Writing can be a powerful way to deal with confusion and emotional difficulties, but many find it difficult to pick up the habit in the first place.
When thinking about people who write in their free time at home, two profiles usually come to mind: There are the authors, both aspiring and well-established, who meticulously work on their next magnum opus for several years. And then there is the somewhat romantic image of a person silently pouring their heart out into a notebook they keep in a drawer next to their bed.
We can all benefit from developing a writing habit. And you might even be surprised by the many forms this can take.
First off, DON'T limit yourself to the 'diary' format. When people think about writing as a habit, many immediately think about the classic daily logging of activities. While you are of course free to take this approach, there are so many more things that you can do in the context of a journaling or writing habit. Writing about your dreams and goals in life, your relationships, or even how you would approach hypothetical scenarios can be a very eye-opening experience.
Lacking inspiration? DO use prompts. One of the biggest challenges when trying to establish a writing habit is the dreaded writer's block. Even experienced writers regularly struggle with the eerie silence of a blank page. Writing prompts can be very useful to get your creative juices flowing. A quick internet search for 'journaling writing prompts' will give you a plethora of suggestions to choose from, often even divided into different categories. Whenever you feel stuck, look up one of these lists and just read through it – it is almost certain that one of these prompts will trigger something in you.
As a general rule, DON'T worry about form. If you are interested in picking up writing as a form of self-care, you will most likely want to keep your writing private since you will regularly cover highly intimate and personal topics. In this case, you should not worry about your writing style, the words you choose, or the way you express your thoughts. You don't even have to write in full sentences, if that does not feel natural to you. The time you spent writing is your very own creative space where you are free to do whatever the hell you want. Embrace that freedom and express it in whichever way feels the most like 'you'.
DO prioritise frequency over quantity. Some people could write for hours on end. However, many of us, especially if we are not used to freeform writing, will have to gradually develop the habit first. During these early stages, it is much more beneficial to write just a short paragraph several times a week than setting yourself the goal of filling a whole page or even several pages every Sunday, for instance. If you feel like writing more on a particular day, then by all means go for it. But your goal should always be achievable, even on days when you are not really in the mood for writing. This approach prevents you from getting frustrated or overwhelmed too quickly in the beginning.
Be open to everything and DON'T shy away from the absurd. If you don't mind a creative challenge, then you should not shackle yourself to the constraints of our physical reality. There is a reason why some of the most effective memory techniques include the use of surreal or outlandish imagery: Our brains love the absurd! So, why not go for writing prompts like "There's a ghost detective named Rupert Willersby. What do you think their office looks like and what's the case they're currently working on?" or "A portal opens up in your living room one day. You feel a strong sense of happiness emanating from it. Would you walk through it and if yes, where would it lead?".
And finally, DO take your time before tackling difficult topics. When you start writing regularly, you will start looking at your emotions much more closely. Depending on your past experiences or your mental health, there might be certain topics that will be particularly difficult for you to write about. There is no need to push yourself, so start with topics that you feel comfortable writing about. Once you are a more experienced writer and have gotten used to expressing yourself in writing, you can gradually take on more complex and challenging experiences or emotions.