Why Writing Matters When You Have Nothing to Say
I love to write. I’m a journaling kind of gal. I want to jot down my insanity, neurosis, and just plain ole delirium. “Sense” is what I pretend to have when others are watching. I charade around, as if I have it all together. Writing is an escape from that self-imposed expectation. I can dive into my shadow. I can entertain my deepest and darkest thoughts—the ones I don’t want anyone to know I’m harboring.
I don’t know much about the spiritual life, but there are two things I am sure of: I have to be committed to a path or I will be miserable, and spirituality includes going into the darkest corners of my mind to find those parts of myself I left behind. Journaling, writing—basically being honest without fear of consequences—is a vital part of my journey. A pen and paper allows me to have a scary or disturbing thought without beating myself up. Behind that scary exterior is something juicy, a valuable piece of myself that I cannot afford to ignore. “I think writing really helps you heal yourself,” writes Alice Walker. She claims, “I think if you write long enough, you will be a healthy person.”
Writing is a practice of fierce love and acceptance. Many of us have things we couldn’t imagine saying aloud, even in an empty room, much less to someone else.
Having a safe place to purge my mind does a few things for me. First, it teaches me that there is nothing I can say or do to turn Myself away from myself. There is nowhere I can go that is out of the reach of God’s love. I’ve gone to some pretty dark places through writing, and though I may struggle through it, I know that tomorrow morning I will wake up and work with who I am.
Second, I’ve learned to go deeper. When I am about to see something I do not want to see within myself, I tend to get lazy. As a practice, writing counteracts this tendency. I start to tap dance around things I don’t like, but keeping my pen to the page forces me to go deeper.
Finally, I realize that deep down I’m an intelligent person. I know what is real and what is a façade. Sometimes it takes a while to get to the real me, but inevitably I get there. I have no doubts when I’m being honest. When I’m being dishonest, there’s way too much wiggle room. When I’m real, my writing is exact, quick, spontaneous, and lacks all traces of self consciousness.
With that, I encourage you to write.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Write with no one else in mind.
Do not write with the intention of sharing it with anyone. It prevents you from being totally you. Keep it to yourself. Writing with total abandonment means believing when your pen is on the paper you are totally abandoned—all alone.
I wouldn’t describe myself as courageous, but there’s no doubt I can be obnoxiously persistent. I sit down and start to journal about no-thing in particular, but I know it’s not nothing. I know there’s something. Don’t stop writing. Get to it. Get at what is real and substantial. Be honest about how dishonest you’re being. Push yourself to go deeper. Ask “why?” a lot, and keep exploring. I didn’t pick up my pen for no reason. I am too big to have something small to say.
And when you get nothing.
Pick a line from your favorite movie or poem. Don’t be mindless. In the past I would pick a color or a senseless word and just start writing. While it may be a good writing exercise, it didn’t usually teach me much about myself. The celebrated author, Alice Walker, as previously stated, believed that writing will restore you to health. But she does add one condition, “That is, if you write what you need to write.” Whatever topic you pick, make sure it strikes a chord with you. If you start in an honest place, it will lead you to more honesty.
When at a loss, go back to your childhood. Pick a grade from elementary school and write down everything you remember from that time in your life. Write letters to yourself as a child telling your younger self all about your current life—all the things you wish you would have done differently, all the things you wish you knew then.
Write letters to the people you are angry at, or can’t get out of your mind. What would you have said that day to your ex if you had another chance, or to your boss, or to your dad, or to your dog? Write letters to the homeless man you saw on the street, or the old lady at the grocery store. This can be as much a practice about turning inward as it can be about participating in the world around you.
Stick with it.
Some days it’s easier to get down to the nitty-gritty. I can easily see what’s going on inside me. Some days it’s hard. Be disciplined and committed. Writing is my prayer life. Some days I feel God, and some days I ask, “Why have you forsaken me?” Return home to the page either way.
Lastly, writing is a practice where you are doing all the talking. Have a practice that forces you to be quiet. There’s meditation and centering prayer. But have a practice that allows you to listen, and not take your thinking so serious.
If you are interested in learning more about writing or meditation, on the second Wednesday of every month at 7 pm, I lead a writing practice and a guided meditation at the Refuge Meditation Group. All are welcome to attend. We meet at 622 Jordan St. in Shreveport, Louisiana.