It’s quite a common thing for people to read to unwind, but I think it’s safe to say the same can’t be said about writing. So, what if I told you it wasn’t reading, but writing that saved my sanity? I’ve never received any training in how to write, and much before now, I never even dreamt of referring to myself as a writer – it’s just something I do.
I feel everyone can benefit from the process of writing in one form or another; from making time for yourself to mental well-being. I wanted to share my story and experiences of how writing has helped me get through some of the toughest times in my life and how I believe you can use writing for mindfulness. Maybe if more people write, it can become a thing just like reading!
When we had our first son, the plan was that I would return to my usual 9-5 once my maternity leave came to an end. Back then, working from home wasn’t the norm, and I remember being given the impression it was something that could be a possibility. Turns out I was sorely mistaken! I was told ‘Oh wouldn’t it be lovely my dear if we could pay you to stay at home to look after your baby?!’ Anyway, to cut a long story short, I decided not to return to work and told them where to stick it. After which, there was no stopping us!
Before you could say ‘Eureka’ we had three boys, all under the age of four! Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mum. But that didn’t mean my new role came without its own set of challenges. Anyone who has had children close together in age can really appreciate where I’m coming from.
Some days it was as if all I did was go from changing one nappy to the next! Then add bathing, feeding, terrible two’s, and nursery/school runs to the mix. It wasn’t long before I started to closely resemble a hamster running round and round in circles. It was a complete change of pace, and it felt as if my day didn’t belong to me anymore.
How I started to write
To begin with, I didn’t consciously make time for writing. I would have things floating around in my head, so to stop thinking about them I would send myself a text. There never seemed to be a pen around when I needed one, but my mobile was always close by. Over time this increased from random words to full sentences. Until I decided to get the laptop out and started creating whole paragraphs out of my thoughts.
I had no idea where I was going with it. All I knew was that at the time it gave me something other than nappies to focus on. Eventually, I started to consciously carve time out of my day to write until it became a regular part of my routine. I’d drop our eldest to school, then a couple of hours later I’d leave again to drop off our middle son to nursery. On the way home the baby would fall asleep, which would give me around an hour to devote to writing.
Unfortunately, by the time the baby became a toddler, my mother-in-law fell seriously ill with dementia. Once I added caring for my mother-in-law to everything else, I had close to no time left to even stop and think.
Writing saved my sanity
As much as I loved writing, it was the first thing I naively gave up when my mother-in-law fell ill. All I could see was the ever-evolving amount of work I needed to squeeze into less and less time. At the time I believed that giving up writing wouldn’t have an impact on anyone else. But as the months rolled on, I found myself back on that hamster wheel.
My frustration started to seep through and I had gone from being snappy to short-tempered. That’s when I realised I had cut out the one thing which had helped slice through the day-to-day. I wasn’t trying to escape my life.
But what I hadn’t realised was that the process of writing had helped me mentally cope with the demands on my time. It had allowed me to find the part of myself that had gotten lost. In those moments I wasn’t a mum, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a carer – I was me. And with this in mind, I decided that reclaiming even just half an hour for writing would be worthwhile.
Despite my best efforts, there would still be days when I wouldn’t get a chance to write, but it didn’t matter because I wasn’t writing to meet anyone else’s expectations. Over a period of two years, the sentences merged into paragraphs, the paragraphs turned into chapters, and somehow I ended up writing a whole book! Completing the book was the icing on the cake, but it was the actual process of writing which gave me much more.
Writing for mindfulness
Now I’m not suggesting that penning a book is for everyone! The beauty of writing is that it comes in various shapes and sizes. Your writing could take on any of the following formats:
- Short stories
- Content writing
The purpose behind writing for mindfulness is that it helps order and provide structure to your thoughts in a positive way, irrespective of the outcome. When writing is for a specific purpose (e.g. you have to complete a report for work or an essay for your studies) sometimes the magic can be drained out because of the stresses and pressures imposed by deadlines.
But, the actual process of putting pen to paper (or typing away on a keyboard) can be very therapeutic within itself. Giving yourself the time and space to switch off from the day-to-day and focus on something else can be priceless – literally! Writing is one of the very few activities which can cost almost next to nothing.
How to get started
I believe there is no right or wrong when it comes to writing for mindfulness. The only thing that matters is how you grow and what you gain throughout the process. As with anything, it can be tricky knowing where to start, so to help I’ve put together some pointers to get you going:
1. Actively set aside regular time for writing
Work out when and how is the best time for you to write. Can you devote an hour a day or half an hour a week? Can you jot stuff down on the train on way home from work, at lunchtime, when the baby takes its afternoon nap or before bed? There isn’t a bad time – whatever works easily for you and fits in with everything else you’re juggling – is the right time.
2. Take baby steps and ditch the rules
I understand how writing can be pretty daunting, but remember the aim is to destress. To start with write whatever comes to mind. Whether that’s one word or an endless sentence as long as a paragraph. Just go free flow! Then when and if you’re ready, go back and add in full stops, adjust the grammar, change up the words etc. If you feel like brushing up on your grammar, there are so many free resources and apps available which you can use, like Grammarly, for example.
3. Set goals, not deadlines
Having an end goal in mind is a good way to keep your writing moving forward. It could be as simple as writing daily diary entries to completing a short story within a month. If you find you can’t stick to the schedule you’ve set, then adjust it. Give yourself two months to complete a short story instead. What’s the worse that’s going to happen? We have enough things to feel guilty about without holding ourselves ransom to self-imposed deadlines. Resting is better than quitting!
I hope the above tips help you to explore the world of writing. Remember at the end of the day just because you’ve written it, doesn’t mean you have to share it with anyone or rush out and try and get it published. It’s perfectly fine to write privately. The whole purpose of writing in this way is just to see where it takes you. If you’re more relaxed or motivated as a result of it then it’s all good, and if a book or a blog etc. materialises then that’s even better!
So, will you try writing for mindfulness?