Have you ever wondered if you should write more? As I was reading The Power of Writing it Down by Allison Fallon, she discusses how incredibly beneficial writing can be and that everyone should be writing regularly. She discusses how writing for yourself, especially expressive writing, can improve your life.
These are the key ideas that stood out to me from this book:
- Writing provides so many benefits
- Doesn’t need to be published
- Makes the unconscious conscious
Keep reading for more details on each one.
Writing provides so many benefits
The key message of this book is really to highlight how beneficial writing can be for you and why everyone should spend some time writing. Even if you just spend 20 min a day, four times a week, you’ll start to see benefits.
Writing has so many benefits. For instance, writing can:
- improve your well being or mood
- help improve self awareness and deal with difficult situations
- help clarify your thoughts and feelings
- help when making decisions, by helping you find clarity on what to do.
In the book, Allison discussed an example of how writing helped individuals when searching for a job. There was a large group of middle aged men who had recently been let go from a company after working there for 15+ years. While they were all job searching, half of them did expressive writing exercises while the other half did not do any writing. Those that did the exercises were ~30% more likely to be hired, despite both groups getting a similar number of interviews.
What they found was that the men’s attitude affected the interview results, and the expressive writing had a significant impact on the men’s attitude. The men without the expressive writing exercises were still harbouring resentment from being let go, especially since they were not given any warning and they had devoted so much of their time and effort to the company. These feelings often came out during the interviews. Whereas those men that had done the writing exercises were more likely to have already dealt with their emotions and unlikely to have a negative attitude during the interview.
Writing and therapy
Writing can even help you while you go through therapy (it does not replace therapy). When used in collaboration with a health care professional, expressive writing can help you make faster progress. For instance, expressive writing can help you reinforce the lessons or skills you’ve learned in therapy by writing about it regularly. Writing can also help you discover insights into yourself and what you’ve gone through that you can then bring to discuss with the health care professional.
You need to be careful when relying too heavily on expressive writing without having someone to discuss your problems with. One issue that can arise by doing expressive writing in isolation is that you might mistake your own thoughts or opinions for facts. An example might be that you think “I’m fat” or “I’m a horrible person”, which is unlikely to be a fact, but is just your perception of yourself. When you work through these kinds of thoughts with a professional, they are able to give you perspective and make sure you’re not confusing an opinion as a fact.
If you suffer from any kind of mental illness, it’s always best to seek professional help, just as you would for any physical illness or injury.
Doesn’t need to be published
This book is all about getting people to write more and to write frequently as a form of self reflection and expression. To support that goal the book also debunks the idea that only certain people can write. Writing is not an elite skill. Almost all of us write throughout the day anyways, whether by sending emails, posting on social media, or just communicating with others. We are all writers.
Writing doesn’t need to be done any certain way, nor is it done by any certain people. You don’t need to wear fancy old-fashioned clothes (most writers write in comfy, casual clothes — think pyjamas). You don’t need to have a degree from a fancy school to be a writer. You just need to write. If you write, you are a writer.
Along with people’s perception of what a writer is, everyone has their own idea of what a good writer is. There’s no one definition of a “good writer.” But even if you never become a best selling author, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a writer. External validation from others isn’t necessary to be a writer (all you need to do is write).
In line with that, you don’t need to write with the aim of being published one day. Writing doesn’t have to exist for other people, some of the best writing is done for yourself. Not to mention that sometimes the purpose of writing is to simply go on a journey of self discovery or understanding and to determine what you really need.
Allison has helped many people with their writing projects. Often times the book or project that others expect from you is not what you need to write, make sure you’re being true to yourself.
Sometimes the process of writing can help you understand what you really need, and it may not be the current career path you’re pursuing. She’s had clients who started writing projects only for them to realize that they actually need to be doing something else. Even though they never finished writing the book or project, they are thankful for the experience because writing gave them clarity on what they really needed.
Writing for the sake of writing can lead you places you might not expect.
Everyone should be writing, even if writing is only ever for yourself.
Makes the unconscious conscious
I find this ties in closely with the two points above, as it’s both a benefit and the type of writing you may not want to publish. Expressive writing can help you make the unconscious conscious, by helping to bring your feelings and thoughts to the surface.
Writing can help you make sense of feelings and situations. The act of writing makes you slow down (especially writing by hand and not typing) and makes you take time to process your thoughts. Writing gives you a chance to sort through everything that is happening — similar to talking to someone about it.
Writing lets you take everything that’s been internalized (feelings, emotions, thoughts) and put them externally, so you can start to view them in a different way. Putting it all down on paper can help provide clarity, as you can also gain perspective on the situation or find ways to put your feelings into words.
Writing can be especially helpful with emotionally-charged situations or for working through fights that you continually have with your partner, especially when you feel like you are unable to communicate what you need or want. By spending time reflecting and writing about these situations, you may find the words you need to later communicate more effectively about what’s bothering you and what you need or want from the other person.
I really enjoyed this book. I’ll be honest I wasn’t sure what the book was about before I started it, as I borrowed it from my library without reading the description. But I’m so happy that I read this book.
I have always been a journaler, even if inconsistent and infrequent. But there’s always been a part of me that’s understood how useful writing can be to process my own emotions. Personally, I struggle to process things when talking to people, but rather I find it so much easier to process my thoughts and feelings by writing it down. Writing also helps me find the words to clarify how I’m feeling and to communicate what I need.
I feel like this book just reinforced so many things I already believed. Now I want to be much more diligent in writing almost everyday. I used to just journal when I was faced with large decisions, going through stressful situations, or when I was unsure of why I was feeling sad/upset/frustrated/stressed/etc. But now I know how important and beneficial it is to journal regularly that I want to do be more intentional about writing regularly. Plus I love filling up journals, it’s just so satisfying and I love having an excuse to buy more journals.
I think one of the best parts of this book was focusing on how writing is beneficial for yourself. Publishing a book does not need to be your goal, you don’t even need to make your writing public. Rather writing is best used to help you process your own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. You should be writing simply for yourself, if others end up benefiting from it too that’s a bonus.
If you found this post interesting, or felt like you wanted to learn more, I would highly recommend this book. There are some great writing exercises throughout the book that you can use to connect with yourself. The book talks about the benefits of writing, with lots of clear evidence to back it up, along with giving you tools and activities to practice expressive writing.
Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!