Pen to Paper: a Path to Critical Self-Development

Pen to Paper: a Path to Critical Self-Development

Writing is the highest form of human expression. Akin to reading, storytelling, teaching, and learning. Writing is deeply personal, yet holds the potential to move mountains. The written word brings laws into reality, transmits knowledge in our books and fills the depth of our love poems. With the rise of the internet our audience, and the potential of our writing to reach out and touch the whole of human consciousness has greatly expanded. Yet the potential for the intimacy of private thought remains. It is completely reasonable and within our power to write a diary daily, perhaps as a blog published for like-minded individuals or maybe hidden between mattress and springboard never to see the light of day. Writing every day for a small amount of time is a powerful tool along the path toward self-discovery, development, and contentment. 

Write to breath, write to grow, write to put to rest, and write to move on. Be it prose, poetry, scholarly or purely recreational. Words hold weight; they convey ideas and emotions. In accordance with the laws of physics, weight means the presence of both an equal and opposite force. It is forces like these which shape our reality, breathing the very fabric of existence. Words have weight, and therefore words have gravity. Imagine, creation burst forth in an instant. Illuminating both time and space adorn star, fire and asteroid dust. If words have gravity surely we are witness in orbit. Mirrored parts creation and infinite expansion. You and I can be painters of verbs and great storytellers if we practice. To put pen to paper is to chart a brave new course by employing the gravity of words. We hold within us the most incredible ability to create, to reshape perception and experience. We wield infinity-immeasurable on a ballpoint tip. 

Write truth, write lyric and song, write because every one of us hangs on to life by a shoestring. In any given moment we are only degrees of uncertainty removed from an end. Car crashes, accidents, unforeseen circumstance, life happens fast but our words can live on. Writing every day outside of class or work for brief chunks of time but consistently can be transformative. Developing writing is analogues to the development of a distinct and personal voice. This process alone helps the individual develop a deeper level of understanding and compassion for self. When we hold ourselves in a place of compassion a form of contentment may be found and cultivated. By developing a voice the individual steps into self-discovery. 

Writing every day is a valuable tool as a healthy outlet. From a practical standpoint, studies suggest that writing for developing youth, young adults and those of us in the professional sector increases the positive self-image, emotional states and even lowers rates of depression. Paul Ballas from the University of Rochester Medical Center identifies benefits from writing every day including managing anxiety, reducing stress and improved ability to cope with depression. In reference to journaling Ballas states that “Although you may have ditched the diary once you reached adulthood, the concept and its benefits still apply. Now it’s called journaling. It’s simply writing down your thoughts and feelings to understand them more clearly. And if you struggle with stress, depression, or anxiety, keeping a journal can help you gain control of your emotions and improve your mental health.”(Ballas). 

Writing exercises such as journaling, free verse poetry and diaries facilitates the process of unraveling the surface tension of self. In my own experience writing has proved an invaluable tool when I find myself in moments of overwhelming hopelessness, despair, and anger. Writing has provided an outlet to calm the mind in moments of unproductive thoughts. The analog here is comparative to getting up and doing physical exercise when one feels overcome with nervous energy or anxiety. In both situations, each is taking from an unproductive and cumbersome state of being and then channeled into a potentially positive alternative. Writing free verse poetry in my life has helped uncover and cultivate deeper meaning. Writing reveals the truth which exists below the surface, tucked away by the subconscious self. By writing we create an opportunity for the subconscious self, thought and truth to reveal itself.

Ms. Natalie Goldberg writes about observing the world around us, engendering dignity to the surrounding world in a way that connects us to the Earth in her essay “Be Specific” found in  Models for Writers Short Essays for Composition. “Give things the dignity of their names. Just as with human beings,”(Goldberg 309). By assigning words to our perceived reality we are as Goldberg states “noticing what is around me and can name it. It makes me more awake.”(Goldberg 310). Wakefulness is an invaluable state of being. By writing a diary daily, we uncover the mystery within daily routine. Transforming the ordinary into extraordinary. Strengthening the relationship between the individual and the surrounding world. This fortifies the unconscious self while relieving the ego and pain-body. When we feel grounded and awake our natural inclination is a sense of contentment and well being.

The cultivation of voice and compassion for self and the growth of scope and nuance of character in self-discovery are the basis for a growing foundation of truth and progress. Writing a bit every day has been shown to improve anxiety management, stress, and depression. Writing consistently with purpose functions as a tool for self-development, contentment, and self-discovery as the layers just below the surface are revealed. A robust writing routine serves as the tool to facilitate these transformations, try it out sometime. 

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart”
-William Wordsworth
Work Cited

Goldberg, Natalie. “‘Be Specific.’” Models for Writers Short Essays for Composition, by Alfred F. Rosa and Paul A. Eschholz, 12th ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2015, pp. vi-679. 
“Content – Health Encyclopedia – University of Rochester Medical Center.” Edited by Paul Ballas and Marianne Fraser, Eastman Institute for Oral Health – University of Rochester Medical Center, University Of Rochester Medical Center,, 22 June. 2018.
Hardy, Benjamin P. “Why Keeping a Daily Journal Could Change Your Life – The Mission –  Medium.” Medium, Augmenting Humanity, 26 July 2016, keeping-a-daily-journal-could-change-your-life-b9421a69912a., 22 June. 2018.

Purcell, Maud. “The Health Benefits of Journaling.” Psych Central, 22 Mar. 2018. 23 June. 2018.

Tolle, Eckhart. “Living In Presence With Your Emotional Pain Body.” The Huffington Post,, 10 Mar. 2014, presence-with-y_b_753114.html. 28 June. 2018.

Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit. Random House, 2014., 

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