How You Can Use Writing as a Tool for Personal Growth


This week on the podcast I am talking about how you — yes you — can use writing as a tool for personal growth.

You’re reading the transcript of an episode of the How to Be a Better Person podcast. If you’d rather listen, click the play button below.

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Why am I talking about this? Well, I’ve been writing professionally since 2004. Writing is in my blood and my bones AND I believe that it is an incredibly powerful form of communication. And the more I learn about writing, the more I come to understand that one of its greatest powers is to help you communicate with yourself.

The problem is that writing has this mystique, like it’s something only for certain people, and that’s just a darned shame because writing is just a magical, and powerful way to get to know, understand, and even like and appreciate yourself more. It’s a tool that you just don’t want to leave on the table simply because there’s a story in your head that you’re ‘not a writer.’ 

Today’s big idea is an elemental truth:

Which is that you ARE a writer. I bet you write every day. Maybe not papers or articles or stories or poems, but you write to-do lists, emails, thank-you notes, texts, captions, etc. Even if you DO write papers or articles or stories or poems you may not consider yourself a writer because you haven’t published a book or been paid for your work but those things are just trappings–trappings, I tell you–that are in no way required for you think of yourself as a writer. 

If you can write a list, or an email, you can also put your thoughts down into words. And why is that a good thing? Getting those thoughts down on paper and then reading them back is just an incredibly powerful tool for getting perspective on your worries, figuring out what you want to do next, understanding the true crux of a challenge you’re facing, processing your emotions, and so much more. 

The page where you write your thoughts is like a coach, a therapist, a listening ear, all in one. And writing those thoughts down is free. You can do it anytime, anywhere. You don’t need fancy supplies, or a degree, or, with all due respect to Virginia Woolf, a room of your own.  

I have been writing stuff since I was a kid

I had a poem published in the newspaper in 4th grade (it was a very sad poem about an empty forest). And I was on every yearbook and school paper I could join. Writing papers in college did not stress me out like it did for my friends. And I worked in publishing as an editor because all I could imagine myself doing every day for the rest of my life was reading. And I STILL didn’t have the confidence to admit that I wanted to write for a living and call myself a writer until I was 33, after I had spent a year in a yoga teacher training where I had to spend a lot of time with myself, meditating and practicing. 

I get that it feels like a big deal, and possibly pretentious, to call yourself a writer.

But here’s the thing

Writing is just thinking in a different form. And it’s something that helps you think differently. 

William Faulkner said “I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.” And it’s that objectivity and clarity that comes from reading what you’ve written that we’re going for in this week’s episodes. 

I also want to help you embrace this idea that you are a natural writer, because doubting that you really can write anything more than your basic to-do list is a surefire way to shut down that wise, creative, writing side of your brain. 

Daily Tiny Assignment

So, your tiny assignment is to do just the briefest little meditation with me. It’s so so helpful to get your mind into a less doubting and skeptical state to access those thoughts that are so eager to come out. So let’s do it now, you and me. 

So if you are willing, I want you to sit up in your chair, bring the soles of your feet to the floor. Close your eyes if you can. Take a nice big breath and let it out. And then one more in, and let it out. And now picture an old fashioned hourglass. It’s two ends are big and round, and the top half is empty while the bottom half is half-way filled with sand. The sand is all your thoughts, ideas, and inspirations. And now see yourself flipping that hourglass over, so the sand is in the top half — that’s your head.

And then watch the sand flow down out of your head and into the bottom of the hourglass, which is the page, whether that page is electronic or paper it doesn’t matter. Just sit here for a moment and watch the sand flow naturally out of your head and on to the page. 

Now, if you can — and if you can’t, please do come back to this later

Start writing down whatever comes to mind on the subject of ideas. An idea you had that you acted on, or one that you didn’t act on. Or an idea someone shared with you that you thought was great, or one you thought was kinda nuts. Maybe it’s the funny way your great aunt added an R to the end of the word idea, so it sounded more like idear. Whatever comes in to your mind is just perfect–just let it flow out of your mind and out through your fingers on to the page. 

See that? You’re writing. Because you are a writer. 

Keep going, and I hope you’ll come back tomorrow, when I’m sharing a three-minute writing prompt that will help you be more productive, peacefully.


Want to be a better person, but don’t know where to start?

My new daily podcast, How to Be a Better Person, is here to help by sharing one simple thing you can do in the next 24 hours to rise. My mission? To help you live your best life.

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