Living in my head
How writing is saving me from myself.
Last year after I quit my teaching job, I told myself that I will now do things on my own terms and start building towards my goals and ideas. Played around with ideas and their variations in my head. Played out scenarios and possible outcomes. Told myself the whys and hows of what I wanted to do. I did it all, but in my head. I kept doing this till I had to stop and call myself out.
No matter how many times others tell you that you think too much or only live in your head, nothing changes till you can truly see it for yourself. And I realised how much it was affecting my life when I started writing for myself. There was so much of an outpour, chaotic thoughts detangled when they were written down, fears put to ease when they were in front of me rather than in my head. Page after page, I found some clarity and then saw myself. I saw how tired I was of just consuming information and how I craved some form of creativity.
Suddenly, reading and contemplation weren’t enough. I dared to think that I could write. Maybe a whim, maybe a long suppressed wish, but I told myself that I will attempt to write and publish a book. Today, I’m telling myself that I will write and publish a book. Between wanting to attempt and making it a real goal, there have been several months and a ton of emotional writing. Self expression has helped me more than any advice could.
Not one for regular journaling, I like to find a variety of ways I can express myself. Here are a few writing activities I have tried and loved:
- Morning brain dump: First thing in the morning, write about 3 pages of your ongoing thoughts. Just write them without taking a pause or thinking about it. Once it is done, there is no need to look back and read it. This is a writing exercise inspired by ‘morning pages’ from the artist’s way. The way I do it is, I play some focus music, sit comfortably and start writing whatever comes to mind in the moment. I use a notebook for this because handwritten works best. I write about 3–4 pages but I set no limit really. I write till it feels natural and stop when I know I’m actively thinking up words. What goes into the morning brain dump does not need to make sense. It could be long, complex sentences or repetitive thoughts coming up in different forms, it could be a random list of things that keep coming to mind. This isn’t note taking or dream journaling. I don’t go back and read it to psychoanalyse myself. I just finish this task, keep the notebook back and go about my day.
- Word flow: I pick a word at random from a book or article, just any word that stands out at the time. With that word as the central point, I write whatever comes up in a flow of thoughts. Anything that my brain associates with that word, I let it come out. Again, this isn’t something I think too much about or take pauses. For the writing to simply flow, one must let it. Sometimes it ends up like a rant, sometimes a story is spontaneously created, and sometimes it’s just a lot of sentences that don’t necessarily make sense together. I use my notes app for this because as soon as I’m done writing, I pick one phrase/sentence that I like the most. I save that and delete the rest. Knowing that I don’t need to save the whole thing, there is no pressure to write well and the thoughts flow naturally. I like that I can do this any time and it frees up my mind immediately.
- Feeling verse: Now this is something I do when I’m overwhelmed or feeling too many feelings but can’t get a grip on them. I write my feeling verses. It’s simply pouring of emotions onto paper in the form of verse. When writing down a rant seems like a more obvious choice, I like to step back, sit in silence and try to create a poetry out of my current state of mind. The reason is that when we rant, we usually end up complaining or blaming. But when forced to feel the emotion at its core and understand the source of those feelings, we need to observe carefully. To put feelings into such a concise form requires one to dig deep and know what that emotion truly is. Poetry, according to me is the most honest form of expression. I write knowing that nobody else needs to read these, so I can be more honest and delve deeper into the feeling. This process mostly ends in tears but always with something important for me to reflect on.
- Inner dialogue: The root of many problems is inner conflict. But it can be used constructively. I decided to put my inner dialogue in front of me in a systematic manner. Whenever there is a need to understand or resolve inner conflict, I open my notes app and put down all the statements and opposing arguments coming from within. This is more a dialogue than a pros and cons list. I ensure that all the voices in my head get equal opportunity to speak up. Everyone is allowed to put their points forth, the inner optimist, inner critic, the self loathing clown, and obviously the moderator. The moderator is the one who speaks finally in the most objective way possible. This exercise takes some practise because we are used to internal monologues. I don’t always find a solution after writing the inner dialogue, but it makes it much easier for me to watch my thoughts all at once. It’s a great way to understand myself and what external factors may be influencing my perspective at the moment.
I don’t use these exercises to improve my writing skills. That will only happen if I write regularly, put it out there and learn from feedback. The reason I do these is to keep gaining mental and emotional clarity. This is helping me slowly build confidence, and I feel ready to explore my potential with words. Writing here is my first step to becoming comfortable with putting myself out there and in finding my voice.