By Karen Reyes
Use your own voice, but don’t make it too personal. Write your opinion, but cite facts. Fill two pages with five paragraphs. For the past 10 or so years (we started learning to write in paragraphs around that time), all we have been taught about writing are the restrictions and the structure and the formalities. What we’ve never been taught is that writing outside of a school setting can be cathartic and simple. It doesn’t have to contain fancy, elaborate sentences or words; you could use words like “peculiar” and “frivolous” or “weird” and “silly” and still have the same meaning. This approach takes away pressure that would otherwise make your writing sound forced and unlike you. Consequently, it becomes less anxiety-provoking.
Writing that doesn’t cause anxiety is probably not exactly what comes to mind when you think about writing considering all the impending deadlines and due dates we have all had to face, but it can be calming. If you take away due dates and restrictions, writing becomes a form of expression rather than a form of boosting your English grade. For one, you don’t have to worry about an audience. No teacher or student or anyone will read it besides you. You could write something and never look at it ever again; you could rip up the paper or throw it out, but writing down whatever it is has the same effect as telling someone your thoughts without having to deal with their reaction. It is an easy and healthy way to cope with your thoughts and express yourself if you can’t otherwise.
This also means there are no grammatical expectations and no vocabulary words or even a specific format required. You could write continuously or chopped up, beginning new lines at random places. Although there are no limits to what you can write, there is also no minimum to what you have to write. You can pick up a pen and write three words in that moment and that may be enough. The point is that your writing does not have to meet any standards you don’t set yourself. Giving yourself less restrictive parameters to work with makes it an enjoyable activity.
At this point, you may be wondering what all of this freedom in writing does for you or why it matters. We all are familiar with the concept of writing in a diary or keeping a journal and there is a stigma around those that make them seem almost childish, or a place where all you do is write about your latest crush. Speaking from experience, though, having a journal comes in handy for anything you might need to write down. It might be clearing your mind that day, writing down ideas for potential stories, or just reminders for yourself and they all go in the same journal. The unspoken rule that writing has to have some deep, philosophical meaning is completely the opposite for leisurely writing since it can be very literal and simple.
What I’m getting at is that writing can be therapeutic no matter how or why you do it. It’s a way to let out your feelings without feeling vulnerable or judged. You can get rid of negative feelings or keep positive ones with you on paper at any time. Writing does not have to be formal or about a topic that others have deemed “important.” Moving your pen across a page is an art form that is taken too much for granted and not appreciated for what it really does for us and our well-being.