THE WONDER OF WRITING
A few years ago, amid severe depression and anxiety, I wrote myself a letter.
I was about to go on holiday and coming home worried me. Sitting on my bed I felt a deep urge to support myself, to tell myself everything would be ok. I wrote quickly, sealed the envelope and left it on my pillow.
Ten days later the note brought a profound sense of relief.
Yet, I had written diaries through adolescence and they didn’t make me happy. Instead, they were pages filled with negativity, fear and inadequacy: stories that became my beliefs.
When I realised this my challenge was clear: write better, kinder narratives – a process that’s transformed my life.
Writing for yourself is a beautiful means of expression, but also self-support. As women we can seem hardwired to be critical of ourselves, perpetuating societal narratives about our bodies, personalities and potential. We skim over our achievements instead of celebrating them and struggle to embody our worth.
CHANGING THE STORY
Every morning I put Dear Beautiful Soul, how are you? at the top of my page, set a timer for fifteen minutes and wrote. I kept two questions front of mind: Is this honest? Is it kind?
As months passed I gained strength and self-insight, made better decisions, challenged limiting beliefs, and raised my self-esteem. I learned more about self-compassion, saw it was at the heart of thriving in my life and developed its use in my routine.
HOW CAN IT WORK FOR YOU?
As I changed the way I spoke to myself I noticed so many women around me struggling with harsh and judgemental inner voices. Writing can help in all areas of your life: when you feel low, have to make an important decision, have difficulty moving on…the list is infinite.
So much anxiety and overwhelm comes from feeling there is more to deal with, invisible malevolent forces we can’t quite see. When we write we establish what’s true – from a rational, rather than a reactive place. Writing distances us from fearful thoughts; it makes us slow down.
This process also helps ascertain what we want and need, liberate worries, and set positive intentions.
MAKING WRITING A HABIT
- Carve out 10-15 minutes per day with a notebook and pen, where you won’t be disturbed.
- Compassionately address yourself. This can be as simple as Hey love – choose something nurturing and authentic.
- Observe what surfaces. Are you being honest? Is there anything you’re avoiding? What needs your attention?
- Play! Scribble, use affirmations, write in capitals. Tune in to what feels right.
- Change negative thoughts into kinder ones – for example: I feel terrible becomes I might not feel good now, but I know I am worthy of great things.
Many of us avoid writing because we feel we need to be ‘good at it’ or fear our words might be discovered. The truth is it doesn’t matter about spelling or grammar, or even if it’s readable. And if you don’t want anyone to see it? Rip it up when you finish. All that matters is showing up for yourself, again and again.
A final exercise – when you’ve had a great experience, like one of the WanderWomen events, write about it. Great memories can sustain us, if we choose to give them space.
Joanne Bell is a teacher, writer and poet who founded ‘Write to Thrive’, therapeutic writing with a focus on self-compassion. She writes a letter with free weekly prompts at https://writetothrive.substack.com and find her on Instagram.