There is no denying that blogging is a therapeutic endeavor to many of us. But do you ever wonder why it feels so good to come back and write a post or read comments, or what kind of affect your blog is having on your overall mood? I think that blogging and, more specifically writing regularly can have immense benefits on our psychological health.
I think some of the reasons for this include:
- You are more likely to pay attention to things happening to you as if you were the observer.
- You are more likely to think of what you might write about later, which, if you have a diary-style blog, makes you more likely to do stuff that would be fun to write about.
- You are more likely to see things creatively and to have something to go back to in the future.
As hard as other things can get in the day to day, thinking about what to write is sometimes the only thing that can ground me out of a rather chaotically deflated mental space. In the past, there were no readers to my habitual writing. Instead, it all ended up on thick journal pages, with handwriting of different sizes, touched by the breath of different states, both mental and map-related. But was that as therapeutic as blogging, and did that writing help me at all? I think yes. And here’s why.
Nearly 12 years ago, I graduated high school in Connecticut. I flew out to meet my friend Adam in Venice Beach, California after my first year in college. His uncle lived on the canals. We spent time on the boardwalk and were amazed with the artists and vagabonds. We came from suburbia, you see, and there were few people from out town that could make a living selling art; and none that would claim the streets as their home. Our minds were easily blown.
One man who made a living selling flowers made from palm tree leaves opened my eyes to things I had never considered; he showed me that by sitting on the sidewalk, people looked at you differently. Or rather, they didn’t look at you at all. Unless they wanted some “local art.” Or pot. Or both.
Adam’s uncle was going on a business trip, and told us to stay at the local hostel while he was gone. That was going to be fun, until we met the hippies with the school bus. Sure, they were two men in their 50’s, traveling with a dysfunctional lesbian couple and a whole lot of San Pedro cactus. Sure, there was hardly a such thing as cell phones and we were hardly old enough to buy cigarettes. Sure, but who cares. We stayed on that bus for a few days instead of the hostel.
A few months and a hefty collection of state lines later, our lives were rather different.
The reason I bring this up is that when I decided to write my book last year about the ten years of adventure that were spawned by that experience, I learned a lot about myself and the bigger picture. Details came flooding back to me as I sat in my little room, drinking tea furiously and writing down everything as it came. I was convinced I had the whole thing under control. That is, until I found my journals.
Those pages put my memory in its place. There were vague love poems on many of the pages, sure, and those proved to be rather useless in the end. But then there were pages covered in nothing but fragments, bits of conversations and colors. Those were the days where I sat and smoked cigarettes and wrote down every last little thing that I could, burning it into the pages instead of my memory, because even then I knew that they were slipping away with every laugh, every shift in conversation.
Where would my book be without those details; how would that trip have gone without that outlet, and how would my life have gone without the ever-happening process of writing? I can watch through those old diaries the process of myself working things out, the process of considering each step of the path, the value of being a bum versus going to school, the value of going to Connecticut or staying with the hippies. I could watch my little struggles and re-see the tapestries hanging on the windows, the looks on people’s faces as I wrote, the sun glinting off of the windshield. I could remember snippets of funny conversations that happened, the ones that seemed they would never be forgotten. All those things were preserved in my little letters carved on those pages. The sketches I did of the bus against and the people, they are better than photographs at conveying how the whole thing felt.
And I see many people doing the same thing in their blogs. They work through the daily troubles, they plan future fun things, they sort out the good and the bad and what needs to be done. They keep track of which things work to reduce anxiety or bad feelings and which things don’t work. These are great things, they are necessary things. We are staying sane by doing them.
As writers, we are are drinking in details; we are keeping track of and logging our experiences so that they may prove to be a useful analogy or metaphor later on. We are peering into the eyes of our friends, wondering, “How exactly would I describe that color?” My wish for us is that we realize these things, and embrace them.
Something is driving you to write. Something is driving you to write every day, or every week. Instead of automatically doing it, or forgetting where it is coming from, look around. Look at the world, and maybe try something new.
Try writing on a piece of paper like the old days. Haul that paper out to a spot that you can’t possibly bring your computer. Paper is much lighter, much softer. You can scribble on it and write in new directions. You can circle stuff and cross stuff out and crinkle a whole page; which is so much more satisfying than just hitting Ctrl A and delete, right?
Personally, it helps me to get back to my roots. To sit at a bar sometimes with nothing but a note pad, writing down a strange poem that can’t receive Likes or Follows, a poem that is just mine. It is fun to look back at my writing, back when writing had to be personal unless you showed someone yourself, read it out loud at an open mic, or got published in a zine or a real book. Plus, you never know when you might need those details.
Writing helps us interpret the world and it helps us to see ourselves clearly. At least, clearly enough to write. It helps us to have an outlet for converting grief, anger, resentment, sadness, or uncontainable joy into something we can use. Maybe I would call it our emotional catalytic converter, just because it sounds right. The truth remains that writing is important; whether it is in a journal that is taking up precious space in your one back pack, or on a blog that you can access from any corner of the globe that has Internet.
Do you ever look back at things you wrote on paper and bar napkins long ago, and have any of them proved to be useful in the least, or is blogging where you first began writing regularly?
And, most importantly, how does blogging help YOU feel sane in this crazy world?