Write Action

“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.”
Gustave Flaubert

Does writing make people happier? Reams of research and scores of studies confirm that expressive writing — committing personal experience to paper — has major health benefits: It can boost well-being after a heart attack, reduce cancer symptoms in some patients, help control mood disorders, and even give flagging memories a shot of adrenalin. Now, not surprisingly, writing’s impact on happiness is attracting attention according to a New York Times article, “Write Your Way to Happiness (January 19, 2015).

Here’s the $64,000 question (actually, I’m sure all this research has a far higher price tag!): Can we rewrite our personal narratives in ways that lead to lasting changes in behavior and greater happiness? Or more simply, is writing transformative? Can we reshape and edit our personal stories in ways that enhance our well-being?

Most writers would probably shout a resounding yes — and need research no farther than their own head, heart, and hands for the evidence. Still, it’s comforting to know that the rest of the world is catching up with us. In one study, for example, students struggling with college were encouraged to change their personal stories to reflect a belief that they could improve academically. Within a year, only 1 student or 5 percent dropped out, while 20 percent of those in a control group left school. In a study of 120 married couples, those who explored a conflict with their partner through writing “showed greater improvement in marital happiness than those who did not write about their problems.”

“These writing interventions can really nudge people from a self-defeating way of thinking into a more optimistic cycle that reinforces itself,” notes Timothy D. Wilson, a University of Virginia psychology professor and author of a new book called, Redirect: Changing the Stories we Live By.

Many of us who’ve embraced the writing life learned about the power of words to heal, transform, and provide emotional solace very early in life. As a kid, whenever I was upset, I’d find some place quiet and write poetry. If I felt the need to escape from my everyday life when things weren’t going well, I’d pick up a pen or a book, and presto-chango, I was somewhere else. I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences.

What a gift to the world it would be if more people embraced the magic their own personal muse is waiting so eagerly to bestow upon them. We’re the lucky ones, so let’s write on!

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About karinwritesdangerously

I am a writer and this is a motivational blog designed to help both writers and aspiring writers to push to the next level. Key themes are peak performance, passion, overcoming writing roadblocks, juicing up your creativity, and the joys of writing.
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3 Responses to Write Action

  1. Joe Owens says:

    Hey Karin! It has been way too long. From my recent experience I would answer you in this way: Nine months of now concentrated writing left me in a worse place. I got out of the habit and had a considerable amount of difficulty trying to keep my mood elevated. As I began 2015 I decided to launch four targeted blogs to allow for a narrower focus.

    • Hi Joe,

      So wonderful to hear from you and know that you’re still with me! And thank you for sharing your experience — it helps us all. Those valley periods are always so challenging, aren’t they? And keeping yourself motivated from day to day isn’t always easy when there’s no one standing over your shoulder saying “Write! Write!” — although I do believe that if we listen we’ll hear the gentle voice of spirit encouraging us on.

      I think it’s great that you’ve come up with a new writing strategy for 2015 — one that will help you stay more focused. Please keep us posted on your progress, so we can learn from your experience.

      Date: Tue, 27 Jan 2015 13:38:50 +0000 To: kmja_w@hotmail.com

      • Joe Owens says:

        Hey Karin. On my blog (Joe’s Musings) I have a challenge to gather bloggers from all 50 states and ask them to either share photos from their Independence Day celebrations or a blog post about it. Would you be so kind as to join and pass this idea to your blogging friends?

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