If I look back, I can see that it was reading that started my love affair with writing. Quite simply, I was a young bookworm who devoured books, one after the another, and that love of reading soon evolved into a love of writing. I’d read books and feel so inspired, I’d want to write my own. It was a magical feeling realising that I held this power inside of me. The ability to create characters and devise worlds and storylines, all of my own creation! It was exhilarating and addictive and I’ve never lost that excitement. But over the years, writing has helped me in other ways and I’m a strong believer that writing can be of great help to anyone struggling with their mental health. Due to some personal circumstances, mental health is one of the biggest issues in our family at the moment and if there was any way I could impress upon those struggling, how much writing has helped me to survive, these are the points I’d raise.
- Writing Is A Release – They say that if reading is breathing in, then writing is breathing out and I truly believe this is so. But it doesn’t just apply to reading. Our entire lives we are breathing in, absorbing, observing, soaking up and reacting to what is around us. And it’s hard. It can feel overwhelming, like we can’t breathe and our bodies don’t know how to respond. Writing is a release. You breathe out again, you let go. You take everything you have absorbed, everything that has battered and affected you, and you breathe it back out again in your own words. Every time I write I feel like that – like my thoughts, feelings, fears and hopes are released slowly and calmly onto the page. I couldn’t bear the thought of having it all locked up inside forever.
- Writing Is Private – Until we choose it not to be, writing is intensely private. When I was a kid I started writing a diary and I kept it going for decades. I still have those old notebooks now and if I choose to, I can go back and revisit all the different stages of my life. But they are private. Not for anyone else. I recorded my frustrations, my insecurities, my failures, losses and anxieties on those pages throughout my life. Writing them down helped me release them and deal with them, but so did the private aspect of the process. Knowing those words were just for me gave me the freedom to write them down. It’s the same with writing stories and poems and even blog posts. I have a host of unpublished blog posts. Thoughts and feelings I needed to let out but have not yet felt the need to publish. I have a notebook full of random thoughts and poems that may never see the light of day! And when I write a novel, for the first few drafts at least, it is just for me. It is private and there is something both liberating and protective about that, like I am shielding myself from the world and creating a private, calm space just for me.
- Writing Helps Us Work Out How We Feel – Sounds strange, but it really does. Sometimes in life, how we feel is black and white and very simple. We feel happy or sad and we know why. But there are times when it’s far more confusing and muddled. The teenage years for example are turbulent and full of mixed emotions and thoughts and feelings we can barely understand ourselves. The same applies to the perimenopausal stage of life for women. And as we navigate our way through our lives, we are sometimes unsure of how we feel about the things that happen to us or around us. Writing can really help us make sense of this. There have been times I’ve not truly understood how I feel about something until I start to write it down. This might be within a story a poem, a blog post or a diary entry. I might start writing about something else entirely but somehow the words lead me to where I need to be. So many of my books contain topics I was absorbed by at the time, and writing about them through made-up characters enabled me to figure out how I felt. When I’m distressed or feeling dark, I write poetry and although it is sometimes just a mess, it really does help me figure my own feelings out.
- You Are Never Lonely or Bored If You Write – I say this all the time. Because of writing I have never been bored or lonely in my life. How could I ever be either when I have a head so full of ideas and stories and characters begging me to tell them? If I have a quiet moment, or I’ve just gone to bed, its those people and stories that come back to me, filling my mind and keeping me company. Waiting at bus stops, travelling on trains, walking alone, waiting in cars to pick people up, none of those things are ever boring to me because my mind will transport me to the worlds I have created and I will just hang out there until it is time to snap back to reality! I think this has helped me immeasurably over the years. I feel genuinely worried for people that don’t have creative hobbies, whether its writing, drawing, sculpting, acting or creating music. If you have a creative hobby, you will never be bored or lonely and that can really help when your mental health is not so good.
- Writing Gives You A Voice – Writing can be private but it can also be the opposite. Writing can change the world and it has done, many, many times. Storytelling is part of the human condition, going right back to the beginning of our time here on Earth. We have lives, dreams, hopes, fears, beliefs and experiences and we have the right and the ability to voice them. Sometimes in life, when things are tough and you feel like you are floundering, it’s good to remember that you have a voice and writing enables you to be heard. Tell the world how you feel. Write about it. Tell your family and friends how you feel. Write about it. It doesn’t have to be personal – you can use fiction to tell the world your story.
Writing is hugely therapeutic to me and I will always recommend it to anyone struggling. What about you? How has the act of writing helped you through your life? Feel free to comment and share!