Can Writing Keep You Well?

20 07 2010

“The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean.”

(Robert Louis Stevenson) 

Today’s piece is written in response to the question: “Can Writing keep us well? The relationship between writing, health and well-being.” A question that was posed here with the invite to different people to respond with their own experiences and opinions.

There is a Zen story about two travelling monks, one was younger and less experienced who looked up to the older brother. On their travels they came across a river where they met a young woman. Wary of the current, she asked if they could carry her across. The younger monk hesitated, as their order strictly forbid relations with females. The older monk quickly picked her up onto his shoulders, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other bank. She thanked him and departed.

As the monks continued on their way, the younger one was brooding and preoccupied. After several days and unable to hold his silence any longer, he spoke out. “Brother, our spiritual training teaches us to avoid any contact with women, but you picked that one up on your shoulders and carried her!”

The older monk looked surprised and then laughed, “Brother,” the second monk replied, “I set her down on the other side, while you are still carrying her.”

During my school years I occasionally would write a diary. Not the scheduling type of diary but the “dear diary” variety. It wasn’t something I would do as part of any routine so it normally would only have a couple of entries and then there’d be huge gaps until I was next compelled to write.

Normally it was a something that was so fantastic that everyone else was sick of listening about or something I’d found incredibly infuriating that proved to be the spark that provoked an entry. I haven’t kept them but being a teenager I suspect that there were quite a bit of each of those in there  :)

There was no intended reader other than myself, it was simply a case of getting stuff from out of my head and onto paper – stopped me going over and over something, blowing it out of proportion and stressing over it all. In fact I remember on one occasion, physically destroying what I had just written to let it go completely – Although I certainly wouldn’t have phrased it in that manner at the time, it was simply a way of looking after my emotional health and well-being.

Now-a-days the only diary I keep is of the scheduling variety but I do use writing for a number of different reasons and many all begin with just being intended for my eyes only. This allows me to write what I really mean rather than initially focusing upon communicating with someone else.

This week I invite you to play with using writing that is intended for your own eyes only to “get things off your chest” rather than carrying them around with you.

The exercise that follows is specifically for relationships with other people but you can always modify and adapt it to cover other scenarios you want to let go of.

  1. Choose a relationship that you would like to be improved.
  2. Write that individual a letter. Be totally honest about how you feel. This is not a letter intended for them to read so get everything down into this letter.
  3. Put the letter somewhere safe for at least 2 days and carry on with your daily life.
  4. After 2 days you can decide if you want to keep the letter, destroy it (in what ever fashion you see fit to safely do that) or send/give it to the person concerned. If you decide that there is more to add to your letter then do add more and then put the letter to one-side for another couple of days  before deciding what to do with it.

Have a week of writing and letting go




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