12 July 2015
by Lloyd D. Newell
Music and Spoken Word
© 2015 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved
Some call it journaling. Others call it expressive writing or creating a personal mission statement. Whatever it’s called, something happens when we take time to seriously ponder our life and then write about who we are, what direction we want our life to take—what our goals and aspirations are for the future. Studies have shown that writing about our personal experiences can improve our mood and even our physical health.
But perhaps one of the greatest benefits of writing about our lives is expressed in this statement attributed to author Bernard de Voto: “The best reason for putting anything down on paper is that one may then change it.”(1) Writing our personal story not only helps us understand that story better, it can also impel us to make the story better. After all, as any good English teacher will tell you, the most important part of the writing process is rewriting.
For example, married couples who wrote about a conflict in their marriage were able to better identify what they could do to make positive changes and strengthen their relationship. Similarly, struggling college students who were invited to write an essay or make a video to explain the rigors of college life to future students ended up with better grades the next semester than those who did not take part in documenting their experiences. Examples like these have led researchers to conclude that “by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.”(2)
Nobody’s book of life is quite ready for publication yet. We’re all rough drafts for now. The process of writing and revising our life story, one that is authentic and real, gives us a chance to reframe the past even as we look forward to a brighter future.
(1). In Erika Lindemann, A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers (1982), 182.
(2). See Tara Parker-Pope, “Writing Your Way to Happiness,” New York Times, Jan. 19, 2015, well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/19/writing-your-way-to-happiness.