Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That's why it's so hard. — David McCullough
I am terrible at meditating. This is not because I have never tried. Several years ago, fed up with everyone from close friends to Oprah Magazine telling me that meditation was good for me, I decided to sign up for a 3-day mediation retreat at Kripalu. I said goodbye to my family and went off to experience the life-altering benefits of meditation.
Long Story Short
I was back in slightly more than 24 hours. The nice people at Kripalu told me that I could apply what I had paid to another retreat. I told them to keep the money. I wasn’t unhappy with what they had offered—it was a lovely setting with great food, kind people, and excellent instruction. It was everything they promised. It just wasn’t for me.
Writing is My Meditation
These days, I do meditate sometimes, but only for about ten minutes at a time. However, I sit in silence and observe my thoughts on a daily basis. I do it while writing. The practice of focusing on my thoughts, naming them, and capturing them serves a similar purpose as meditation. For me, it’s even more effective, because I can clearly see which of my thoughts are interesting and which are not. I can keep the useful ones and let go of negative or boring ones. With that in mind, I’ve put together the top three reasons to start a daily writing practice.
1. Writing improves your thinking. Capturing ideas makes them easier to connect, critique, and/or share. No idea exists all by itself; ideas are built on ideas. That means that the more we pay attention to our ideas, the more likely it is that it will yield another idea, a better idea, or a more complex and interesting idea. Don’t wait until you have a great idea to write it down. Writing down lots of ideas guarantees that more of them will become great.
2. Writing improves your memory. We all have thoughts, images, and insights running through our minds nearly constantly, which is what can make meditation so difficult. It also means that they can disappear easily. The focus and intention that it takes to translate your idea into words cements the idea in your memory, making it easier to recall. Also, turning our attention to those thoughts and capturing them ensures that there will be no need for them to distract us later. We don’t need to constantly remind ourselves of the good idea we had; we’ve already checked in and written it down, which frees up our mind to remember other things.
3. Writing improves your mood. A 2004 study at the University of Texas-Austin revealed that expressive writing for twenty minutes a day can help people experiencing difficult emotions (everything from those dealing with a terminal illness to coping with a transition to high school). These people reported fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety and greater feelings of happiness and positivity than before their daily writing practice.
If meditation isn’t your thing, you might want to consider trying a daily writing practice instead. And if you love meditation, you might want to augment your practice with daily writing. I often refer to writing as meditation’s fraternal twin. They’re different, but they belong together.