One night, sometime around June of 2015 I was up late, sitting in my room, my mind racing. I took out my laptop and free wrote as I often do. For me, it was a usual entry. Writing about what was on my mind, my goals, dreams, wants, desires, what I was doing, my current situation, and some usual bitching about something that sucked at the time. After finishing, I looked in my writing folder, where I keep all of my free writing, and saw entires dated back from 2013.
I opened it and started reading through them. Something struck me almost immediately upon reading a few. Almost nothing had changed.
I was no where closer to being where I wanted to be then I was 2 years ago. I still bitched about the similar things, had the same anxieties, bitched about my job, wrote about my dream to travel, to experience more, grow myself more, start a blog and a lot else. And yet here I was, 2 years later, in almost the same place, same person.
It was the biggest smack in the face I’ve ever had, and it changed my life.
Something like that…
Now it didn’t change my life in the sense of me wanting to be a writer as a profession, or even making this site. No it changed my life because it me realize a ton about myself. I never realized how little I had been working towards becoming the person I wanted or doing the things I dreamed of until I looked back on it. I also realized a ton about myself, what was really important to me, what I really wanted, what I once thought was important, but later found out wasn’t. It allowed me to review, reflect, and open up.
When people often ask me about the decision I made to suddenly drop it all, travel, and start this site, my personal writings were my biggest motivator and reminder.
I would lose myself in the constant day to day, so much so, that I had no idea if what I was doing is what I even wanted. (You can probably relate). I had no idea what I was working towards or if I was even getting anywhere. I had no idea what the hell I was doing. Until years of free writing helped open up what really mattered to me. I’m not saying it gave me all the answers and I suddenly have the perfect vision I’m working towards, but I can say with certainty that I’m significantly better off because of it.
Let’s look more into why the simple act of writing helps you so much.
***Note, in case it’s not clear, when I say writing, I don’t mean writing articles or a history paper for school. I mean just free writing anything on your mind
1. You learn more about yourself
“I don’t know what I think until I write it down” – Flannery O’Connor
Free writing completely opens up your mind. Often times it feels like your writing is just pointless rambling, but that pointless rambling is what is going on in your day to day, in your head, it’s who you are. So pay attention and dive into it.
The nice thing about it too, is no one is going to read this. This is where you can and need to be brutally honest with yourself. Leave it all on the page. Be like Alice jumping down the rabbit hole. Get in your head and really dig around. Yes, there might be some scary shit going on or even some caterpillars smoking opium, but really explore.
You’ll probably be surprised with some of the things you write. That’s because you are constantly filtering yourself, even in your own thoughts. You’re constantly filtering how you act, what you say, what you do, and even how you think. Writing brings out the unfiltered side of yourself that may have been long suppressed. From there it tends to snowball, leading to realize more and more, one thing then another, then another until it seems like you’re getting to know yourself for the first time.
2. Realize what you want and track it.
Most people, including myself at times, live in this wishy washy world where you don’t really know what you want. You probably have a general sense of what makes you happy, what you want, who you want to become but you aren’t really sure. You’ve never really spent time alone, time by yourself, with your thoughts, and just wrote them down.
Write down that person you want to be in as much detail as possible. Write down what you want your career to look like, what you want your life to look like, what things you want to try or accomplish, what you want your significant other to be like etc. Personally, I have several pages on each one of the above mentioned and I look back on them often to remind myself what I want, what I need to do and see what I am currently doing to get there.
Visualize it, see it, write it down with as much detail as possible. Now write down what you need to start doing to get there. What steps it will take, timeframe it might take, actions necessary. Now you have a vision, now you have a blueprint and steps, now look back on it each day and see if you are doing it. Some of it might takes day, some months, and others years.
No buddy, write it down, cloud visions won’t last
Now your vision might change, and that’s fine. Mine probably has at least 20 times. Like I said what you thought was important one day, might not so much the next. Pay attention and write that shit down.
3. It’s therapeutic.
Maybe you’re angry, depressed, anxious, sad, whatever. Write it down. Go nuts. Whatever is on your mind just rant. I’m talking raw, off the wall, “I’d be terrified for anyone else to read this,” batshit crazy rants. The kind that you might read the next day and go “Jesus, was that me writing that?” Remember, no judgements, no one is going to read this except you, so let it out. It feels good.
Also no one gets hurt by it. You know that regretful, shameful feeling of sending a wildly outrageous, mean text or saying something horrible to someone, only the next to be like “heyyyyy sorry, had a really bad day yesterday, I didn’t mean it *smile emoji*.” Yeah, none of that shit. Don’t take it out on others, take it out in the dark hole that is your writing. Then laugh the next day when you realize how ridiculous it was. Or if you really don’t want to ever read it again, use John Oliver’s “Scream Into The Void.”
And again you may realize something new about yourself in these raw emotional writings. You may realize you often write about the same issue a lot and maybe it’s a bigger issue then you think and something needs to be done.
I never realized how stressed and how much I truly wanted to quit my job, until I flipped back and realized I wrote and ranted about it in probably 80% of my writings. I didn’t realize how bad my anxiety had really gotten until I read back on shit loads of very anxious writings, which made me realize it was a bigger issue that needed to be addressed. I didn’t realize my true passion for travel until it was in almost every single writing I ever did.
Adopting writing into your life:
So now that I’ve shown you how ground breaking, mind exploding, and life shattering writing can be, let’s talk about how to adopt into your life.
First have a laptop or notebook. Personally I do everything on my laptop and have a folder for all my entries because my hand writing is at a first grade level and I type much much faster.
Now I don’t have a specific rule of thumb for when and how often to write. Obviously the more the better. Usually I write when I just have a lot on my mind. But try to do it at different times of the day and different days because what you write Sunday night or Monday morning will likely be very different then Thursday Night or Friday.
Free writings on Sunday night’s are my favorite because you usually have a lot of thoughts and anxiety going into the work week and thoughts about your job and life choices. It’s also great for nights where you can’t sleep. Have your laptop or notebook under your bed, turn the light on and write all the things going on in your head. Not only is this usually some great stuff, but it’ll help you go to sleep when you’ve gotten it off your mind. But mess around with different times and days and try to start writing at least once a week.
While writing, don’t try so much. Don’t try to write some profound novel or wait for some life shattering revelation before writing. Don’t worry about grammar or even proper english. This is your voice here. Just go. Anything. Even if it’s “this is fucking boring, I don’t know what to say.” Good write that, keep going.
Some days you will have tons to say and will write for an hour, other days your mind will be blank and you’ll write two sentences. Some days you’ll find out something interesting or have a good rant, other days it will be mindless crap. I’d say 80% of my free writings are just semi non-sensical rambling. But looking back, a lot of that non-sensical rambling still revealed a lot. As you write more and more, it will become easier. Your brain will become used to opening up and you’ll slowly find it easier to write and ramble.
Realize this takes time. (I know, I know, you want to have your life all figured out now!) It took me years of doing this to create half an idea of what I want and who I want to be. But all great things take time or something like that right?
Overtime, look back on your writings. Re-read your old entries, see what you notice. What do you usually think and write about? What seems to keep making you mad, sad, angry, depressed, happy, excited, motivated?
I guarantee if you do this, if you create that vision and write down what you want and years later look back on it and haven’t take the steps to achieve it, like I did. It will light a fire under your ass like you’ve never felt.