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The Unboxed Brain is a monthly ezine bringing you innovation, spirit and creativity.  We feature articles by coaching professionals and others working on the creative frontier.

Writing for Your Life -

writing practice as an invitation

to unapologetic self expression

 

 by Deb Cooperman, CPCC     

Few people give a second thought to writing.  We write ourselves to-do lists and little notes to our families that we leave on “post it’s” on the fridge and we write email upon email upon email.  When asked to write anything beyond the email or list, some cringe in horror, remembering rules from high school: topic sentences, outlines, grammar, spelling, transitional phrases.  Yuck.  Before we even put the pen to the page, we’re paralyzed.  For many, the idea of developing a writing practice seems like work.  And who needs more of that?

 I believe, as I expect many who find their way to this article do too, that we each come to this world with certain gifts - our own unique expression - and our lives are about finding ways to nurture those gifts and unleash them out in the world.  And a writing practice - writing for just 15 minutes a day (or more) about your thoughts and emotions - is one of the most powerful tools for supporting that process.  It offers a safe, inexpensive, non-judgmental and completely portable way for people to uncover, discover and nurture their own unique expression. Paper doesn’t talk back, it doesn’t judge you for bad grammar, spelling or whatever “off the wall” thing you might think. A writing practice invites you to get to know yourself while providing you with a detailed record of your process.  The practice can help you uncover solutions to challenges in your personal and business life, set goals, understand habits and patters, process your life and explore new perspectives.  And if you want to write for publication, you can’t beat a writing practice for keeping your creative wheels greased. 

 As if all that weren’t enough, a writing practice is good for your health and your business life too.  In a study conducted by psychologist James W. Pennebaker, people who wrote for 15 minutes a day reported benefits to both health and well being.  In one part of the study, people with chronic illnesses reported fewer days off from work and a more optimistic view of their treatment(s) than the “control” group, who did not engage in a writing practice.  In another part of the study, people who’d were out of work reported that writing was also an effective tool… the “writers” felt better about their overall process, and they also found work faster.  (how’s THAT for a recommendation in this economy, huh?)

 Personal growth, clarity, better focus, stress reduction, good health, revelation, relaxation and more (oh the possibilities are endless!)… all for the low, low cost of a pen and a notebook!  (can’t beat that!)

 Whether you want to write for publication or personal growth, one of the biggest obstacles to developing a writing practice is getting started, so I’ve put together some tips/thoughts to help you start writing for your life.

 Deb’s Tips for Creating a Writing Practice

 Start Writing

One of the easiest ways to get started is with a process some call “free writing”, “stream of consciousness writing” or “brain dumping”. Whatever you call it, it’s a great way to let the monkey mind have its way as you clear out the stuff that rolls around in your head.  Start with where you are (even if where you are is “I don’t know where to start…”).  If the “to-do list” starts running through your head, let it out (“I need to go to the grocery store and the bank and I still need to clean out the hall closet…”).  You can start with a coaching inquiry: What do I want?  What brings me joy?  What is in the way?  You can talk about things you did that day and how you felt about it.  It doesn’t really matter; just pick one of your trains of thought, jump on it and see where you go. Don’t censor, don’t edit, just GO.  Write.

 Keep the pen moving

If you’re stuck and you don’t know what to say, say that (“I’m stuck and I don’t know what to say…”) until you’re not, and you do.  You don’t have to make sense, you just need to let your thoughts, the pen and the page meet.

 Interlude:

A word about critics

It’s pretty natural when beginning ANY practice that your inner critics will come out and have a field day of attempted discouragement.  With a writing practice, they might try one of the following standard attacks: “You can’t write, who do you think you are?”  “What if somebody finds this and reads it…you sound like a dork.”  “What are you trying to prove?”  “Don’t forget you can’t spell to save your life!”  Whatever road block they try to come up with, let them have their say…critics are much less powerful when exposed to the light.  You might also find it amusing to invite your higher self into the dialogue to whup their pathetic little butts.

 Semi related to the aforementioned Interlude - There is No Right Way:

Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or penmanship.  Thinking that there’s a “right way” to do this practice feeds the perfection obsessed critics and it’s time to starve those suckers out of existence. If you write your thoughts and feelings, you’re doing it right.  Everything else is just detail.  If you’re want to write for publication, you’ll eventually have to edit and check your spelling, but not now.  Now you’re having a party for yourself on paper.  Go wild, get mellow, rant, rave, moan, kvetch, bellow, sing…make it up the way you want to.  You’re the only one reading this, so who kares uf yer setences go awwl over the playce and are full uv sepling errers and grammer skrewups?

 Did I say you should write?

Do you cook by laying out the ingredients and staring at them, imagining the fabulous spread?  Nope, you start…you chop the veggies, you heat the skillet and you uncork the wine.  In writing you get out the pen and the paper (or sit by the computer) and you write.

 No B.S. 

Tell the truth.  This is you you’re talking to.  There’s nobody to impress, nothing to “pretty up”.  Get the delicious dreams, the grief, anger, the bubbling happys and the dark, scary thoughts out of your head and on paper.  And don’t let the permanence of your writing stop you; nobody said it had to be true always, just true now.  Write your truth.

 Or not.

Maybe you don’t want to tell the truth.  That’s OK too. Let yourself play in the realm of fiction.  Rewrite history.  Wouldn’t it have been cool to tell that guy what you thought of 10 minutes after you stood there without a clever thing to say?  Say it now.

 Be Patient

It may take you a while to get to the point…kind of  like talking.  We can blather on for ages, blah, blah, blah, blah on and on and on blah, blah…and then: oh, wow…THAT’S what I meant!

 There’s no perfect time to write

Julia Cameron, author and co-creator of The Artist’s Way workshops suggests that you write “morning pages” - 3 pages - as soon as you wake up everyday to clear out the cobwebs.  And morning is certainly a great time to do it.  And every day would be nice and three pages is a great number to shoot for.  But if you can’t manage it first thing in the morning and 3 pages seems daunting, don’t let these excuses be the things that stop you from giving it a go.  Just (am I getting redundant?) write.

 Semi related to the aforementioned redundant call to “just write”

It’s OK to repeat yourself. 

 Keep what you write (except when you don’t want to). 

Keeping what you’ve written provides a reference and a record for you, which can be invaluable over time.  (it helps to date what you’ve written too.)

 And don’t forget to write.

It’s good to start with about 15 minutes, but don’t let time stop you. If you think you don’t have enough time, consider these options: you could write while you’re waiting for the coffee to brew, while you’re on hold with the cable company, while dinner is re-heating in the microwave, when you first wake up or while you’re on the toilet (if you’re like 90% of the population, you read there so you can just as easily write there!).  It doesn’t take long…just get started.

 Once you begin your writing practice you’ll find thousands of ways to make it work, and thousands of ways to make it your own.  You may not write the next great American novel, but I can almost guarantee that the story of your life will be richer for the practice.


For more tips to jumpstart your writing practice, request Deb's Tips and Prompts sheet.  Email info@debcooperman.com with "tips sheet" in the subject line.  


 © 2004. Deb Cooperman, all rights reserved


 

 

Deb Cooperman is a writing and creativity coach who supports and encourages her clients to live unapologetically fabulous, fully self expressed lives.  Her Living Out Loud Writing groups and teleclasses encourage participants to use the practice of writing to uncover, recover, discover and/or strengthen their authentic voice and then take it off the page and out into the world to unleash it! 

Contact her at : info@debcooperman.com

www.debcooperman.com


 

 

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