Most of us have deep associations with the process of putting words to paper, which usually begin when we are learning to write at school. We are being judged from the outset, encouraged to think about what we are writing, checking that we are using correct spelling and punctuation, and developing an inner critical voice that censors our words as they hit the page. As we grow older, any creative expression we might have been allowed at school through imaginative story-writing is lost in a stream of report-writing, email processing or form-filling, demanding evidence and facts.
Switching off the inner critical voice can be a challenge – editing our written work is deeply ingrained – especially for those with writing careers, and helps us to hone and improve. But if we can find a way of stilling the mind and simply seeing what unfolds, expressive writing is an invaluable tool for reflective thinking, perhaps shedding new light on old, unhelpful patterns of thinking or behaving, revealing something new to us about ourselves. It may even unearth anxieties we didn’t know we held, freeing our mind of the burden of having to repress these toxic thoughts.
Getting the Creative Juices Flowing
Giving yourself the space and time to write expressively on a regular basis can cultivate a different kind of relationship with the thinking, more critical self. Setting boundaries by establishing some mindful ground-rules is an important aspect of giving yourself permission to let go and re-connect with your creative and expressive self.
Breathe deeply and calm your mind. This links to mindfulness practice, cultivating a ‘breathing-space’ where awareness is brought to the present moment, in this case – through the act of writing:
Write non-stop for 5 minutes. Write whatever’s in your head, trying not to plan, or censor yourself. Thinking about it turns on the inner-critic! Don’t worry about structure, spelling or grammar.
Give yourself permission to write anything. It’s impossible to get it wrong! Whatever you write will be right for you. Nothing is off-limits, and nothing is taboo, because it’s top secret. You don’t even have to read it afterwards – you can screw it up and throw it away if this is what you choose.
However, it’s useful to read through what you’ve written. Perhaps you’ve focused on an insecurity: writing it down allows you to accept and then tackle it. Maybe you’ve written random words – that’s great, too. With practice, your mind will learn to feel relaxed and your potential for uninhibited reflection and and creative expression will grow.