Your Self-Expression: How To Get Started Writing No Matter How Busy You Are

Here’s a boost for your self-expression. This is a guest blog from my dear friend Colleen Story, author of Overwhelmed Writer Rescue:

How to Get Started Writing No Matter How Busy You Are

Have you felt the urge to write?

Maybe you’ve wanted to start a new journal. Scientists have discovered through years of research that expressive writing not only heals emotional traumas and improves mood and self-esteem, but boosts the immune system, encourages faster healing, and promotes better sleep.

Or maybe you’ve felt the desire to pen your own short story or poem, start your own blog, write your own musical composition, or even put together a book that would benefit your family or your career.

Whatever the nature of your calling, it’s there. You’d like to write, but there’s one thing standing in the way: your busy schedule. Just where can you find time to fit it in?

We’re All Busy in Today’s World

Today’s world is moving at an ever-increasing pace, and many of us are just barely keeping up. We tend to work long hours, and have other responsibilities to our families, homes, and communities.

Our reliance on technology, too, has caused more of us to feel stressed out and exhausted. Smartphones encourage us to work even when we’re not at work, check for messages at all hours of the day and night, and even stay engaged while on vacation.

These changes have not been good for our health. Just thinking about that next message or Facebook post creates a low-lying anxiety that researchers have likened to addiction—that feeling of waiting for the next “fix.” And taking gadgets to bed messes up sleep hormones, increasing risk of insomnia.

Yet even while we may feel stressed out about our “busyness,” many of us are addicted to it. Says Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

“Somewhere around the end of the 20th century, busyness became not just a way of life but a badge of honor. And life, sociologists say, became an exhausting everydayathon.”

Andrew Smart, author of The Art and Science of Doing Nothing, says excessive busyness is not only bad for the brain, it can have serious health consequences:

“In the short term, busyness destroys creativity, self-knowledge, emotional well-being, your ability to be social—and it can damage your cardiovascular health.”

You may believe you’re just too “busy” to indulge your desire to write, but the truth is that writing could help you feel much more balanced and relaxed. If you can make changes to open up space for this important mode of expression, you could not only improve your mental and physical health, but potentially create something that would have great personal meaning to you.

7 Ways to Get Started on Your Writing Dream

If you feel the urge to write for whatever reason, I encourage you to take action. That intuitive nudge is there for a reason, and if you follow it, you’ll most likely be grateful that you did.

To get started, try these tips:

  1. Don’t wait—make writing a priority now. As long as you keep “wishing” you could write (or compose or create), nothing will ever change. Realize that it’s unlikely you’re going to win the lottery or experience some other huge upheaval in your life that will open up hours of time to create. Instead, make writing a priority today. Pencil it into your daily routine. Devote the first 15 minutes of your morning to the practice, before everyone else gets up. Or choose to use some of your lunch hour to write, or a half hour after work. Honor your intuition and take action to support it by actually scheduling a time to write—if not every day, then at least three days a week.
  2. Forget grammar and spelling. Maybe you’re already skilled at grammar, but then again, maybe not. It doesn’t really matter. You can get help with that later if you want to. For now, what matters is getting your thoughts down on the page. Just write and forget the spell check for now.
  3. Push your English teacher out of your mind. You may remember getting papers back in school that were marked up with red pen. These types of memories can keep you from writing, as they fill your mind with worries about whether you’re “good enough.” Remember—right now, you’re just writing for you. You don’t have to show it to anyone if you don’t want to. Or if you do want to write and publish a book (or a musical work), that’s okay too, but you have to start somewhere. Any sort of criticism or mental editing will block the creative flow. Focus on expressing yourself and having fun. Remember that for now, you’re just drafting the work. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
  4. Take small steps forward. We can get bogged down in our efforts to create if we think too much about the project in its entirety. If you are thinking, “I want to write a book,” for example, that’s a huge project, and it may intimidate you. Instead, tell yourself that you’re going to write just one paragraph, or compose three lines of music. Keep your goals small and manageable. Remember that each book is built paragraph by paragraph, and each composition line by line.
  5. Set a timer. One of the toughest things for most people when they’re just starting to write is getting past that initial resistance. You sit there staring at the computer screen, or at the blank piece of paper, and you don’t know where to start. That’s usually because your critical brain is too involved. You have a thought and go to write it down, but your critical brain immediately tells you it’s no good. You can get past this internal killjoy by setting a timer. Put it on 10 minutes, then write as fast as you can for those 10 minutes. Don’t stop. If you run out of ideas, write about how you don’t have ideas until something else kicks in (or write a simple scale on your manuscript paper). The important thing is to get into the mode of creating. After the 10 minutes your creative side will likely take over, but even if you stop at that point, you’ll have something on the page you can work with.
  6. Isolate yourself. When you do sit down to write or create, you need to make sure you won’t be interrupted. Studies have found that after an interruption, it can take you up to 23 minutes to get back on task. You probably don’t have a lot of extra time to create anyway, so don’t allow the time you do have to go to waste. Find a room where you won’t be disturbed, or go to another location, like a library or a park. Give yourself the space you need to really connect with your inner thoughts.
  7. Claim writing as yours. Often we can get too caught up in wondering whether we are “wasting time” writing. We worry about whether we’ll actually publish something or “have something to show” for all the time we put into it. I encourage you to think of your writing in a different way—as a gift you’re giving yourself. Claim writing as your own. Think of it like meditation or a morning run. It’s your time to relax, de-stress, and get your thoughts (or tunes) out of your head. Allow yourself to really enjoy this space you’ve carved out for that creative side of you. You deserve to experience life as a whole person, and writing is one of the things that can contribute to that wholeness. Embrace it fully, and see where it might take you.

 

Colleen M. Story is the author of Overwhelmed Writer Rescue—a motivational and inspiring read full of practical, personalized solutions to help writers escape the tyranny of the to-do list and nurture the genius within. Get your free chapter here. For more information, please see her motivational blog Writing and Wellness and her author website, or follow her on Twitter (@colleen_m_story).

 

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