What do you do when you’re angry? When you’re stressed or anxious or jealous? What do you do when you’re happy, grateful, bursting with joy for being alive? Everyone processes emotions in different ways, but not everyone is actually aware of this process. Perpetually staring at screens, overeating, drinking too much, and other toxic behavior often comes as an unconscious result of not knowing how to cope with emotions.
Think about it. When these different emotions flood over you, do you have a container for them? Or do they just pool inside of you until you forget they’re there? More and more, it’s becoming scientifically proven that emotions live inside our bodies and can do some serious damage if ignored or left to fester (hello, disease machine).
To deal with emotions, some people use movement to physically work the feelings through their body. I’m a big believer in walking, dance, and yoga to release stuck energy and emotions, but I am also a big believer in writing.
There is something incredibly healing and magical about putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, and just letting go. I know that as a former high school English teacher I may be a bit biased, but hear me out.
First, I’m not talking about academic writing. Writing essays or reports is a completely different beast. What I’m talking about is writing for yourself, for your soul, to figure out who you are as a woman and meet her on the page.
Next, fuck the rules. Writing for yourself means you don’t have to remember what an appositive is or where the comma goes (though bonus points if you do remember since that means you’re a nerd like me). Just do whatever comes to you. If this freaks you out a bit, I get it. We’re so programmed in school to follow writing rules and five-paragraph essays that branching out on your own can be daunting. But don’t let that stop you.
I think the most important thing you should know about writing is that it’s not about answers, it’s about questions. Most writers write to wrestle with a question, to chase wonder, to see where the ink takes them. Spoken word poet Sarah Kay discusses this idea in her amazing TED talk “If I Should Have a Daughter.”
In it, she says “I write poems to figure things out…sometimes I get to the end of the poem and look back and go, ‘oh that’s what this is all about’ and sometimes I get to the end of the poem and haven’t solved anything, but at least I have a new poem out of it.”
Whether it’s poetry, prose, a letter or a journal entry, try letting writing be your container. Fill it with your emotions (positive and negative) and see what it turns into, see who you turn into. My guess is that you’ll surprise yourself.