The Healing Power of Writing: Put Your Fingers to Keyboard and Your Mind at Ease
Updated: Mar 25
Ernest Hemingway wrote some of his greatest novels on a Corona typewriter. So did Agatha Christie, Tennessee Williams, and Dr. Seuss. Tom Hanks, who recently contracted the coronavirus, confessed to stowing away his treasured Corona typewriter, not that this century-old machine had anything to do with his illness (nor does Corona beer, for that matter). If anything, this iconic invention serves as a reminder that even when life as we know it has come to a halt and we're huddled in our homes, one thing we can do to help ourselves sort through all this mess is to sit down and write. And then write some more.
Why Write? Why Now?
The process of writing in itself is incredibly restorative. Through writing you can process your thoughts, explore ideas, express emotions. An article in Harvard Medical School's Health Publishing explains, "Stress, trauma, and unexpected life development...can throw people off stride emotionally and mentally. Writing about thoughts and feelings...may help people cope." With the rapidly accelerating spread of the coronavirus, most of us are feeling stressed out, anxious, and panicked—and also pent-up inside our homes. One way to cope with these unsettling emotions is to assuage them through writing.
Silver Linings—Keep Your Eyes Open and Your Pen at the Ready
The Oxford Dictionary defines corona as "the irregularly shaped pearly glow surrounding the darkened disk of the moon." Our world does indeed feel darker right now, but there are some "pearly glows" peeking out if we keep our eyes out for them, too. We are rushing around less, forcing us to slow down and be more introspective. Writing is an ideal medium for exploring what's going on inside of us and laying it bare on paper (or screen). You may surprise yourself with the gems that surface when you let go and simply write.
Who Says You're Not a Writer?
You don't need to be experienced to benefit from the process of writing. All you need to do is put pen to paper—or fingertips to keyboard—and begin. No one even has to read it. What matters is that you're expressing yourself and finding a way to release the torrent of emotions, thoughts, and ideas churning inside. Plus, you never know—you might discover you really enjoy expressing yourself this way.
There are benefits from sharing your writing. I participate in two writing groups, where we free write for 15 minutes, read what we just wrote, then do it all over again. No judgment. Just listening. This simple act of sharing our stream-of-consciousness, unedited pieces has brought us closer together, building trust and connection. I highly recommend Laurie Wagner's Wild Writing (https://27powers.org/wild-writing-virtual/) or Mollie McNeil's R'Awe Writing (email@example.com) classes to help get you started, or at least give you an idea of how restorative a writing group can be, even one that's conducted virtually.
One special thing about writing is that you can enjoy it anywhere, anytime, at any age, with minimal equipment. Kids who are home from school can recite or write stories and illustrate them, craft poems or haikus, plays or skits. Older family members can begin gratitude journals where they write down "three good things" about that day, begin personal journals, a story or even a graphic novel.
Even though we are advised to interact solely with immediate family members right now, we can still connect in other ways. Emailing, texting, and chatting on the phone are all quick and easy ways to reach out, but how about writing a letter? Even if you don't have a stamp, you can still deliver a card to an elderly neighbor to let her know you're thinking of her, or drop a note into your friend's mailbox just to say hello. In these days of social distancing, handwritten mail feels like a personal gift, a tactile connection. Plus, it teaches patience, since we have to wait for a letter to be received, making the process all the more meaningful.
For those of you who have begun a writing project or want to start one, now is the perfect time. This pandemic might be forcing us to hole up inside, but writing helps you burst the doors wide open and venture wherever your imagination takes you.
Elisse Gabriel is a freelance writer and editor and founder of Red Balloon Creative Content (www.redballooncreativecontent.com). Feel free to reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation.