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Kris Carr

Emotional Health

How to Use Creative Writing for Healing and Self Discovery

Hiya Gorgeous!

Creative writing is one of the easiest tools we have available to support our wellness practice.

It’s free and takes very little time but rewards us with great riches: insight, self discovery, and healing. It’s a beautiful way to process your life experiences, navigate your deep hurts, and find clarity about your next steps.

But you’re not alone if you find the idea of writing your own story a little intimidating. So just in case you’re thinking, “Whoa, Kris. I’m not an author. I don’t know how to write!” Don’t worry. 

In today’s blog video, I’ll share a little behind-the-scenes from when I was writing my last book, I’m Not a Mourning Person. I’ll tell you some of the simple practices that helped me get the words out and some of the big benefits that await you when you tell your own story.

How to Use Creative Writing for Self Discovery

Read the transcript here…

Kris: All right, so let’s start with how a writing practice can support your healing. I want to begin by saying that you don’t have to be a professional writer—just take the pressure off, relax—to benefit from a regular writing practice or from doing a creative writing exercise (like the one we’re going to do today). You don’t have to even think that you’re a creative person or that you’re talented or that you’re skilled. Okay. You don’t have to think any of those things. You don’t even have to have skill. Let me be honest. I still have trouble with punctuation, and I was an English major. What is going on? Seven books, I still can’t punctuate. Oh well, I can do other things. In fact, the best thing for you to do if you feel a little stressed out or a little insecure about writing is don’t think, just write. Thinking can create constipation and way too many problems when it comes to creativity. So when I’m overthinking or when I think—my mother asked me other day, “Are you anxious about the book?” I said, No, I’m not anxious because I am not thinking about that yet. At some point I’ll be anxious. Like the day it comes out, I’ll be anxious. I’ll be hoping everybody, you know as many people as possible, will enjoy it and appreciate it. But I don’t get caught up in thinking about those things right now because I’m still focused on creating. And there’s nothing I can do about it, right? I can’t control what other people are going to experience. All I can do is focus on my work and focus on my craft. So you don’t have to be a pro. You don’t have to know what you’re doing. Don’t overthink it. We’re just going to have some fun. If you would like to have some fun today. Okay.

So here’s what’s helpful to do instead. This is what I want you to think about focusing on: curiosity and willingness. Isn’t that nice? Curiosity to discover more about yourself. Who’s me? What’s going on? What do I think? How do I feel? Let me get curious. Right? And willingness to be brave, to try new things, to be vulnerable, to be authentic. To be truthful with yourself. Right.

So embracing curiosity and willingness. What does that mean? Well, it means to me that you are ready to meet and embrace new aspects of yourself. How exciting is that? Doesn’t matter how old you are or how young you are, you are ready to meet and embrace new aspects of you. That’s what this writing ultimately teaches us. There’s more to me than I thought.

Wow. I’m interesting. I’m clever, I’m smart, I’m creative. I’m soulful. Yada, yada. And the more you write, the more themes and patterns you’re going to start to find. Themes and patterns, right? The more we’re willing to just like write about what’s going on in our lives, what we’re feeling, what we’re thinking, what we’re doing. You look back and over time you’re going to start to see those themes and patterns, clues about where you might be stuck, what else you might need, where you’ve grown and so on. So these patterns, to me as an artist, these patterns are gold. But guess what? Gold isn’t always pretty, y’all. It isn’t. Unless it’s bracelets. Bracelets are always pretty. But gold is always priceless because it helps you know yourself better and support yourself more.

Here’s an example. Before I began writing a book, I always take about 2 to 3 weeks to look through old journals. This process gives me a ton of ideas, and in some cases it gives me exact words or passages to use. And because I can’t remember everything, I’m always jotting things down, so I’m always capturing the moment in as much detail as possible so that I can use it down the line. Guys, it’s also super painful at times. In fact, when I’m reading, when I’m taking the time to read those journals, I often have to nap, take breaks, go for walks. I feel narcoleptic. Just like the energy drains out of me because I can be so annoying. Oh my gosh. The real me that writes in my journals. She can be really annoying and she can be so hurt and so chronically anxious. And to just bear witness to that precious person can sometimes be a lot, right? So I give myself the time and the space to process. I do it in chunks. I do it in bites. I let myself have breaks. But guess what? At the end of that experience, I have so much more to work with, but also such a deeper understanding of what the last few years have been like and so on, and what I want the next few years to be like and so on.

But seeing my patterns in writing over and over and over again really helps me work through those patterns, right? And sometimes when I patterns are so automatic and under the radar that I can’t even recognize them. Has that ever happened to you? Maybe you journal as much as I do, and you look back from time to time and you can start to see the patterns on the page. But when you’re doing whatever it is that you’re doing, you’re so unaware of it. That is until we look back. So looking back on my writing helps me uncove—ready?—helps me uncover what I have covered. Helps me uncover what I have covered either consciously or unconsciously.

Now, personally, I write what I need to learn. I write when I need to say what I need to get off my chest. But most of all, I write to understand myself and others better. So when I am struggling, I turn to the page to hash it out. When I’ve got an observation or great memory that I don’t want to lose, I quickly write it down before I forget.

And another benefit to writing, to writing practice is that it helps you get to know what you actually think about something. Have you ever been like, “I don’t know. I’ve never thought about that. Well, I’m not sure what I think. I’m not sure if I have an opinion on that…”? Well, a writing practice will give you one before you start to go off and ask someone else what to do or what they think that you should do. Writing gives you the opportunity to think about it yourself. Well, what’s my opinion? What do I think? I don’t know. Well, let me explore it, and then we write it out. So often we outsource our decisions or our beliefs to other people as if that they’re more competent or more capable than we are. More competent, more confident, more capable to make decisions about our own precious lives. I don’t think so. Right. But have you ever done that? I sure have and I’m sure I will again. Oh, I should ask so-and-so, they know better than me. Oh, I should rely on such and such and such, they’re smarter than me. Oh, I should call Whosy Whats-it, they’re far more intuitive than I am now. Now listen, sure, outside advice or perspective can be really helpful and super valuable. Absolutely. But it’s often more helpful to start with our own opinions, our own thoughts, and our own wisdom to just make sure we’re starting with home base first.

We instinctively know the best and most aligned direction to take for our lives. We just might need to give ourselves a little space to think about it, space to write about it.

So bottom line is this, and then I’m going to take a sip of my tea: Our bones always know. So let’s excavate some bone wisdom together through the creative writing process.

A few big takeaways:

• Why writing can feel like a pain in the biscuits

 (Hint: you’re overthinking it!)

• Concrete tips to get your stories out, even if you don’t think of yourself as a “writer”

• My #1 secret to avoid mental constipation and get your creativity flowin’ again 😉

• Why scribbling your stories leads to knowing yourself better & caring for yourself better

• Plus the breathtaking clarity you’ll discover about the themes and patterns in your life

 (And how to shift them!)

I hope this video has given you some inspiration to explore your own story with a pen in hand. Just remember: The narrative you craft about your life is a powerful one. Don’t let anyone else write it.

Now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite creative outlet? Share it with us in the comments.

Scribbles & self discovery,

Add a comment
  1. Susan says:

    I used to read Dr. Seusss all the time
    That’s why I like to write in rhymed.
    I found it a good way to express
    Happy birthday wishes and
    To wish someone success.
    It also makes someone feel special
    For a short little while
    And gives them a reason
    For a quick little smile.

  2. Annette says:

    I like to do Bible journaling. I read a passage and then add my own thoughts about it.
    Also since I started my cancer journey in June of 2023, I have been writing many of my feelings and the emotional rollercoaster I am on.
    I like your idea of going back to reread what we write. We can see how our ideas may be changing or how we have been growing in our trust of God.
    Thanks for sharing this blog.

  3. Mary K Broshear says:

    I learned many years ago that writing in a journal can be therapudic. It made it easier to process my emotions and thoughts when I was going through a difficult time in my life. I still journal but not as often as I did back then but now it’s more about all the good happy things that happen in my life.
    While watching and listening to the video, I had the thought that reading my old journals could give me clues to needs my inner child may have been expressing, things that have been hidden from my awareness.
    Thank you for encouraging us !

  4. Michael Alvarez-Toye says:

    Kriss,
    I too find writing both therapeutic as well as a fundamental component- or creativity technique, not unlike painting, dance, music…
    I began writing at an early age, creating fantastical stories about science based mysteries and such. In highschool, my social consciousness and my political ‘gelling’ steered my writing into new and impassioned directions, dealing particularly with the human stain- the arrogance of the human ego, and its twin- ignorance.
    Part 2 t

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