Let’s start with the good news: you don’t need to find creativity, it is already inside of you! The Spark & Flow eBook was created to give you ideas about how to access, play with, experiment on, and move with your already existing creativity.
Our brains are dialectical storytelling machines. If I give you two images, your brain will immediately compare, contrast, and begin to tell a story about the two scenes. We cannot NOT tell stories. Our very consciousness is a long repeated internal story about who we are, where we came from, and what we want. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times confirmed that, “Academics trace the idea of writing as therapy to the time of Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II, about 1,200 BC.” Your desire to write is ancient, important, and worth pursuing as a part of your regimen of self-acceptance and spiritual health.
The Mental and Physical Benefits of Writing
First I want to highlight the scientific research findings published in the news the last two years. The New York Times health writer Tara Parker-Pope reported, “Studies have shown that writing about oneself and personal experiences can improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory.” It turns out that this new health elixir is free, doesn’t come in pill form and can be done with paper and a pencil!
In three different studies mentioned in the NY Times article, writing was used for an even deeper function. By using a “writing intervention” where the subjects were asked to retell or recast their personal stories with a more objectively perceived story (such as finding counter-examples to negative self-beliefs) led to marked improvements.
According to Timothy D. Wilson, a University of Virginia psychology professor, the positive narratives helped to “Nudge people from a self-defeating way of thinking into a more optimistic cycle that reinforces itself.” In short, we are boxed-in by the stories we tell ourselves. By working through our own self-narrative we can begin to positively change both our bodies and our minds.
The seminal writing therapy researcher James Pennebaker clarified this idea, “When people put their emotional upheaval into words, their physical and mental health improves markedly.” Echoing this statement, psychologist Jane Turner Goldsmith reported in the Australian Psychological Society Journal, “[Pennebaker’s studies have] been replicated many times, demonstrating a range of physical health benefits and reduction of illness symptoms. Benefits to emotional health, such as reduced post-traumatic symptoms and improved mood and psychological wellbeing.” The evidence continues to mount for why writing is an effective way to stay physically and mentally healthy.
In a 2015 article in Fast Company, psychotherapist Maud Purcell explains, “Writing accesses the left hemisphere of the brain, which is analytical and rational. While your left-brain is occupied, your right brain is free to do what it does best, i.e. create, intuit and feel. In this way, writing removes mental blocks and allows us to use more of our brainpower to better understand ourselves and the world around us.” According to researchers the benefits of having a writing practice include: increased self-confidence, higher emotional intelligence, increased mindfulness, and a boost in memory and comprehension.
Why do you write? An Intervention
So how do we integrate the research that writing can be a vital and powerful tool into our lives? To start the Spark & Flow of creativity we need a recalibration of perspective on our writing. Instead of reading these exercises and thinking, “oh this exercise won’t help, I will just put down the pen and turn on the TV.” Or, “Why do an exercise…maybe I’m just not creative, or worse, I’m just lazy.” Here is another classic, “Who would care about my experiences?” You have to fight those thoughts. Instead of telling yourself a negative story about your creativity, try positive intervention.
Here are some statements you can use to remind yourself who you are as a creative mind: “I am a storytelling creature, I was born to make stories.” “Creativity is inside me, and by practicing, I can gain access to my flow.” “I’ve led a truly singular experience and I believe there are stories that need to be told about love, family, mystery and sadness.” “I will not judge myself or be judged for my writing. The simple act of doing it gives me a clear and healthy perspective on my life in this world.”
So strike the flint and get your spark flowing into a fire, and access the amazing transformative power of writing! The first few exercises in this eBook start with preparing your body to write. Think of the kindling, the spark has caught but without the breath it will extinguish. We begin with oxygen to build our spark into a powerful fire.
How the Ancient Art of Writing Therapy Can Help You Create a Brighter Future, Los Angeles Times, January 2016
This is the Key to Happiness, According to Psychotherapists, Time Magazine, May 2015
10 Surprising Benefits You Will Get From Keeping a Journal, Huffington Post, February 2015
Story Making and Storytelling: An Exploration of the Therapeutic Benefits, Australian Psychological Society, June 2015
Writing Your Way to Happiness, The New York Times, January 2015
Why Journaling is Good for your Health (and 8 Tips to Get Better), Fast Company, January 2015
This is Your Brain on Writing, The New York Times, June 2014
Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write, Mic.com, September 2014
Writing for Health and Happiness? BBC.com/ BBC World Service, August 2013
How Writing Heals Wounds of Both the Mind and the Body, Time Magazine, July 2013
The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, Jonathan Gottschall