Woman at a planked table writing and enjoying a coffee

Is Writing Good For You?

I love writing. I love the art of storytelling, where you can conjure worlds and characters from your imagination. Where readers are gripped by the adventures of entertaining and intriguing characters. Through words I can go anywhere, do anything and be anyone. Isn’t imagination a fantastic thing?

But is writing good for you?

I took to the web and there are plenty of articles listing the benefits of writing. A 2014 article In Psychology Today summarises it nicely with putting your experiences into words brings form to chaos. David Robson in The Guardian explores why is writing so cathartic.

Both cite the 1980s study by Professor James Pennebaker and his graduate student Sandra Beall. They asked students to write a short essay for 15 minutes on four consecutive days. Some of the participants were encouraged to write about “the most traumatic or upsetting experience” of their lives, exploring their “deepest thoughts and feelings” about the episode. Others were asked to write about trivialities, such as descriptions of their dorm rooms or the shoes they were wearing. The former may have left the lab sadder than when they arrived but over the next six months less of them attended the student health centre than the second group.

Theconversation.com goes one step further and breaks down writing into expressive, reflective or creative writing. All cite increased self-awareness and other benefits across the three include decreased stress, positive mental health and being better at your job.

No writer should be an island

Writing by its very nature lends itself to a solitary way of working. Although some writers do love the buzz of a café for inspiration. That’s not me. I need to shut out the chatter and tuck myself away with only classical music for company. But too much solitude isn’t good. We are social creatures and benefit from the company of others. This is something I often neglect.

Keep learning, keep improving your craft

On Saturday I ventured forth to my first ever writing conference. Held at The Common Room (it’s anything but) in Newcastle, I was amongst my peers at the New Writing North Newcastle Writing Conference. There’s only one way to describe the day – fantastic. There’s an energy in being amongst those who share your passion. My family and friends love me and want me to do well but I’m sure they’re sick to death of me wittering on about writing!

I cannot stress how inspirational, enjoyable and useful these events are. If you are able to go in person (I know they aren’t cheap) it is worthwhile. Listening to industry experts and the experiences of established and debut authors is invaluable. But it’s much more than that. You get to meet so many lovely people and learn from them.

This week was a wake-up call

I recently released Saving Elora (my second novel) and since Jan 2021 it’s been a phenomenally steep learning curve to master (or at least try to) a huge long list of skills. As much as I wish writing was a full-time career it isn’t, and it must fit around work and home commitments. However, in my obsessive quest to be the best self-published author possible, I‘ve neglected to step away and switch off. My brain sometimes needs a rest, and this is something I’m addressing. So, that’s the mental health side covered but wellbeing isn’t just about the mind is it.

Is writing good for your physical health?

And now we come to it. By focusing on my writing, I am certainly the most unfit I’ve ever been, and I’ve slipped into grabbing the quickest thing to eat. A few years ago, I relished baking or cooking. I could spend a full day in my compact kitchen rustling up a variety of tasty treats and dishes. Now I see it as time I could spend on writing. I hate to say it but I’m not getting any younger and I firmly believe that the older you get, the quicker you lose fitness and the harder it is to get it back.

What’s the solution? Work smarter, not harder my friend

Distant Dunstanburgh Castle with sun parched grass

The trick is to combine two things together. For instance, last weekend I enjoyed a ten mile walk along the beautiful Northumberland coastline chatting with a friend. And on Friday I was out for almost three hours walking and talking along the delightful Tyne Valley. My steps will be off the chart this month! On my dog-free lunch breaks I go for a run instead of a stroll. I’ve even started recording my writing ideas as I drive to and from work – but this definitely needs practice.

Tune in next week for the further adventures of an obsessive author.