Life-writing has a host of benefits. They range from the social and historical, to the personal and political.
However, today I’m going to share five simple ways in which life-writing can help you on a personal and individual level. I hope this will encourage you to sit down and start writing down your thoughts and honing them into a piece fit for submission into our archive.
With that in mind, let’s look at it first from a mental health perspective. It is a well-known fact that writing helps you clear your mind. The focus of trying to capture just what you’re thinking, in just the right way, allows for other thoughts to fade, as the one you are concentrating on begins to sharpen with colour and vitality. The more you focus, the more clarity you bring into and onto your thoughts.
And this brings us neatly into the second benefit of life-writing. It helps you to recover memories you thought long lost. Our minds are amazing machines. They recall so much. But, if all of that was at easy reach, we’d be over-whelmed by thought and memory and be unable to function. And so, we forget. Things get pushed back into memory, their sharpness and poignancy quietly fade as newer and newer experiences and memories are made.
But the act of trying to remember and write them down allows for our hazy memories to come into focus again. Sometimes there’s a bit of nostalgia and fantasy about our memories, and these are things almost impossible to avoid. But, we aren’t in the objective, historical writing sphere here. Writing about the past from a personal, life-writing perspective gives us the room to be subjective. Nostalgia and memory are what softens the harshness of our recollections and makes them bearable to share. And remember, this is your story you’re trying to tell. Tell it your way. That’s all that matters.
Another huge benefit of life-writing is that it allows you to put your life-events into some kind of perspective. You gain distance with writing. You start connecting the dots, seeing the bigger picture and that always allows for introspection, reflection and ultimately, growth.
Life-writing is also a learning exercise. As you sit and work on saying your story just right, because you’re the only one who truly understands it from your perspective, you improve your verbal and written skills. This is a life-lesson that’s sure to help you, no matter what stage of life you’re at. You’ll start to notice more what kind of words you use. You’ll start to consider what impact language has on you, your story and thus your day to day life. It’s not just a mental health benefit but one that will carry on into your personal and work life, too. It’ll colour your relationships with people and objects. It’ll shape how you interact and interpret everything and everyone you come into contact with. Writers become more observant. They become more attuned to what’s going on around them.
Suddenly, as you start to write, you’ll perhaps stop and search for the correct word if it isn’t already in your vocabulary. Writing teaches us so much. And there’s nothing more important than writing about you and your story.
When you’ve eventually written and re-written, for all good writing no matter the subject, genre and length is built around re-writing, you’ll feel an over-whelming sense of achievement. You’ll have written your story. You’ll have condensed and polished your words to create something beautiful out of you and your experiences. Your journey will suddenly become a more nuanced, faceted and polished jewel that you’ll be proud to share and acknowledge. Too often, we forget how unique and special we are. But we are. You are. You’re unlike any other human being on earth.
So, tell us your story. We’d love to hear what you have to say in 1000 words or less. If you want more help, don’t forget we’ve got three free-to-attend life-writing workshops at Crumpsall, Longsight and Chorlton libraries lined up.