Jotting down personal accounts of your daily life is an act of self-care. Writing a letter to yourself prompts the process of healing from the tough times you endured or are currently enduring. In literature, creative non-fiction allows the writer to create a story out of a simple recollection. All these forms of writing have one common ground: self-expression
Expressive writing is cathartic. By pouring your emotions on paper, your emotions become tangible, making them easier to process and confront. The leading research on expressive writing by Dr. James W. Pennebaker found that the participants found fewer visits to the doctor, improved immune function, and better grades. Dr. Pennebaker’s guidelines to the participants were to pour their emotions with no regard for grammar and other technicalities. As a result, expressive writing becomes freeing.
Whether it’s a pretty notebook or an old one you’ve had for years, the act of journaling is what matters. Expressive writing, in this context, is so close to Dr. Pennebakers. When you write in your journal, it’s a private act—no one can judge you. Your feelings are only among you, your pen for journaling, and the paper. You can let go of grammar, structure, and spelling, so you also give your brain a chance to run free.
Allotting 15 minutes off your day to sit down and write on your journal can help your mental health. The good thing about this is you can do it anywhere. Maybe you’re inspired by an afternoon at the park or when you’re hanging out in your favorite coffee shop. In both of these times, you can scribble in your journal and still reap its benefits.
Writing a Letter to Yourself
Dear Future Self,
You’re going to be okay.
Writing to yourself can be comforting because, sometimes, the mind can be mean. More than 6 million people deal with unwanted intrusive thoughts that make them feel anxious. Others have automatic negative thinking that affects their thought patterns and even their lifestyle.
By referring to yourself in the third person, you’re able to explicitly tell yourself the things that you want to believe. When writing letters to yourself, it’s good to use the rules of transactional writing.
Contrary to expressive writing, transactional writing requires a specific function, a recipient, and the formalities of a letter. The function can be the following:
- Compassionate Letter: This contains advice you can give to the recipient.
- Empathetic Letter: The goal of this is to rationalize the actions of the other person—or yourself. It doesn’t mean justifying the actions and taking sides but to understand the other person.
- Gratitude Letter: This letter thanks the recipient and expresses the positive emotions that you’re feeling because of a certain act.
The recipient doesn’t have to be another person. In transactional writing, the recipient can be yourself. Like the example, you can write to your future self. Additionally, this type of writing focuses on the perspective of the person you’re addressing in the letter. The best thing about it is that you don’t need to send it.
Creative Nonfiction (CNF) most often comes in an essay. It takes on the form of a story but based on the author’s real life. Its distinction from regular expressive writing is it employs literary elements. The story needs a plot, characters, setting, etc. It requires the “show, don’t tell” rule of creative writing, so you need to describe the event in detail. You can begin your draft with the following steps:
- Think of an event in your life that you can recount. It doesn’t need to be interesting because your technique can take care of that, but it will need a conflict, as CNF needs a plot.
- Pick out the characters that you want to include. Creative license and selective storytelling give you a pass to opt out details of the story that don’t contribute to the plot. This means that you don’t have to write a play-by-play account of the experience—just the important points.
- Create an outline of the plot. Do you want a traditional beginning, middle, and end? What is the conflict?
It’s important to be aware of how you feel about the event you want to write about. Usually, people who are too close to the situation have biases that can affect their writing. They could have problems detaching from the situation and becoming objective.
If expressing your feelings in verbal communication is a difficult task, consider taking on writing. It might work for you, especially if you want to keep your emotions private. It’s a convenient task that can be done anywhere and in a variety of ways.
Meta title: Three Ways to Write About Yourself
Meta description: Journaling, writing a letter to yourself, and creative nonfiction allow you to pour your emotions on paper to make way for a cathartic experience.