“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” — Anne Frank
I have been writing for as long as I can remember, finishing up my first “novel” in 4th grade. If you didn’t already know, I’m actually the self-published author of two YA psychological thrillers, and I recently announced that I’m making progress on a 3rd novel, also a psychological thriller but written in a much different way than my first two novels.
But, for a long period, I stopped writing. Specifically, after publishing my second novel, Fifty Days, when I hit a bump in the road with a not-so-reliable publisher and was forced to re-publish on my own, and was also sucked dry of ideas. Fifty Days took quite a lot out of me, and in all honesty, I was exhausted creatively. I was also flooded with defeat when the publication process didn’t go as well as I’d planned, and I made less sales than desired. I needed to take a break, so I did, but the problem was that I never continued writing--I simply slipped deeper and deeper into a pit of embarrassment, my creative juices dry and any urge to write vanished. It wasn’t until I had a call with an energy healer and she told me, “I’m sensing that you’re stuck, creatively, and have been for a long time,” when I realized just how right she was, as well as how much I did miss writing.
So, I dove back in. As president of a creative writing club, I was forced to write weekly, and slowly worked my way out of the deep pit I had crawled into by writing more and more. I took some creative writing classes, too, and eventually found inspiration for a 3rd novel. I don’t write everyday, sometimes go an entire week without writing anything, but the hobby, the love and thrill around the art of writing, has returned, and to me, that’s all that really matters--writing is fun again.
I noticed, with my returned admiration for the practice, that my mental health increased. Then again, I had also begun running and reading more at the same time, so there were other things that played into my increased happiness. But whenever I wrote, I felt a huge sense of release and was flooded with joy, even if the scene was utterly devastating. Writing filled a void I didn’t know was present, making me happier, calmer, as well as more grounded. So, I couldn’t help but look into the ways creative writing improves mental health. Needless to say, I was stunned I hadn’t looked into it earlier. So of course, I’m here to share those findings with you now.
How creative writing can improve mental health
1. Writing is a mindfulness tool
If you’ve read my blog long enough, you’ll know that I am infatuated with the act of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to your thoughts and the space around you in a non-judgmental—to be fully present and aware of your thoughts, feelings, and senses. Mindfulness has several benefits, including releasing stress and anxiety, tuning into the parasympathetic nervous system to calm the body, and returning to our center, therefore better understanding ourselves and finding the core among the chaos.
Writing is a mindfulness tool in the sense that you are fully aware of the page in front of you, maybe the candle beside you, and that’s all. To write you must understand your thoughts and carefully pull them from your head and decorate them along the blankness before you. You are fully immersed in the story, or the idea, not worrying about everything else going on around you. You are focusing on one particular thing. Overtime, implementing daily writing can lower stress, anxiety, and welcome more presence in your life.
2. Writing can help you understand your emotions and connect to yourself
Writing is a deeply personal hobby, and if you’re anything like me, a lot of depth and suppressed emotions flood out during most writing sessions. Things I didn’t even think were bothering me will appear on the page, projected into another character, and it’d click—that was a feeling I felt, not just the character. We write what we know, including our experiences and emotions, suppressed or not, and therefore writing, regardless of if you’re writing a high fantasy novel or a thriller, will really just be a personal diary wrapped up in pretty wrapping that is a genre and well-developed characters. Or, if you’re journaling, like creative writing, those feelings will be pulled out overtime.
Writing gives me a good sense of what’s going on in my subconscious mind, or what’s bubbling under the surface. After great writing sessions, I feel connected to myself and empowered by the idea that my darker, hidden emotions have been transformed into art on the page. This can benefit mental health by helping you find any underlining issues that may be bothering you without your knowledge so that you can work through them, as well as gifting you a safe space to truly explore yourself without judgement.
3. Writing can clear your mind of clutter such as anxieties, fears, and unwanted feelings
As I mentioned before, we write what we know, and therefore we may write about things that trouble us, scare us, frustrate us, etc.. We may put our characters through breakups we personally endured, or have them undergo trauma we once faced. We most often do this without our own knowledge, as well. By writing out our anxieties, fears, and unwanted feelings, even trauma, we are releasing it all and therefore clearing it, at least slightly, from our minds. The suppressed thoughts now have a place to escape to and thrive.
Clearing out negative emotions and thoughts can in turn create room and space for joy, creativity, and other, more positive emotions. At least temporarily, it can ease your mind. This is why every time I have a good writing session, I feel almost weightless and can’t stop smiling!
4. Writing, and all creativity, activates “flow”
To be in “flow” means to be engaged and truly immersed into a task. Like mindfulness, “flow” is the act of focusing on something, but “flow” is even stronger. Have you ever felt like time flies when you’re working on a creative project or having fun? That’s “flow, right there! Your entire mind is engaged and active, and you are at your utmost productive state. “Flow” results in increased life-satisfaction, increased happiness, a more engaged and positive work mentality, increased creativity in all areas, as well as better emotional regulation. And writing is an excellent way to achieve flow.
5. Writing gives one a sense of purpose
Working on anything larger than yourself, such as a passion project, is going to give you a sense of purpose. Writing anything creatively has this effect, but especially novel writing. Passion projects alone give one a greater sense of happiness, more meaning in life, as well as increase passion and drive. Having something to consistently work on is also a great way to release emotions, explore your creativity, and simply, have fun.
Evidently, there are a lot of ways in which creative writing improves mental health. Even if you feel like you lack skills as a writer, or have nothing to write about, I’d recommend implementing a daily, even weekly journaling practice, since it is a form of creative writing, just like novel writing, and have a crazy amounts of benefits. I can’t express how much I adore all forms of writing, as well as how much writing has benefited me over these past few months—so if you have the time, just do it!