I have found many answers and had epiphanies about the world around me and the world within me through writing.
Paper holds power. The most beautiful thing about it is that it doesn’t talk back – not really. It sits there holding crystal clear space, so that you can pour your mind onto its surface. Through my creative writing process, I’ve developed a few techniques that are tools in developing self awareness and personal growth. The work is intricate, sometimes difficult, but the relationship between you and yourself deserves nothing less.
Open your heart and grab some paper. You’ll want to take notes for this one.
Image by Quelcy T. Kogel
Free writing is an activity that allows you to write without concern over context, grammar or other rhetorical elements. In basic terms: just write. The best thing about pen and paper is that you can’t hit “delete.” Keeping it traditional allows your brain to fully purge. Writing while overthinking can be limiting. We all know what it feels like to hover our fingers above the keyboard praying for the slightest movement (me 20 minutes ago). When you write freely, you’re encouraged to keep your pen moving no matter how resistant or judgmental you might feel.
Elaine Almeida wrote a beautiful entry about her writing process. As a prompt for her free writing, she’ll grab an art book or go to Google’s Arts and Culture’s weekly highlights and choose an image. With that image in mind, she’ll write – stream of consciousness – for a timed 10 minutes. She says, “The goal is simply to write—with no little editor hovering over you— for those ten minutes. At the end regardless if you love the words or not, you have a few pages of writing. And if you do this every week, you’ll soon find you have gigabytes of writing you’ve crafted, with small treasures from each day, and new connections to the art you’ve filled your life with. It is a ritual practice in self kindness, creativity and reciprocity. The art gives and so do you. Time gives and so do you. And for me, somewhere among the exchanges, I found my voice again.”
To learn more about one of the best free writing techniques there is, check out Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way.
Massage your words
Create a long form Google Document creating all of your free writing, personal essays, random thoughts and epiphanies. Write on a Friday morning and go back that Sunday evening. Expand sentences, delete words, add phrases and continue. When it comes to writing, the longer the game the better the ending. Words have a funny way of changing.
Design your frame
What’s empowering about storytelling is that the teller has power over the story. You get to decide what you put into the frame. I always say it’s like a Zoom call. You might see that I put on mascara, a pair of earrings and a nice top; my room is clean and the space is peaceful. But is all of that true? What if I’m in sweatpants, the floor is cluttered with laundry and my dog is barking on the back deck? I chose where to place the camera and that is no different than the parameters we set around our stories.
Consider drawing up your own personal VIA (values, interests and abilities). Radha Agrawal wrote a great book, Belong, that describes the VIA diagram as a tool for creating your dream community. The activity compels you to study your identity, the things that truly matter to you and therefore the topics you choose to think on, linger on and write about.
Write a love letter
One of the most fulfilling acts of service out there is the act of writing a letter to someone you love. What often gets lost are the things that person teaches you about yourself, just by being on the receiving end of your words. You’ll find that the way you describe your day, the thing that’s ailing you or the event you can’t wait for is the most authentic version of your writing.
That’s the style you want to keep.
So, light a candle, sit in your favorite chair and write a love letter to your favorite person. No need to get specific. Just tell them everything.
Then, read it.