Creative Writing Improves Health

Through a screen, this is this morning's view as I write in my journal.

I write about feeling unnoticed or unappreciated; I also write about feeling grateful and lucky. Today’s list was long.

One of the things I’m grateful for is this daily habit of writing. I journal every morning.

Here’s why:

Writing provides clarity. I come to the end of my three pages of handwritten catharsis with a deeper understanding of some of the puzzles of my life. Nothing’s resolved, but the clean sheets are hung out to dry. I can see what I’ve got.

Journaling improves health. The physical effects of journaling are similar to the effects of meditating. My breathing slows down. My attention turns inward.

Writing documents the journey. I can reassure myself that things aren’t that bad, or confess that they are worse. My written words, once laid out, give me a benchmark if I should ever look back. But I never look back.

Journaling taps into my unconscious. Writing first thing in the morning, I dump my dreams on the page. They make no sense, yet are telling me something, some bubbled-up, mixed-up message. In looking at my dreams, I take the position that I am every character. I am more than me.

This blog is about health and fitness. Journaling is part of my mental and psychic fitness. It is my therapy. And journaling every morning is cheaper and more convenient than talk therapy. I began this morning habit ten years ago following the path of Julia Cameron’s guidebook, The Artist’s Way. I heard her speak years ago at Marble Collegiate Church. Loved her then. Love her now.

I write a lot more about creative writing at my blog, The Connected Life. http://gettingmyessayspublished.wordpress.com/ There, I document unplugging the kids from their media and all things writing.

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What Is Community?

Community is 3 things — hard work, passion and diversity.

Hard work. A ton of research shows you need 10,000 hours of practice to be a world class master. Malcolm Gladwell reported this in Outliers. Hard work, dogged effort and continual engagement are more important than talent, inclination and ability.

Hard work is probably more important than luck. Resilience – not giving up — is key.

Note to self: Remember this when exhausted by my writing load (much of it self-imposed). I am logging my hours towards mastery. I may be closing in on my 10,000 hours of writing. For five years, I have written probably for 3 hours every day, which equals about 5,000 hours. And then considering my writing life before the last five years, it’s possible I’ve nearly got 10,000 hours.  

Another note to self: When talking to my kids, I must praise their effort and not their fabulousity! (But then I’m so crazy in love with my kids that I tell them all the time, you are so wonderful. I guess I should say, your hard work is so wonderful!)

Passion. I’ve been reading Thomas Moore’s A Life at Work. The guy’s good. He talks about following your bliss and paying attention to the stories you tell about yourself – your archetypes and night dreams.

Note to self: Moore says it’s okay to have a whole lot of passions (or 4 blogs!) – for work and life. When I heard Moore speak at Marble Collegiate Church years ago, he said the one word he couldn’t advise as a guiding principle in life is “balance.” Moore said, “If you have to choose between two things — do both!”

The Hero's Journey & The Matrix

I’m with him. I’m up for following my passion and following my bliss. Remember Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey? Loved it way back when. Still love it today. The Matrix is based on the hero’s journey: http://www.mythsdreamssymbols.com/herojourney.html

Diversity. Diversity is not only having diverse classes, races, religions, ages, but points of view.

Note to self: Do not become so in love and so entrenched with my own point of view that I see the world solely through my own Matrix glasses. 

Thanks to Dominic A.A. Randolph, the head of school at Riverdale Country School who shared these 3 thoughts on what makes for community at a gathering last week.

Riverdale’s tag line is Mind, Character, Commitment, Community. His smart blog post is: http://blogs.riverdale.edu/headofschool/2010/09/25/ms-and-us-parents-day-speech-september-2010/#content.

Wow.