Writing is a vessel by which we witness ourselves.
To me, that’s the only reason why writing really matters.
It’s why I write, teach writing, share writing, run an online writers’ group, travel to lead writing workshops and even teach yoga – because to me, breath and body movement are their own forms of self-expression.
Having a deep, healing relationship to writing is like carrying around a personal therapist, good friend and motivational speaker in your back pocket.
Whenever you need to vent, your writing is there for you.
Whenever you’re struggling to piece something together, your writing can help you do that.
And whenever you need a swift kick in the rear, you can put pen to paper, get feisty, get defiant, and dial your self-motivation up to 11.
That’s what writing can do for you.
But if you don’t have a healthy relationship to writing, your writing might instead feel like a constant confrontation with your self-belief – not a bolster to it.
Here are my top 7 micro-lessons for redefining your relationship to writing: from acknowledging the common struggles of writing to developing a few smart rituals, this advice should help you start to make peace with your writing, post haste.
1) Acknowledge: The Struggle is Real
Every act of artistry — from moving a pen across a blank page to tapping a piano key — requires force. Art demands physical exertion. Because, well, physics!
When you’re not writing, you’re in a state of stasis. The status quo is inertia. To move from inertia and into a state of writing, you need force: to struggle against inertia or stasis and to propel yourself into a state of doing, expenditure, action.
Let this really basic level of Newtonian physics remind you of the fundamental struggle that exists with all art.
In microcosm, moving a pen across a page isn’t a huge expenditure of energy. And yet, the most common struggles with writing include litany excuses that seem just as simple as moving your hand across a blank page.
Finding the time, investing attention, mustering willpower, practicing for hours, developing skills… and all to produce what may not be a very good product? Yeah, stasis seems pretty good by comparison! Being a writer means leaving a zone of known comfort – stasis, inertia – to do something that’s tough.
And inertia is hard to overcome — even when it takes just a bit of effort — when what we’re pushing against seems like such a big, broad struggle.
It’s important to remember that the struggle is real (and in this case, literal). As writers, we don’t need to pretend that writing is easy or art is frictionless. It does take work.
But a struggle doesn’t have to turn into suffering…
2) Reaffirm: Suffering is a Choice
The struggle for art is real, but it doesn’t mean that the struggle needs to become one of suffering.
Struggle (the fundamental physics of creation) is a reality of writing, but suffering (the conscious or subconscious decision to make it tougher) is a choice.
At least, it once was a choice. If you’ve had a long, trying relationship with writing, the struggle may feel like less of a choice than it is an longstanding habit you can’t seem to kick.
To shake the habit of feeling like your art is tied up with suffering, get back to your roots.
Open to a fresh journal page and ask yourself,
“Why writing? What did it once do for you? Did it used to feel good, rewarding, connective, expansive? What changed, that you can remember? When?”
When you dig into the origins of why you gravitated to your writing in the first place, you start to get back into your foundation: the personal values and soul-deep desires that you moved through you — before things went awry.
3) Make Writing Your Home
I want my every client, student, reader, friend and Literati Writer to consider their writing like going home — to a place that is safe, protected, nurturing, nourishing, grounding, bolstering and empowering.
Oftentimes, writing can feel like going to war. The struggle against high expectations, self-judgment and deep seeded feelings of guilt and shame can be a completely unruly pain in the ass.
But writing shouldn’t feel like that. It should feel like home. Imagine settling into your writing and feeling like you’re going home. Back to yourself. Into your truth. And away from what doesn’t serve you.
Imagine a healthy, nurturing writing practice — one without pressure, expectation, judgment, guilt or shame — that supports your soul, and your entire life from the ground up. It really is possible. If you align your heart and mind to lead you there.
Here’s a tip: Create a physical space for your writing that feels like home, and watch how your writing starts to feel more supportive.
A designated writing space will encourage you to write more by serving as a passive reminder to spend time and energy in the words. Plus, as nourishing space to support your self-expression, you’ll be reinforcing the feeling of “home” in your writing.
4) ‘Pour’ onto the Page
These first few tips are about mindset, but how about the actual practice of writing? This is where the art of “pouring” comes in handy, and it revolves around letting go and allowing your desire/wanting to manifest naturally.
When you’re just getting into a healthy writing practice, just keep showing up to the page and writing whatever is there.
Writers tend to say that they don’t have anything to write about — in actuality, the truth is often that they have too much to say, feel, reflect on, experience or divulge… and can’t mentally figure out where to begin or why.
Instead, imagine you’re a vase. Think of yourself as full. Really full.
The only goal you should have is to start pouring.
Begin to pour by “nudging the vase over” and writing. See what spills out onto the page. Don’t judge what you write. And really don’t edit it.
Surrender to whatever words, ideas, thoughts, memories, stories and things want to make themselves seen through you. Pouring gets the creative juices flowing and starts to empower you into a state of self-observation.
The more you pour, the better you’ll get at recognizing common themes that emerge in your words.
You’ll start to witness what you want to write about and be able to piece together why these themes, ideas, stories, characters or topics are repeatedly emerging.
With that goldmine of self-awareness, you can set up some healthy rituals for yourself to honor your creative desires and start to work towards their accomplishment.
5) Say No to Habits, Yes to Rituals
I think habits are bullshit. (There, I said it).
By definition, a habit is a repeated action. Which is well and good.
But “habits” tend to become unconscious actions, made repetitious.
Without conscious choice and self-awareness driving any action, a habit can quickly become a hollow act — one that we hope will yield positive results in the shortest amount of time (this is why we usually want to repeat the habit so frequently.)
Rather that repeating the same action for x number of days, establish a ritual leading into your designated writing time that honors you and makes your writing time feel like it’s nourishing, supportive and rewarding — even if you only end up writing 50 words, instead of 3,000.
A ritual is a chosen expression of Self: an embodiment of your values, a representation of your desires, and a testament to the ideals you’re striding towards.
It can mean selecting a sacred few 15-minute windows of writing time, 3 times a week, before sunrise, and before the day gets wild.
Line up a ritual of: the slightly-earlier-alarm, 1 cup of freshly made coffee, sitting in the window by 6:15 AM, and 15 minutes of uninterrupted time letting some words express themselves through you.
No matter how many words are written, you’re honoring values, investing in your desired goals.
6) Remember: You Don’t Need to Know Where It’s Going
The most important rapport to develop with your relationship to writing is the feel.
It’s maybe the hardest to establish, because writing can so often feel like a struggle and the words we produce may not be very good (remember, don’t compare your first draft to someone else’s finished product!).
But so long as your writing feels good — honoring, expressive, authentic, explorative, artful, nuanced, deep, genuine, etc. — you’ll be developing a sustainable and long-term relationship to writing. If it feels like shit, you may give up on it. If it feels pretty good, there’s a better chance you’ll keep returning to the page.
The feel matters because every artist requires this one essential ingredient of mastery: time.
The more time you give yourself, the better your skills will develop.
And as you feel your way through your writing journey, you’ll start to discover threads of what you desire the most with your writing:
Feeling leads desire. Desire leads your deeds. And deeds dictate your destiny.
7) And Finally: You Are a Writer (If You Say So)
Everything is a story.
If you say you’re not a “real” writer or that you suck at writing or that you’ll never get any better at it, you’ll be right.
This doesn’t mean you have to embellish the truth, exaggerate, or make yourself feel inauthentic.
Just stop beating yourself up or using your stories to place disclaimers around who you feel yourself to be and what you say you desire.
You are the stories you tell others — and just as much, the stories you tell yourself.
Go ahead and own the title of writer, if only in your own head, just to see how your relationship to writing might change.
I did it years ago. If only to lay claim to what I said I wanted: to write more, to write better, to use my words to help others.
To me, why writing matters is your personal relationship to it.
Putting the pen to paper is secondary to what’s really happening when you give yourself to your writing:
Coming into communion with yourself. Your true Self. The God-Spark within.
And a healthy relationship to writing can help you transform ordinary moments of everyday life into opportunities to witness your truth, your life, other souls and the world around you.
But beyond what words you produce, it’s your relationship to the written word that ought to come first. In the moments leading up to, and after, you do the actual writing. Because in the end, your relationship to written word is probably really revealing to the relationship you’re developing to yourself.
Yes. A healthier relationship to writing begins and ends with the relationship you have to you.