The Ritual of Writing: Freedom of Expression
I have a confession.
I always hesitated calling myself an author. It feels so official. I was discussing this self-doubt about my writing with a friend recently, and she reminded me of what I’ve written so far: Everything from meditations to blog posts to marketing briefs and public speaking notes.
And a book. So yes, I think it’s okay to call myself an author.
Writing is a powerful tool for many people, and for me, it’s been a true privilege to express myself this way.
Because writing is an experience of profound freedom.
The Freedom of Writing
“People can tell you to keep your mouth shut, but that doesn’t stop you from having your own opinion.” ― Anne Frank
What makes us free, truly? Our definition of liberty has gotten a little muddled down by politics over the years. See, freedom isn’t just about the right to own property or how an election turns out.
Freedom means being allowed to live without hindrances — being who you are as a person, without someone controlling that. And one of the greatest types of freedom is expression.
The liberty of expressing ourselves is a beautiful gift, and writing has always been one of my favorite forms of expression. I’ve kept a journal over the years — well, several dozen journals, because there are stages of my life when I need to write frequently. The words just need to come out!
Being able to express our emotions through writing, dance, singing, painting or movement isn’t just good for our mental health, though.
This kind of liberation gives us a sense of having more agency in our own lives. “Creating art at any age gives people an opportunity to express what they are feeling,” according to one Stanford study. “Creating art provides the ability to make decisions for oneself. With the opportunity to make decisions and to exercise control over choice, people enhance their quality of life, improve self-esteem, and create ways to relate to others in a meaningful way.”
Writing allows you to express your thoughts, reflect on hard conversations or vent about the day. You get the opportunity to view situations with some perspective, when you write, and sometimes that shift can bring great realizations and growth. Not to mention, the health benefits of expressing gratitude, perhaps when meditating or journaling are many, and some might surprise you.
More Benefits of Writing
Creative writing, whether that’s journaling, essays, or poetry, is really a way to reconnect with ourselves and our brains — you’re thinking while you write out words, actively contemplating while you put the letters down on paper.
And that’s why handwriting is recommended over the keyboard, if you want to truly benefit from the introspective experience of writing. “Note taking is an effective memory and learning aid because it prompts students to think about their learning; it’s more effective when done by hand,” writes Bryan Goodwin.
And whether you’re taking notes, jotting down your thoughts, or playing around with poetry, today’s doctors have found that writing offers true liberation … even when you’re someone with a daunting diagnosis like cancer.
Doctors and students with Stanford Medicine researched how some cancer patients used writing as a tool of expression. They looked at the benefits that writing poetry brought to these patients, and the results were significant.
Patients who spent time crafting poems or participating in other creative activities reported a feeling of fulfillment. “Giving attention to this creative spark may support your desire to live life as fully as possible,” writes John Fox, C.P.T. for Stanford Medicine.
“Creative expression helps you hold on to your core self while facing the demands of a disease like cancer,” says John. “Poetry reminds you that you are more than a disease.”
Building a Daily Writing Habit
“Because this business of becoming conscious, of being a writer, is ultimately about asking yourself, How alive am I willing to be?” — Anne Lamott
Making a habit out of your writing and staying dedicated to that practice is a powerful act; one that helps to build a sense of freedom into your everyday life. And even if that’s just a few minutes of journaling a day, that’s a freedom worth celebrating!
See how a daily writing ritual offers support and structure to your day! On Monday, July 26, I’m starting live meditation and journaling sessions on Insight Timer Live weekly. This is an opportunity to set the tone for your week, and to kick things off with intention.