September 12, 2017

How Writing can Change the Tune of our Monkey Minds.

I was a writer before I learned my ABCs, more than 45 years ago.

Scribbling squiggles on a piece of paper, I would ask my mom if I had written any letters by accident. There was always an “e,” I remember.

Throughout my life, like many of you, I have often felt an urge to write: journals, long, intimate letters to pen-pals and cathartic ones to ex-boyfriends, travel stories, and a student’s magazine (in a time when cut-and-paste was indeed that, with scissors and glue).

I just wrote, and had fun doing it. Didn’t think too much about it nor of it.

The words just wanted to come out.

Now I realise that it was often my “monkey mind” that made me write; I just had no idea what that was, yet.

About a year ago, a wild cat walked into my life and started pointing me to so many life lessons, I felt a strong need to write it all down.

Just when it occurred to me that he and I might have a book idea there and I’d better get started, an invitation for a 30-day creative writing challenge slid into my inbox. Bingo! For a whole month, I was writing every day. Within a few days, I felt awesome, alive, and inspired. My head was running over with thoughts and ideas to write about. My heart was light and open.

Writing every damn day has changed my life in many ways. I now know that I should never stop writing again, for the sake of my physical and mental well-being.

Here are a few reasons why:

Writing is a great way to clear the mind.

When we have a ton of things to understand, remember, work through, and deal with, it can get quite messy in our heads. We forget things, keep repeating the same (negative) thought-loops, and can’t think clearly—and for that reason, we don’t see even the simplest solutions for a problem we are facing.

Just like any system that gets overloaded and starts to malfunction or freeze, our minds can only take on so much before they shut down.

Writing down thoughts, ideas, plans, hopes, and feelings is like cleaning and organising a messy room. We get them out of our crowded mind and create space again by giving everything a proper, well-defined spot.

In the same way that an organised and clean room makes it easier to find things, a mind that has been cleared by writing gives better access to individual ideas, thoughts, and solutions. Now we can see better what thoughts (emotions/feelings) need more attention, and which ones can either be thrown out or kept on the shelf for a bit because they aren’t a priority.

Also, creating space in our mind by writing can help to uncover hidden thoughts and emotions, and help put into words things that we have tried to ignore or push away. In that way, writing can be pretty cathartic as well, bringing much-sought relief and peace of mind.

Once our minds are a bit more organised through our writing, it gets easier to see connections between issues that we have been struggling with, and ways to resolve them.

Bringing thoughts together in new ways can help shine a light on old issues.

Writing is like talking to our best friend (or therapist) about something that we’ve kept silent for a long time. Once we start talking about it, it all wants to come out, and while we are talking, things become much clearer for us, as if the words are spotlights that point the way to insights. Everything falls into place. Writing can do exactly the same for us, but is a lot cheaper and more private than seeing a therapist.

Writing is creative.

Writers play with words—they craft powerful sentences around their thoughts and ideas. My favourite quote is from Maya Angelou: “You can never use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” It is 100 percent true.

Creativity sparks creativity.

When we can bring creativity into our days, for example, by writing, our whole day becomes more creative. Our creativity can help us to see more possibilities instead of obstacles and find better solutions; it makes us more adaptable in times of change.

Writing can make us better equipped for our daily lives. With our creativity switched on, we can see different sides to a situation and find new traits in the people around us. It sparks our curiosity, helping us open our minds to investigate many new things.

Writing can really enrich our own lives, even if nobody will ever read it.

Writing can change the tune of our “monkey mind.”

Most people struggle with that annoying voice in our head that is constantly nagging about things that we or others are doing wrong in our lives and stuff we have to worry about, including stressful thoughts, anxiety, and judgments. It’s a never-ending loop.

All the stuff the monkey comes up with clutters our mind, takes up brain-space where new ideas and thoughts could sprout, and just wears us down.

When we can regularly download the sh*t from our mind onto paper, that voice finds less negative stuff to chatter about in our heads. Writing is an outlet for the “monkey mind.” And once it gets defused regularly, it will change its tune.

Thanks to a regular writing-download, my monkey happily chatters away about all the things I see, hear, read, and experience throughout the day with an inspired and upbeat curiosity, constantly weaving stories in my head. The nagging and negativity have subsided.

To shut up my monkey, I still have to write, but the stories are more fun now, and less repetitive. I think I’ll call it inspiration.

All of the above reasons to write are great but utterly selfish, helping the writer first and foremost.

The best reason to write is this:

Writing can help us to be of service.

Most of us have had incredible experiences that taught us many life lessons, all worthy of sharing. Others have studied a lot, learning everything about their passion, and have gathered a lot of valuable information that can help many of us in our personal struggles with health or emotional issues.

Some have a keen eye for observation and can help us look at things in different ways. And others just love writing, have a lovely voice and a good imagination, and can bring us the well-deserved distraction of a good novel or a bundle of short stories or poems.

A clear mind, an unburdened heart, creativity, and a slightly quieter monkey mind are all things that make us feel more alive and less weighted down by the overwhelming power of modern life.

Writing allows us to be mindful and of service to others, which again, makes us feel more alive and fulfilled.

Yes, it can do all of that for us—a pen and paper are enough to change our lives!

Author: Leontien Reedijk
Image: mpclemens/Flickr 
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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