This is what happens when you write every day

Santa Rosa therapist Patty Bechtold explores what happens when you write every day,

During the month of October I took part in The Devoted Writer, an online writing class where we were encouraged and supported to write every day for 15 minutes.

Some of my classmates were there with specific goals, perhaps to work on a book or blog. Others were looking to enhance or get back into the writing groove.

And a few, like me, wanted to use the time to deepen our personal writing practice, or what you might think of as journaling practice or reflective writing.

By the end of those 31 days I experienced a profound sense of personal renewal.

Now, you certainly don’t have to write every day to harvest the replenishing and renewing benefits of writing. Like I’ve said before, even writing for 10 to 15 minutes, two or three times a week, has the potential to increase feelings of optimism and life satisfaction.

In fact, that’s about how much I’ve been writing during the past year. And it’s been good.

But as I continued to rack up writing days during October, I noticed a shift. I felt it in my body, as if all the writing I’d done up until that point had merely been the prologue.

Now though, I’d been unleashed into the real story. I was moving into the heart of it, and the sense of momentum was palpable.

What might happen if you decide to write every day?

You may discover, like I did, that your brain will stand up and take notice. We know that writing is good for our mental health; it has the capacity to heal and increase well-being. And stories light up our brains, including the ones we write about ourselves.

Writing also helps our brains lay down new neural pathways, as we write through our stories, continuing them beyond the point of pain or trauma where we tend to get stuck.

As our stories about who we are and what we know evolve, it might feel like nirvana for our brains. At least, that’s what I imagined was happening inside of my brain as I deepened my writing practice.

When you write every day, you may spark your imagination too.

Often, personal writing includes some venting and releasing, which can be important. However, too much is counter productive.

But creative storytelling offers a counterpoint, by calling on imagination and originality.

So during October I relied heavily on creativity and imagination, letting them kick into high gear and become my allies. They never failed to move me toward hope when the writing became dark.

I’d tap into my imagination to write future scenarios where I had already turned the corner on something difficult. I called on it to write captured moments from my past when I’d had positive experiences. Sometimes I even dialogued with my journal, or wrote letters to myself from a compassionate inner guide.

An experiment like this can also show you that writing is easier than you think.

One of my favorite moments came when these words leapt onto the page in front of me:

The thing about writing is, it’s so easy to live it. To pick up a pen and a piece of paper and start writing–well that’s about the easiest thing in the world to do, accessible to many of us.

I know writing can be more complicated than that. I’ve heard the ongoing refrain, the agony and ecstasy of it, the struggle to get the butt in the chair and write that shitty first draft, as Anne Lamott would say.

Still, I stand by what I wrote in my journal as far as 15 minutes a day goes: it’s really just a pen and paper, or keyboard and computer. And starting.

When you write your way into a truth like this about writing itself, you also step towards the likelihood that other things in your life are easier than you think.

Like the push-pull between being and doing. Or certain decisions that leave you feeling stuck. Or the uncertainty about what matters most to you.

You might even find that writing every day warms the wilderness of your life transitions.

Remember, in this class our journey to write every day was lovingly framed by our teacher as an act of devotion, rather than discipline. That was a bit of fortunate serendipity for me, since I wrote about the difference between devotion and discipline last April.

Back then I proposed that perhaps we could nurture our life transitions in the same way we nurture creativity: by showing up for them and practicing devotion rather than discipline.

I also suggested ways our psyches might be calling for devotion during periods of transition…

  • Finding time for stillness and quiet
  • Being instead of doing
  • Radical self-care and self-nurturing
  • Connecting with nature as a bridge to your own true nature
  • Rituals and practices that center and ground you
  • Moving below surface wanting, to the place of deeper desires
  • Practicing discernment: awareness, intuition, hunches, wisdom
  • Letting your curiosity roam without attaching it to anything yet
  • Deep self-compassion and acceptance for where you are right now
  • Your own creative process

I hadn’t looked at this list since I published the blog post, and I didn’t have it in mind during the month when I chose to write every day.

But when I came upon it towards the end of The Devoted Writer, I realized I’d experienced every single thing on the list in some way, just by writing for 15 minutes every day. In doing so, I believe I’ve come to understand devotion better than ever before.

What an immense gift.

Yes, this kind of writing magic is available to all of us.

Whether you write every day or find another rhythm through it, your unfolding writing journey will probably surprise you in ways you hadn’t expected, just like mine did.

And if you’re yearning for a place to experience such writing magic in the company of other women, please do click below to find out more about my new women’s circle that starts on January 30, 2019.


Patty Bechtold

Patty Bechtold

Welcome. I'm a Santa Rosa therapist and life coach, and I help women who feel like something’s missing in their lives or themselves. I specialize in self-esteem, anxiety, depression, grief, life transition, and women's groups. On this blog I write about different approaches to help you find your way back to your deepest wisdom. Thank you for being here.