There are many reasons why we as humans write. It is an art which has been around in one form or another for thousands of years which, besides from being a simple means of communication, has allowed us to record history, learn about different cultures and provide a glimpse into other worlds which might have been or perhaps, will one day come to fruition.
Writing provides the key to our often imprisoned imaginations, which can become trapped in the monotony of daily life. As children we would venture into imaginary lands as soon as the school bell rang for lunchtime, creating our own worlds which could take whatever form we wished. However, as time goes by, many somehow seem to lose this previously innate need to imagine.
According to a 2018 study carried out by Mental Health Foundation, 74% of people in the UK have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope with just over a third having experienced suicidal thoughts as a result. Pressure to succeed, housing worries, body image, comparison with others, debt and dealing with either personal or a friend/relative’s long-term health condition were all cited as major contributing factors. Evidently, mental health is becoming an increasingly predominant problem in society, so it has never been more important to rediscover a way in which to escape reality, if only for a while.
As children and young adults, many of us would sit down, gel pen and stickers in hand, and begin excitably scribbling down our hopes, dreams, thoughts and feelings in our very own secret diaries. Sadly, as we get older, time becomes increasingly limited and personal creative outbursts no longer seem to be an overriding priority.
However, it has been proven that stress levels can be greatly reduced by writing down and acknowledging personal emotions, goals, and the things that you are grateful for. It can increase happiness and improve your mood by helping you to identify what is most important to you. Keeping a journal is also a brilliant aid in processing challenging feelings. In fact, according to a study carried out by researchers at the University of Arizona, ‘keeping a journal after a divorce not only helped people make sense of the experience emotionally and move forward, but also resulted in lower heart rate and higher heart rate variability – associated with better health’. Writing everything down and getting it all out in a safe space can help to reframe your experiences and to make sense of certain situations.
Ahh…the ever-growing phenomenon of social media. Whether you love it or loathe it, it has undeniably become an invaluable communicative resource in modern society. It has never been easier to become an author, with numerous platforms allowing you to publish your writing for free. From travel and food, to family life and even knitting – you can guarantee someone will have written about it.
Back in the early days, unlike some people today, bloggers did not write with the intention of making money – it was more like an online journal which people wanted to share with the world. The best thing about blogging is that you can let people into your world as much or as little as you want; as with private journaling, you are still completely in control. However, publishing your writing online can give you a newfound sense of confidence by providing you with a voice to talk about whatever it is you need to say. It helps you connect to likeminded individuals to build both personal and professional networks.
Whilst creative writing might not be for everyone, I am a great advocate of learning to reconnect with your imagination and whether you do this through writing or by some other means, the benefits of channelling your creative capacities is undeniably one of the best forms of therapy around. As I alluded to earlier, it is ridiculously easy to get caught up in your own anxieties about life’s not so comforting realities, so finding a way to escape and quieten the mind is essential.
Some might think of creative writing as a somewhat cumbersome affair, but this depends on how you approach it. When was the last time you allowed yourself to dream and drift off into a far away place? Perhaps you’re a daydreamer or maybe you always live in reality. However, unlike children, we no longer make up imaginary friends or go to the moon or a tropical beach on the school playground. This could be why children are more carefree, they have an effective way of leaving reality behind. So why not pick up a pen and see where it takes you? Writing will always be used to connect us on a formal level, but it could also provide the best form of personal escapism.