HELPS YOU LOVE YOURSELF THROUGH IT. BROKEN HEARTS ARE IN DIRE NEED OF LOVE. YOU NEED TO BE GIVING YOURSELF THE EXACT THINGS YOU ARE NO LONGER GETTING FROM THAT OTHER PERSON (IF YOU WERE EVER GETTING THEM TO BEGIN WITH). YOU CAN EVEN WRITE THAT PERSON A LETTER FOR CLOSURE, EVEN IF YOU DECIDE TO KEEP IT TO YOURSELF (ANOTHER TACTIC THAT HAS WORKED FOR ME IN THE PAST).
WRITING CAN HELP YOU PROCESS YOUR Grief
Ever since I can remember, I would write to my dad. Pretty soon, writing became the mode of communication with which I was most comfortable when trying to get through to pretty much anyone. Now that my father is no longer with me in physical form, I am left with our many written exchanges. I thank God every single day that I still have these tangible pieces of our relationship to refer back to for comfort when my grief is unbearable. But with the gratitude came a bit of confusion: why was I always writing these things? Why couldn't I just say them to him? WELL, Baba couldn't stand to see me cry. It made him extremely sensitive. You would think he would get over it because I would cry every time I was trying to have a serious conversation (he was my kryptonite), but I guess I was his kryptonite too. He never got over it, and I never lost the urge to express myself. So I would write. Writing was my way of ensuring I said everything I needed to say, but it was also my way of respecting him and giving him the space to process my words and emotions on his own time.
I still write to my dad. I still respect his space and time. I still recognize that he is reading and processing it on his own time, and I still accept and respect the fact that he will respond in his own ways. this form of writing and healing has probably saved me the most this year; I don't know how I would deal with losing my mentor if I didn't feel like I still had access to him In this way. ALL OF US LOSE SOMEONE, WHETHER IT BE TO DEATH OR OTHER LIFE CIRCUMSTANCES. YOU CAN GRIEVE SOMEONE WHO IS STILL ALIVE IF THEY ARE NO LONGER PART OF YOUR LIFE, AND WRITING CAN HELP YOU PROCESS THAT GrieF AND GET YOU THROUGH IT.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
if you feel you still have a lot to say to someone who is no longer in your life for whatever reason, you can still say it. you can write it down. sometimes, this is the only way for you to find closure without waiting on someone else to give it to you. not all writing requires a response; sometimes, it can be even more THERAPEUTIC without one.
WRITING CAN GIVE YOU CLARITY AMID CONFUSION
this may be one of my more practical forms of writing. writing helps me solve extremely complex PROBLEMS, THE KIND OF PROBLEMS I WOULD OTHERWISE LOSE SLEEP OVER. I am one to rationalize every single thing I feel, so writing helps me so much with that process. whenever I find myself CONFUSED ABOUT A decision that needs to be made, I write. putting things down forces you to find some sort of clarity amid all of the confusion you may be feeling.
I HAVE DONE THIS WHEN DEALING WITH DIFFICULT FRIENDSHIPS OR RELATIONSHIPS, WHEN I FELT HURT OR UPSET AND COULDN'T UNDERSTAND WHY, AND I HAVE EVEN DONE THIS WHEN DECIDING BETWEEN CAREER DECISIONS. WHEN I FEEL PARTICULARLY stressed OUT, I DRAW OUT A VISUAL OF WHAT I'm FEELING AND I MAKE SENSE OF MY LIFE IN WHATEVER WAY FEELS MOST COMFORTING FOR ME. AFTER MY DAD PASSED, I MISSED A LOT OF WORK, AND FELT LIKE I WAS DROWNING IN TASKS. I CREATED A "MIND MAP" CALLED #ROADTOGROUNDZERO THAT HELPED ME FEEL BACK ON TRACK. CHECK OUT THE VISUAL FOR THIS BELOW:
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
are you deciding between two or three decisions? make a pros and cons list. are you unsure how or why you feel a certain way? force yourself to rationalize those emotions by getting them down on paper. as unclear and messy as your thoughts may seem, you will always find more clarity when you WRITE THEM OUT. FEELING PARTICULARLY STRESSED OR OVERWHELMED? MAP OUT YOUR THOUGHTS OR TASKS IN A WAY THAT HELPS YOU FIND CLARITY.
WRITING WILL KEEP YOU ACCOUNTABLE
if you know me, you know that when I write something down, my word is practically golden. I got really good at this over the past year - to the point where I was oftentimes scared to write something down if I wasn't sure I should do it lol. my writing keeps me so accountable to my goals, to the promises I make to myself and to others. it helps me ensure that I am following through on my commitments. I write out checklists, notes to myself, I write In my planner, I plan out a calendar of goals I want to accomplish by a certain time. this can be as cold-cut or as poetic as you like, but if you use your writing as a means to hold you accountable, you will start to see the power and purpose behind your words. with each promise that you make and keep, you'll start respecting your word (and yourself) even more. and the best part? you'll have it written down as proof.
I have a notes section that I share with a dear friend. both of us write out our goals and plans in this section, and have been doing so over the course of a year. that letter I wrote to myself up there? I included that in this notes section because having another person there added an extra level of accountability. I didn't want to let her or myself down. this is the most recent checklist I made in this joint notes section where we both are recording things we want to accomplish before going to Miami together. get yourself an accountability buddy (or two or three)!
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
creatE checklists often. write yourself notes about what you plan to do and why you plan to do it. make promises to yourself and keep them. share these notes with someone else to ensure that you are adding an extra layer of accountability, or keep them private if they are personal. if it helps, get a white board and write down your goals where you can see them every day. set alarms or reminders on your phone. when you write it down, you are steps closer to getting there.
writing CAN HELP YOU manifest the life YOU want to live
writing about your future will help you vividly envision it. if you believe in the law of attraction, this is one way to ensure that you will manifest exactly what you dream of. it will also help you clearly declare your standards and ensure that you are not settling for less than you deserve. I have used this tactic to write to my future husband, I've used it to write to my future-self, I even used this tactic to write about what I wanted my classroom to be like before I started teaching.
this approach is honestly amazing because I am always so shocked when time has passed and I re-read what I wrote long ago. something about getting things down helps you subconsciously attract that into your life. during the last few months of teaching, I re-read the entry I wrote about my classroom and was so shocked at how vividly I was able to describe my teaching style and classroom dynamic before I even stepped foot in the classroom. and the journal entry I include below was written years ago as a means to declare the "type" of man I want to be with. it is the original version of my "I know what I want" blog post.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
start vividly detailing where you want to see yourself x years down the line. be as detailed and explicit as you can. do not be afraid of dissapointing yourself; be daring in declaring the life you deserve. do this with any goal you set or anything you would like to see manifested in your life. I also recommend writing a letter to your future self and saving the letter until a certain date.
HEARTFELT WORDS CAN CHANGE HEARTS
this might be my favorite one. writing doesn't just change minds, it changes hearts, and that is nothing short of magical. I have changed so many hearts through my writing. I have had difficult conversations through writing, I wrote love letters to my students, to my family, my friends. I have poured my heart on pages and nervously presented them to the other person, hoping they would see my love for what it truly was. and, like magic, it has honestly never failed me.
I realized that writing from the heart can change others' hearts when I was a senior in high school. I was still finding my voice at this age, but I felt very strongly about an issue that involved my father. baba was very stubborn, very convicted, and very principled. Because he was such a purehearted, good person, when he was convinced of something, he was usually pretty convinced. but on this particular matter, I disagreed and lost a lot of sleep. I couldn't get over my feelings, so I decided to write him a letter.
the letter was over 8 pages long. I put it in an envelope and on the envelope I put "don't open until on airplane," and under that, I wrote out one of his favorite islamic expressions in arabic: "one who does not speak the truth is a silent devil." when my father arrived to beirut, he called me and said he cried for the entire 12 hour trip. less than two weeks later, Baba went back on his decision and did exactly what I asked him to do in the letter. this is still one of the most important moments in my life. it taught me that I had a gift. it taught me that I needed to use that gift to do important, life-changing things. it taught me that my writing had the magical power to change people's hearts. that it wasn't about me anymore. it was about what God saw in me, and who am I not to walk (or write) in my purpose?
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
is there something you really want to say to someone? a heart you really feel is in need of changing? don't let self-doubt or insecurity hold you back. don't be afraid of rejection or of being vulnerable. use your most heartfelt words to change that person's heart. write to that person and be courageous enough to deliver the message. watch their heart transform right before your eyes.
writing is an extremely powerful tool. writing ensures that stories are told. writing makes history. it changes minds and hearts. it helps us express ourselves purposefully. (pretty soon, I will be hosting workshops to help women find their creative voice and use writing as a tool for empowerment. be on the look-out for more info soon.)
writing is the only form of communication that has always been able to have life in the past, present and future.
there are so many different ways that you can use writing today to save your life.
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?