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Benefits of Writing Expressively and How to Start

Kristen Howe has been writing expressively for years. As a former published poet, she had adapted it into her own novels.

Express yourself into your own novels.

Express yourself into your own novels.

What Is Expressive Writing?

Expressive writing is a method of dealing with trauma. Like therapeutic journaling, it’s the cornerstone of wellness and writing connections. It comes from our core. It’s personal and emotional writing without regard to grammar or structure. It expresses what’s on your mind and in your heart since it pays no attention to propriety. Find your golden nugget by mining your mind with these journaling techniques.

To jot down "thoughts of the moment," most writers carry a notebook, paper scraps, or old envelopes. A writer can keep a record, albeit a slightly unified one, in another medium like a journal. It may help you become a better writer, and make the craft more enjoyable by incorporating journaling into your writing process. It's easy, relaxing and not stressful because your journal writing flows are uncensored. There are no rules, worries, or deadlines.

Consider writing for yourself first. Your work often becomes fluid, free, and confident without the pressure of an imagined audience. There's room to make mistakes and to think and say what's on your mind. Honesty blooms. New insights are born, and connections between different ideas are evident. Writing becomes easier. Journaling is cathartic and enlightening when words spill out from places yet undiscovered.

A writer can return and find veins of ore to mine in a journal when it becomes a permanent repository of thought. The benefit of journal writing is to keep your record, perhaps for future use, of memories, snatches of creativity, insights into human nature, and a perfect and spontaneous expression of truth. It's the record of your interior life as a writer, validating your creative growth, even during periods when you can't write for an audience.

If you're stuck inside for ideas, go outside to seek inspiration to find journal topics as a prompt. To better understand a dialoguing situation or a character, you can use this journal writing technique. Dialogues are imagined conversations between two or more entities, not necessarily two people. In journal writing jargon, it can be between two opportunities your character can choose, or between two conflicting parts of a character. It may never be used in the final writing per se, but it might help you clarify your story for you.

As your journal writing progresses, you'll notice that upon re-reading, hidden amongst the mundane writing are some ideas, some honest recollections, some language, and some imagery that are brilliant. This is the gold you can mine in future writing. This is one payoff for keeping a journal. Nuggets that can be transformed into elements of screenplays, poems, novels and short stories in the process of journal writing. You will unintentionally leave details of the stuff of life by spontaneously writing your reflections.

Journal writing can help you heal.

Journal writing can help you heal.

Write From the Heart

Expressive writing is also expressing what you notice by tapping into an emotional truth by journaling how to heal, grow, and thrive. Keeping a journal has many benefits. It can help you with your personal growth and development and be used for problem-solving like with mental and physical health. It's an effective tool for use in the healing process when recovering from grief or failed relationships. Be sure you write online or your journal will remain private, so you're writing for your eyes only.

Here are ten tips to help you get started in journal writing:

1. At this moment, start writing about where you are in life. Describe your work, your relationships and your living situation. Are you where you want to be?

2. Start writing in a "stream of consciousness" for five to ten minutes. Don't edit, correct grammar, or censor your thoughts.

3. Start a dialogue with your inner child by writing in a non-dominant hand. What issues emerge? Answer with your dominant hand.

4. Maintain a daily list of things you appreciate, including uplifting quotes, by cultivating an attitude of gratitude. Keep it in a separate section or in one journal so you can read it all at once. You can read through it for a boost of gratitude or happiness when you're feeling down.

5. Start a journal of self-portraits. You can collage images, draw colors, or take pictures. Learn to love and accept yourself just the way you are today.

6. To connect with the natural world, keep a nature diary. The world we live in is a magical and mysterious place. Record things you notice about the sky, the weather, and the seasons.

7. Maintain a log of successes. During the week, begin writing the big ones you remember. Then regularly jot down small successes. Your list will grow and inspire you.

8. Keep a log or playlist of your favorite songs. Write about the feelings they evoke. Write down how you feel and explore that time and space in your life when you hear a song that triggers a strong memory.

9. Write about it in the third person if there's something you're struggling with or an event that's disturbing you. This will provide a new perspective. Write down what you learned about yourself.

10. Develop your intuition. Write down questions or concerns, then take a deep breath and listen to your higher self. Let yourself write automatically. Look for signs during the day, if you don't get an answer right away.

We all have dark days, black moods, and anxious feelings. To explore the darkness, use journal writing. You'll find your inner light when you do.

Transform Feelings Onto Paper

  1. You should write expressively about what you care about.
  2. Take it from your own life.
  3. Shelve those items by envisioning things or people for fiction and poetry.
  4. Use everything, and put them into a pot to create places, people and scenarios.
  5. Pay more attention to feelings than events, memories, objects or people in narrative content.
  6. It can help you tell your story if it’s good, dark or light.
  7. Keep a notepad by your bed.
  8. Change the names to express rage and anger… for example, dark.
  9. You can make something at stake by investing the reader into action.
  10. Maybe you can hire a professional editor if the quality is there.
  11. You can write for pleasure for how long you want.
  12. Take a walk for a bit.
  13. For edits, you should have placeholders to keep track of your physical and computer notes.

Explore Your Feelings

In order to understand how to use expressive writing, be your own researcher for four days and explore your own feelings. Use these exercises and prompts to guide you. Later on, you'll find out what it can do for you and your writing.

Before you start, read this carefully.

1. Set aside twenty minutes for four days.
2. Choose your own important and personal topics to write about.
3. Have pen and paper with you. Don't worry about making mistakes in grammar and punctuation during your journaling. Draw a line or repeat the previous sentence if you run out of things to write.
4. This is for you only and not a letter. Write for yourself. You may wish to conceal it or destroy it later.
5. If you get too deep in the writing, observe the flip-out rule, or it might push you over the edge. Stop writing, if you can't write about certain traumatic events, or if you go in-depth into your writing and can't write about a sore spot.

6. This feeling of sadness or depression will subside on the first or second day.

Writing prompt: Let it go. Explore the traumatic experiences in your life and tie them to other hidden trauma. Link it to the future to find out who you'll wish to be or like to be. Write about major conflicts or stressors, if you don't have a single trauma. Keep this for yourself, and don't share it with others. No need to worry about how you wrote it.

Time's Up: Your Results

Reflect on what you have written and noticed in your life. Examine how you felt and perceived it yourself. Perhaps you'll share it. Be compassionate and give yourself time. Store it, tear it, or shred it if you're worried about privacy. If you’re concerned that someone may read what you wrote, you may want to keep it and come back to it later.


Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on March 03, 2018:

Hi Mary, thanks for commenting and stopping by. I believe you're right to write about your feelings and putting them on paper.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 03, 2018:

There is so much here to think about. I always carry a tiny notebook to write on but often, I forget the context or the moment that got my attention. I think, it is important to be more mindful and write about it as soon as you are able.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on December 10, 2017:

I meant can.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on December 10, 2017:

Aww Peggy. Me too. I recall those Dear Diary days. I agree with him there. It an be very useful. Thanks for stopping by.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 10, 2017:

The only time I had a diary was for about 1 year when I was a child. I must have gotten rid of it. In reading this and others on a similar topic I can readily see that for writers this might turn out to be a gold mine to use in later years.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on November 30, 2017:

Hi Thelma. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. You can do it. You're welcome and thanks for the kind words. Happy holidays!

Thelma Alberts from Germany on November 30, 2017:

I have not written a journal this year of what is happening in my life. Too busy to write online. I think I will do this again next new year. Thanks for sharing these good ideas, Kristen. Advance Merry Christmas.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on October 27, 2017:

Hey Mary, journal writing is meant to be for you and not for publication. But it's very therapeutic. Very welcome my friend.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 27, 2017:

I enjoy this kind of writing but I often find myself unable to publish it. I find it too personal. I have to learn to share more. Your tips on how to enable this expression are gems. Thanks.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on October 21, 2017:

Hey Kari, thanks for commenting by and following me here at HP. You're very welcome. Hope it works.

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on October 21, 2017:

These are all very good tips! I'm going to try and incorporate some into my writing. Thank you. :)

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on August 29, 2016:

HI Emese. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. You're welcome. Good for you! Well maybe you can start again and keep those notes. :-)

Emese Fromm from The Desert on August 29, 2016:

Hi, Kristen,

This is good, thank you for sharing. I've been doing this type of writing without thinking about it for as long as I remember. Writing is therapy, the best - and cheapest ;) - kind. I have destroyed most of those type of writings, but I wish I didn't. So, to add to your advice: years later, you might use some of these exercises in a novel or short story; try to keep them if you can help it, even if hidden somewhere.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on July 27, 2016:

Vesa, you're very welcome. I hope it helps. Thanks for commenting and stopping by.

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on July 27, 2016:

Thank you for sharing this writing exercise. It´s important to write without being self-conscious and that will help us express our emotions when writing.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on June 06, 2016:

Thanks Flourish for stopping by and commenting. Go for it!

FlourishAnyway from USA on June 05, 2016:

I haven't done this in a long time. Good information and encouragement.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on April 14, 2016:

My pleasure Mary. Always good to see you.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on April 13, 2016:

A great thing to do at our age. Thanks for the prompts.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on March 17, 2016:

Thanks Emge for stopping by.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on March 16, 2016:

Thanks for this nice post. Splendid reading

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on March 15, 2016:

My pleasure, Alicia. Give it a go. It might be helpful.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 14, 2016:

Thanks for sharing the interesting and useful information, Kristen. I'll try the technique that you've described.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on March 14, 2016:

Thanks Jo for stopping by and commenting. Give it a go!

Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on March 14, 2016:

I like to know where I'm going when I sit down to write, but I will try to write expressively to see where it takes me. Useful and interesting info.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on March 14, 2016:

Dora, my pleasure. I'm happy to share what I've learned last fall. It's good therapy too.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 14, 2016:

Thank you for sharing this very helpful information. Sometimes when I write "expressively," I find myself in an uncomfortable place. Now I know that the experience can be useful.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on March 13, 2016:

My pleasure, Gypsy. Enjoy!

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on March 13, 2016:

Thanks. This offers so much useful information.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on March 12, 2016:

Thanks Lorraine!

Louise Barraco from Ontario on March 12, 2016:

Great hub awesome information