Ok, so after yesterday’s Buttergate, I understand that this post may be wasted on you but still I will continue to try to edumucate you on the powers of Writing for Sanity and Fun.
And YES. This is all going to end with a plug for my WRITING FOR SANITY AND FUN WORKSHOPS and it’s for your own good because honestly they will change your life.*
But before I get to the plug – a few more thoughts on the power of writing.
Yesterday I talked about Morning Pages, which is the kind of early morning brain dump that clears the mind and helps you understand just what is lurking in that head of yours.
A few people – ok, one – asked me what I write in my morning pages. This morning’s have been a mixture of vanity – I need to get a hair cut, my face is puffy, I need to stop eating white bread – practical – do VAT and send invoice – to good stuff: It feels exciting to be blogging again – to a few lines – ok a full page – moaning about a neighbour.
I write the morning pages on scrappy paper that I sometimes keep and I sometimes throw out. It’s not in a nice journal.
It takes me about 25 minutes to do three pages. At the start of lockdown I was doing it most days, the last few weeks have been more erratic. I don’t think I did any last week. This week I’m back to it. I am not beating myself up about the dips because that’s just life. And I am a zen goddess.
Today I am going to tell you about a few other ways to write that might help.
WRITING AS A FORM OF MINDFULNESS
My favourite book on writing is called Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Goldberg talks about writing as a meditation, writing as a way of capturing the present moment in all its mundane beauty. She talks about paying attention to the details of our lives. Knowing that it all matters – the coffee cup, the stain on the carpet, the man sweeping the street.
In the workshops (PLUG TO COME) we do an exercise called ‘I see…’ which involves looking around you and writing down what you see. It often starts as a list – table, window, post it notes, half empty coffee cup – but as the minutes pass you sink deeper. You might notice the light through the window and notice that the window needs cleaning. You might then have a thought about what a slob you are (for example). You might then remember that all your life you dreamt of writing by a window and look here you are (for example.) This exercise just takes a few minutes but people get a lot from it. All of life is contained in these everyday moments we so often miss. Writing can help you wake up to your life.
WRITING AS A WAY TO GET TO KNOW YOURSELF
Natalie Goldberg says that ‘Writing is a path to meet ourselves.’ British playwright Alan Bennet says: ‘You do not put yourself into what you write, you find yourself there.’
I often do not know what I’m thinking or feeling until I start writing. Once I get scribbling (either in Morning Pages, my journal or even online) it’s a revelation. I didn’t know I thought that. I didn’t know that was still bothering me.
Write often enough and you start to see patterns in how you behave and think – in my case worrying about money, worrying I’ve upset someone, getting annoyed with the person for being (in my mind) upset with me because they have absolutely no right…
And if you don’t know where to start – here is a list of good questions that you can ask yourself as writing prompts.
What I write in my journals is embarrassing and illuminating and often quite teenage. When I did the Hoffman Process one of the teachers told us to be fascinated by ourselves and I have run with that. My mother would argue that I’ve run too far and it’s not helpful – which leads me to the final suggestion
Dr James Pennebaker, author of Opening Up by Writing It Down, has done a research into the benefits of writing down the things that are bothering us. Studies have found that writing in a journal can lead to better sleep, a stronger immune system, more self-confidence and a higher I.Q. It can even help wounds heal more quickly. Incredible.
The theory is that by writing, you express and impose structure on anxious feelings, which in turn reduces stress and its physical impact on your body.
However, Pennebaker suggests that you only write about a specific issue that’s troubling you for four days in a row, 15-30 minutes a day. Any more than that and you are likely to ruminate. He doesn’t think it’s good to journal every day.
He also says in this New York Times piece, that if it doesn’t help, ‘stop doing it. Go jogging. See a therapist. Go to a bar. Go to church.’
I like this approach. Don’t make writing into something else to fail at. Give it a try. If it helps, great! And if it doesn’t. Stop it! No worries! And if you journal for weeks and then drop it for weeks or even months, fine! Nobody will die. Well, they might but that has nothing to do with whether you are writing or not.
And if you don’t fancy a blank page, there are a whole load of structured journals out there which let you write just one sentence per day, or fill in what you are grateful for – which I know is very eye-roll-y but research suggests it works. The best one I’ve come across is the 5 Minute Journal.
So on that note of humility it’s time for the plug: Contrary to what I said above* the WRITING FOR SANITY AND FUN WORKSHOPS will not change your life. Your life is probably pretty good already and this whole ‘change your life stuff’ is bullsh*t. But I think you will like them a lot.
A few people have messaged to say they would like to but they are nervous. I totally get that. You are sitting still with yourself and your thoughts for an hour or so and that is scary. You might have built writing up to be this thing that you can’t do. Also, doing anything for the first time is scary. Even after all the crazy public nudity/stand-up comedy stuff I’ve done, going to a yoga class gives me the jitters.
So it’s normal. And also I think you should come anyway.
Something quite magic is happening on these calls and it’s completely taken me by surprise. A warm, gentle community is forming. We have the UK and Ireland, America, Canada, Singapore, Australia and Holland. Ages 23-67. I am speaking in English but you can write in whatever language you want.
Some have written before, many have never done anything like this. This is not about writing a heartbreaking work of staggering genius, it’s about moving your pen just to see what comes out.
You don’t have to read anything out loud. You don’t even need to say anything. Some people keep their camera off, some people can be seen. You could even sit off camera, not writing a thing and I still think you’d come away feeling better.
If you’d like to come this Saturday 22 August 1pm-2.30pm UK time – CLICK HERE I will be lining up more for Autumn too.
Anyway, enough of the hard sell. Let me share some testimonials so that other people can give you the hard sell. Ha. Enough. OK, bye.
Thanks so so so much for reading and engaging with the blog again. It means a lot to me and I’m grateful to have you. If anyone else wants to start blogging, drop me a message. I’m lovingly checking up on other people who wanted to get started / back to it – and I think it’s helping us all.
Ok bye. xxx
LOVELY THINGS PEOPLE HAVE SAID ABOUT THE WORKSHOPS
Writing feels very scary to many people, including myself, but you created a very accessible workshop and it’s made me realise how powerful it is to access my thoughts and feelings. I feel like it’s opened a door to another part of me somehow and what’s in there waiting to come out isn’t that scary after all…!
I literally beamed all afternoon. It was such an amazing workshop.
I’ve not done anything creative for a while and it has been a highlight of the year so far for me. I feel like I’m at the start of something new.
These workshops make me feel like part of a community.
*Marianne Power is very sexy and I’m madly in love with her and want to take her to my private island so she can give me one on one writing lessons.
* Ok. This is made up by me as an example of how the workshops unshackle your imagination and help you dream big.
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