The Psychological Benefits of Writing Regularly

Because God knows how difficult it is to suck financial benefits out of what we write, especially at the beginning of our careers:

psych-and-write

by Gregory Ciotti

When you attempt to envision a writer, I imagine many of you see a quirky recluse, hunched over a desk in some cabin, crumpled paper strewn about as they obsessively work on the next great American novel.

But writing is so much more. Prose is thought put to page, which makes all of us writers—even if we don’t have the chops to tangle with Faulkner. In most cases, writing is most useful as a tool for thinking, expression, and creativity; cabin-dwelling novelists be damned.

Let’s look at some of the benefits of making writing a regular habit.

Writing and happiness

Much of the research on writing and happiness deals with “expressive writing,” or jotting down what you think and how you feel. Even blogging “undoubtedly affords similar benefits” to private expressive writing in terms of therapeutic value.

Expressive writing has also been linked to improved mood, well-being, and reduced stress levels for those who do it regularly, says Adam Grant:

Research by Laura King shows that writing about achieving future goals and dreams can make people happier and healthier… And Jane Dutton and Ifound that when people doing stressful fundraising jobs kept a journal for a few days about how their work made a difference, they increased their hourly effort by 29% over the next two weeks.”

Writing and communicating clearly

Laziness with words creates difficulty in describing feelings, sharing experiences, and communicating with others. Being able to flesh out thoughts in your mind only to have them come stumbling out when you speak is supremely frustrating. Fortunately, regular writing seems to offer some reprieve.

In both emotional intelligence and in hard sciences like mathematics, writing has been shown to help people communicate highly complex ideas more effectively. Writing helps eliminate “it sounded good in my head” by forcing your hand; brains forgive fuzzy abstractions, prose does not.

Writing and handling hard times

In one study that followed recently fired engineers, the researchers found that those engineers who consistently engaged with expressive writing were able to find another job faster….

Read it all at Help Scout

Peggy Bechko’s World: Your Inner Critic and You

Quiet_Your_Thoughts_BSP

by Peggy Bechko

Everybody and his or her brother can be a critic; is willing to criticize the writing of others…especially if they don’t write themselves, right?

And over time all that criticism from editors, producers, well-meaning friends, critical relatives who just know you’re wasting your time, a reader’s group who though well-meaning, don’t know what they’re talking about, whoever, builds up until it all super-charges the self-critic already camped in your brain. In fact, by now as a writer of scripts and/or books, you might not even be able to tell exactly who or what makes up that tyrant of a self-critic sitting in the bleachers in your brain.

It might do you some good to figure out what the composite actually is, but the main lesson to take away from this is, your writing absolutely must make your audience come back again and again. The audience must look for your name in the credits of a movie. The novel must hook the reader to return to continue reading that book and to look for more with your name on the cover of the next.

The screenwriters and novelists who appear to have gotten a grip on what audiences and readers want, what engages them, are the ones who’ve stared that inner critic in the eye and called for silence. It’s simply not possible to write something of import, something powerful, when we question everything we write. When we wonder if a line is funny in a script. When we write a line in a novel that the inner critic thinks the reader will hate it gets dropped.

That kind of thinking has got to stop for the writer to be able to risk everything on their creativity and veer away from the same-old, same-old characters and plots. Comfortable plots do not light the way to brilliance.

You know those guys who pile on to create the inner critic mentioned above? Well, most of them are afraid of change, of anything different. But you, as writer, are out there to embrace just that.

So what should you do? How should you tell the inner critic to be available later when the editing begins, but to shut up when the real creativity is happening?

For starters you might dig just a bit by taking a few moments to pause and reflect on just who might comprise your inner critic – in addition to yourself. Was there a producer who jettisoned your idea before you could get it out of your mouth during a pitch? An editor who gave the pat ‘this plot seems contrived’ without any further explanation as to what the hell he was talking about? A relative who read your script and said ‘yes, but, don’t you think you should have a REAL job?’ Someone else?

It doesn’t matter who they are really, those life-sucking critics who you’ve accumulated in connection with your writing endeavors, just give them a nod, tell them to shut up (probably not out loud), and sit down to write for yourself.

Really, just yourself.

Stop worrying about what other people are going to think or say about the finished product. If you need a little support, pause and think about movies and books that were panned and later went on to become cult favorites or classics inspiring others to follow their example. Or one that critics slammed but made huge amounts of money (which is great…the money…but also reflects how popular it was).

Every writer has fears about editors and producers hating his writing, or literally hating the writer. What if the novel slaved over for a year is no good? What if the script, torn apart and reassembled over and over doesn’t even get a response?

You’re not alone. But you can’t allow the fears to overwhelm or you won’t make it. These questions are just as legitimate: What if they love that novel and offer a contract? What if they can’t wait to produce that script comparing it to every recent blockbuster that’s been screened? What if you come across to them as the greatest talent of this decade?

The trick is not to write tighter and tighter, to keep it closer to your vest because of fears and criticism, but rather to grow even bolder, to turn that inner critic into your very own cheerleader, to be ever more creative and original. Be brave, write what you really want to write, what speaks to you, what you know you want to have your name attached to. Do it and do it right, and once day soon your brilliant ideas will turn into what readers and audiences have been eagerly waiting for.


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and don’t forget to read Peggy’s great blog.

Career Advice Dept: Why We Make Irrational Decisions

Logic? Who needs logic when it comes to decision-making? We’ve all got our guts, right? Infallible instincts for where to go and how to get there?

Oh, wait:

Another TED-Ed production that’s cooler than we thought it would be!

$$$ Advice for Creatives

Ooh, “creatives!” That’s us, right, even those of us who slave away on broadcast TV?

The following has turned out to be exactly what this TVWriter™ minion needed to know to help my career and my bank account too:

Thinking-Differently-About-Problem-Solving

by Matt McCue

The most important thing someone working in a creative business needs to remember is that it’s still a business. Just because it’s characterized as “creative” doesn’t mean that it should be fundamentally organized or run any differently than those in “serious” fields like financial services and accounting.

And yet, all too often creatives, whether they’re freelancers or managing their own design firms, approach the business aspect of their profession with a sense of trepidation, nonchalance, or both. It could stem from the fact that since creatives make what they produce, they feel it’s a direct reflection of them personally and are more insecure about asking for the full value of the product. In other cases, creatives eyes glaze over when contemplating things like contracts, invoices, and project fees (because none of these are nearly as exciting as taking photos in the African bush or designing a brand’s identity from scratch.)

But creatives need to remember that they are business people whose particular craft is illustration, graphic design, or whatever other art form it may be. Since we make a living from selling – not producing – our work, there is no separating art from commerce. In that spirit, we’ve rounded up 99U’s best money advice for creatives from our past interviews and insights.

Never work for free

There are some people who say that the best way to break into the creative industry is by initially working for free to gain experience. However, others vehemently oppose that idea because they believe it harms a creative’s ability to make a fair income down the road.

Texas sign painter Norma Jeanne Maloney weighs in on the debate: “I really have a huge amount of disdain for people who say that an artist can hang their work in a coffee shop, or whatever the business is, in exchange for “exposure,” says Maloney. “That is the biggest cop out for not paying people what they’re worth. In retrospect, when I look back on my career, I wish I would have drawn a harder line in the sand. I won’t work for free now, and I do not encourage anyone I know to do that. Giving your art away for free is a serious trap, because people will say, “You did it for them for free, why aren’t you doing that for me?” If you bank yourself as someone who works for less than nothing, you will never be able to charge what you’re worth.”

Build Your Career by Building Your Audience

Although not specifically directed at the TV biz, this article is loaded with tips for corporate creatives in all fields:

Dammit, muncher, we're not talking about this kind of audience - are we?

Dammit, muncher, we’re not talking about this kind of audience – are we?

by Sean Blanda

Tell me if this has ever happened to you: A well-known person in your field loses their job with impressive company X. Deep, deep inside you feel a vague sense of guilty satisfaction. They weren’t that talented anyway, you tell yourself. This will clear room for more up-and-coming talent, you say.

But then weeks later when you’ve already mentally moved on, you read that well-known person has landed on their feet, yet again, with a new job at impressive company Y. No schadenfreude for you. So what is that well-known person’s secret? It’s not (always) talent. No, the thing that keeps creative people employed and in full control of their destiny, isn’t some hidden genius. It is the ability to build and serve an audience. Cynically, it’s much harder to quietly let someone go if their 4,000 Twitter followers will hear about it. But practically for those of us whose who operate behind the scenes or aren’t the “face” of our department or company, an audience is the best job insurance possible.

Consider the plight of the person hiring creative talent. Or the person hiring anyone, really. They have a marketing campaign for a client meant to build customers. Or maybe they are responsible for a team that does not have a ton of headcount to work with. While the job market is risky, those doing the hiring are risk averse—VERY risk averse.

While the job market is risky, those doing the hiring are risk averse—VERY risk averse.

The known commodity is always safer. People are more likely to hire their friends or people they’ve worked with before. This, of course, is the genesis for the well-trodden aphorism, “It’s not what you know but it’s who you know.” Well, those job candidates with an audience experience this “known commodity bonus” but at a significant multiplier. Now it’s not the just the hiring manager that knows about the creative with an audience. It’s others in the industry. Other known commodities know about this known commodity.

Consider the super-talented person with no audience. Let’s call her Sarah. Sarah is technically skilled and does great work, but her work is often behind the scenes. Sarah’s team knows about her talent and she’s always proud of the end product. To her, that’s usually enough. In a perfect world, it should be. But in a Machiavellian way, this leaves Sarah extremely vulnerable.

Let’s say Sarah’s division folds because her parent company is downsizing. Or suddenly, her expertise in interface design on Android devices isn’t in demand any more. Or worse, she gets a new manager who decides that it’s time for a change. All of these factors are out of Sarah’s control. All of these factors are decoupled from Sarah’s ability to do her job. All have negative impact on Sarah’s career. All of these situations happen every day, and will likely, at least once in our lives, happen to us….

Read it all at 99u

Late-Blooming Creatives – Don’t Despair

Did you know that Leonardo DaVinci once was considered a “loser?”

Sometimes it takes awhile to make things happen. You just need patience. (And a hell of a day job?)

Smile, older writers, painters, et al. Your day can still come!