Journaling exercise: confronting whatever is keeping you from writing, in writing

So, as I mentioned a few posts ago, I’ve got some personal issues going on at the moment that held up my writing for a while. Basically, I wrote no new fiction for three weeks, and very little of anything else printable, which for some people sounds like nothing, but for me was pretty traumatic. About half the time, my brain felt like mush. The other part of the time, I felt anxious and stressed-out — which is not a state in which I can be very creative. I spent inordinate amounts of time alternating between staring at blank Word Docs and spacing out in front of article after article instead of writing anything of my own.

Anyway, one day last week, I was feeling particularly stressed out and recalled something I’d read about before about “writing away stress.” Several years ago, Sian Beilock published a study (later expanded into the book Choke) that noted that students performed better on tests when they confronted their fears in journaling activities prior to taking written exams. Unloading their anxieties often helped the students move past them — by halfway down the page, fears seemed smaller, more manageable, or the students put them into perspective.

I was feeling overwhelmed about a particular problem. Whenever I picked up my pen, I kept thinking about my problem instead of my writing project. So, instead of dropping the pen, I started to write about my problem.

Just like in Beilock’s research study, about halfway down the page, I started feeling like the problem was manageable, and that my fears were holding me back from what I wanted to accomplish that day. When I was done the journal entry, I was able to write my first 1000+ words of fiction in weeks.

The next day, I was feeling overwhelmed again, this time about the writing project itself. I started journaling again. After ten minutes, I was back in the saddle.

I’m finding this journaling “kick” I’m on very helpful, so I thought I would share it with my blog readers. If you want to learn more about Beilock and her research, you can check the links in the hypertext above, or you can watch her on NOVA.

Has anyone every journaled away problems? Share your thoughts in the comments.

3 thoughts on “Journaling exercise: confronting whatever is keeping you from writing, in writing

  1. Wow, Rebecca. This post is coming at a perfect time for me. I recently went through a dry phase. Very infrequent blogging, (due to life stresses etc) and little to no ideas that panned out into even a first draft. Lack of writing makes us feel blah. :).

    The book you recommend sounds fascinating. But just the idea resonates with me. Journaling has always worked for me during times of stress. Even if it doesn’t lead to more real writing, the journaling itself is therapeutic as you describe.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Doesn’t it sometimes feel that when you write the problem down, it’s smaller? It’s a really weird phenomenon, but it’s happened so many times to me now, that I keep thinking there must be some kind of neuropsychological explanation for it.


  3. I found in my personal life that writing is the solution for all my stresses, preservation of happy moments, and clearing my way through dilemmas. Because I totally agree with every word you write in this post, and because I’m a therapist-in-training, I made this realization a life mission. In my InQuell course, I teach participants how to use this gift to enhance their lives. Good luck in de-stressing!


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