Do you ever feel worn out by the tide of thoughts swilling around in your brain? Thoughts that never seem to reach a conclusion no matter how much thinking time they take up?
- The dreams: One day I’ll set up my own business
- The questions: Should we move out of London? Should I change career?
- The recriminations: Why did I lose my cool with my kids, again?
- And the criticisms: Why am I so … insert your own adjective.
I do. All the time. And I suspect I’m not alone.
Everything about the world we live in is busy. Our brains are on overdrive trying to keep up. Even when we’re trying to focus on an activity, our subconscious whirrs away in the background. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve “read” a page of a book, but not absorbed a single word because my mind is elsewhere.
Writing helps me to break the log jam.
I don’t mean writing a blog post. I mean grabbing a scrap of paper or a notepad and scribbling down a stream of consciousness. A long, sometimes noxious, but always satisfying, brain fart of my thoughts. Once I’m done, to stick with the metaphor, I get the hell away. I close the book, put it out of sight and get on with my day.
Discovering the benefits of writing has been revolutionary for me. I’ve always loved the idea of writing, of keeping a journal and recording the details of life. But it always felt like a chore; one more job to do at the end of an already exhausting day.
Something has changed for me. Writing has become a habit. It helped to coax me out of a deep dark pit of ill-health. It’s no longer something I think I should do, it’s a compulsion. I do it because it helps me. It gives me perspective.
Perspective because, as I scribble, it quickly becomes clear which thoughts matter and which thoughts don’t. And when I stop wasting energy on pointless thoughts, I can think about the stuff that actually matters. How do I support my mum and dad better? How do I figure out what sort of clients I want to coach? How do I set up my business?
Writing changes the way I think. It’s not a panacea, but it helps to bring clarity. I write what I’m thinking and feeling. I come up with ideas. I strike stuff out. I start again. I come up with new ideas. I think about the options and, gradually, it becomes clearer what I should do.
You might be reading this and thinking but I have no time to write. To which my answer would be, how much do you want to solve a problem that’s been bugging you? We might be surrounded by other people most of the time, but we are all alone in our own heads. And if your head’s not a happy place to hang out (and I speak from experience), things can get pretty tough.
Next time, you are tempted to switch on Netflix because you want to zone out, try writing instead. Give it 10 minutes. But try it a few times. Don’t self edit. Don’t filter. Just write.
See where it takes you.
It might not be your thing at all. But it might surprise you.