Why do I write? Writing helps me make sense of my thoughts. It unburdens me and helps smooth out the ragged edges of my brain. Through writing I lend weight to my thoughts and observations, or I see them more clearly as unhelpful distractions. I form arguments and prepare myself to speak with authority as I hate being unprepared in any circumstances. Being unprepared leaves me vulnerable, but articulating my thoughts on the page is like pulling out a protective shield. 

People have told me that my writing has helped them. That they enjoy what I have to say and it stimulates their own thoughts and feelings. This makes me happy. 

Although I have a horror of oversharing and physically cringe if I feel I’ve exposed too much of my innermost thinking online, I have a voice and know it’s important to use it.

Writing and getting a reaction, even if it’s from a handful of people that I respect, has been affirming, building confidence and self respect. I’m more sure of myself and my opinions. I still censor myself and will always be hyper aware of oversharing but at least through writing, that is my choice and I have control.

Trust the process

My writing process almost always begins with procrastination and dawdle. I am wracked with self-doubt and fear that I have nothing interesting to say. 

Once I get going however, those first few paragraphs start to flow. So long as I’m able to temporarily suspend my inner critic, I’m quickly on a roll. 

After writing, stream of consciousness style for about 20 minutes I think I’ve written nothing but nonsense but still it feels like an accomplishment.  

Somehow, the very act of making the words appear on the page is enough. It’s evidence that I’ve pushed past procrastination, got out of my own way and got started. By doing this repeatedly over the months, I have built resilience and learned to trust in my process which is enough in itself to encourage me to continue.

Writing to know myself

Very often I’ll put the writing away or close down the document. Only when I return to it the next day or several days later do I see a narrative emerging. Like a tiny silver thread weaving through the tangle of words, I tease it out slowly, unpicking and restitching until I am reading something that makes sense, that has a pattern and a direction of travel.

Though I officially ‘grew up’ around three decades ago, I feel like I’ve matured a lot in the last ten years. Finally I trust myself and not because I’ve got approval or permission from someone else. I won’t be cowed into silence or dismissed. I won’t be made to feel like my thoughts and opinions are ill formed or misguided. I’m willing to listen to and consider other points of view but not at the expense of my self assuredness. I’m also less afraid to admit to what I don’t know or when I haven’t formed an opinion at all.

Writing has helped with that. It always maddened me when I would lose the ability to articulate myself properly when under pressure. When I write I can play around with the words and get them just right before I share them. I can’t do that in conversation. 

Introvert superpowers

Is writing one of the introvert’s secret superpowers? All I know is that if I could conduct every argument in writing I’d be winning them more often.

I started writing this blog towards the end of the first lockdown about 18 months ago. Being furloughed and spending so much time in my head, pushed me towards the realisation that I needed to write. Writing that first blog was my way of making a commitment to my new practice, to keep showing up for it regularly, however difficult that might be or however self critical I might feel. It’s fitting that this, my last blog for Keystone, at least for the time being, should also be about writing and what it has done for me. 

I’m grateful for the outlet and the opportunity that my work at Keystone has offered to explore this practice. It’s been a privilege to write so freely and personally, within a broad theme of course.

It’s now time to move on to a new role where I will continue to write and be a champion for good, clear, open communication. There will be fewer opportunities for introspection so the challenge is to keep a reflective writing practice going, to find a new outlet to keep me accountable.

My worry is, if I know that only I will read my writing, will I still make time for it?

Writing goals

I don’t necessarily want a byline and to reach lots of people. It’s more important to me to have a voice that resonates with a few. My goal has always been to offer a useful perspective, to be seen as thoughtful, considerate and someone with a little wisdom to share. 

Through writing I can work on being this version of myself.

So, thank you if you’ve read any of my blogs and an even bigger thank you if you commented or got in touch in any way to give feedback or offer your own thoughts in exchange. As much as I mostly write for myself, it is an honour to write for an audience too, no matter how small or self selecting. 

And if you’ve been thinking about writing, journaling or blogging for yourself I’d say go for it. Set a timer for 20 minutes and just write.

You might be surprised at what and even who emerges.

Melissa McConnell

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