The Benefits of Personal Writing

The Benefits of Personal Writing

I was dragged into doing personal writing kicking and screaming
all the way. Many years ago, I had a mentor with whom I would
meet to talk about what was going on in my life. He was someone
that I called upon to assist me to sort out my current concerns.
When I would pose a problem I was having to him, he would
usually reply by asking me if I had written about the problem.
My reply would be no and I just wanted to talk to him about it.
This became the regular verbal dance we did every time we spoke,
until one day when he answered my question with, “I’ll tell you
what, I am not going to discuss this with you until you go home
and write about it!” No amount of protestations would get him to
budge. I was more than quite peeved, to say the least,
(actually, since this is the PG version, I can only say the least).

On the way home, I stopped at my neighborhood stationery store
and bought one of those 6×9 spiral notebooks and a ballpoint
pen and, still fuming, wrote out my problem. For
some reason, once I wrote out the problem the solution became
quite obvious. He was right; the first step to problem-solving
is writing it out. I have been writing ever since. Twenty years
and many filled notebooks later, I still have a spiral notebook
with a pen sitting in the spiral, tucked into my mattress so I
can write in it, in bed, before I retire every night.

I journal the events of the day, my feelings about those events
and my feelings at that moment about me and the other cast
members in that play called “my life.” It is a real taking stock
type of exercise. It is an automatic writing exercise. What my
mind is thinking my hand is writing. My conscious mind is an
idle observer of this process. Spelling and grammar are of
little importance. I do not erase or blot out anything. If
something needs correcting because it was the wrong word it gets
a single line through it and the pen moves on. Since I started
doing this type of writing, I have found that I get to sleep
faster because my mind no longer replays the day and my
feelings, over and over again. For some reason, once it goes
down on the paper, my mind can let go of the thought. Also, I
notice that if I wrote down some problem that was of concern to
me, I usually wake up with the answer. Doing this writing on a
daily basis keeps me constantly in touch with my progress on the
projects I am doing, allows me to fine tune the game plans to
make winning more of a possibility and keeps me in touch with
feelings so that there is less chance that my judgment will be
clouded by them. My strong suggestion would be to put doing
nightly writing high on your “to do” list.

Years ago, I participated in a workshop that
followed the suggestions of “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.
The book’s first suggestion is to write three, full-sized
notebook pages first thing every morning. She calls this “the
Morning Pages.” It is also a train-of-thought, automatic writing
exercise. The difference between this one and my night time
writing is that this is not intended to be a journal. It has no
parameters and no boundaries. It is a vehicle for creativity to
abound. It can be anything the mind wants to produce; writing,
poetry, drawing, whatever. Only three caveats are that it must be
three pages, it ought to be the first activity of the day and written
automatic writing style (which is my addition to Julia’s Morning
Papers prescription).

Automatic writing style means that once the writing starts the pen
must keep writing until the three pages are completed. The
difference between this writing and the evening writing is that with
the evening writing the pen is automatically recording the current,
conscious thoughts that are endlessly looping around the brain.
With this writing, the object is to get beyond the conscious thoughts
and allow pure thought and knowledge to pour out of the inner mind.

The outer (conscious) mind wants to edit, make perfect and is not
very creative. It also is fairly slow, so by writing continuously until the
three pages are finished, even if what is being written is nonsense
such as talking about the weather, describing how wonderfully the
ink is flowing out of the pen or cursing me for introducing you to this
exercise, you will eventually exceed the ability of the outer mind to
keep up. At that point, it will get out of the way and let pure creative
thought pour out of the inner mind and onto the paper. Having done
this exercise for a long time, this is how all my writing, including this
writing, is done. My outer, editing, mind is trained to get out of the
way from the moment I start writing. It knows that it will have an
opportunity to review the writing later on, so it is content to a
assume the silent observer

I am finding that when I am finished writing my mind is fully engaged
and I am totally ready to take on the rest of the day. Prior to
doing these Morning Papers, it was maybe noon before my mind was
up to speed. Quite a difference! This writing requires more
preplanning of schedules than the night writing because it takes
me about an hour in the morning. I am now going to bed an hour
earlier so that I can do the writing without pushing my day an
hour back. That is a total revolution for this former night
person which in itself is a testament to the benefits of writing
the Morning Papers. By the way, both this article and the
Communications Skill article flowed out of my pen and onto the
“Morning Pages,” an effortless and highly creative way of
writing. Write On!

©2007, rev. 2018, Jason Wittman

[Permission to reproduce this article is granted as long as this notice and the “About the Author and the copyright information is included.]

*About The Author*
Jason Wittman, MPS, LAADC, CATC-IV (aka Successful People’s Secret Weapon) is the former Executive Director of Los Angeles Youth Supportive Services, Inc. ( ) and has had a private practice as a Counselor and Coach for over 40 years. His practice, focuses on coaching and advising business and professional clients, who are recovering from alcoholism and addictions, to work and live at their exquisite best. He is an expert on teaching and coaching the “getting-on-living,” self-esteem building and spirituality parts of recovery. He has his master’s degree from Cornell University in counseling-psychology and is certified as a drug & alcohol counselor, a clinical hypnotherapist and a practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). He can be contacted at or 213-804-4408