10 simple writing practices for men that boost creativity and mindfulness
When you are down, writing may be just the tool to help you get on the right track. Writing is one of the keys to health and specifically, men’s health and well being. Let’s call it evolved masculinity.
For me, I write about my past, in order to forgive. I write about my present to stay anchored in “here and now.” I write about the future, to push myself to imagine what is possible. When I start feeling better, I keep writing. It is healing, meditative and relaxing.
I explored a variety of forms and realized that writing doesn’t have to be something grandiose or overwhelming.
Small, daily or weekly actions can do miracles. If you want to incorporate writing into your daily life, but don’t know where to start, this post is for you. If you are busy and in search of something simple and doable, I’ve got you covered.
I created a list of 10 easy writing forms that can be easily fit into any schedule. Each one of them has a specific benefits, but all of them boost mindfulness and creativity. These practices will help you relax, observe the world with new eyes and enjoy life more.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
1. Free writing
Free writing consists of you opening a blank document or page and write, write, write, without checking your grammar and spelling, without going back and editing, without any care of the quality of the written. You can write on a prompt or simply whatever comes across your mind, translating your thoughts onto the page. Good length of the session is 15 to 20 minutes.
If you try it out, you’ll see it’s a powerful process, similar to meditation. In her book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron says that free writing is the best cure for writer’s block. It beats resistance. Quality doesn’t matter, just the process. Repeated every day, preferably in the morning, “the morning pages”, how Julia Cameron calls the free writing sessions, can bring you the peace of mind and revitalize your creative potential.
Resource: Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.
Writing a journal is a powerful, yet simple writing practice. Many famous men, such as Benjamin Franklin, Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and many others, were known for journaling. Journaling is a great reminder of everyday events. Small stories weave our lives, but we often tend to overlook them as mundane. Journaling changes the perception of everyday reality. It can shift your focus and bring more mindfulness to your life.
If you’re looking for a simple writing practice, journaling may be a great practice to start. After a few months of journaling, you can create enough material for a blog or even a collection of short stories.
3. One sentence journal
If you think journaling is too much work, try one sentence journal. It is nothing more than describing your day in one sentence. We can all write one sentence a day, right?
Gretchen Rubin is an advocate of this short and powerful form. Just like regular journaling, it boosts mindfulness, memory and makes you express yourself succinctly. Plus, it helps you remember all the small, beautiful moments that make life.
4. Gratitude journal
This is another variation on the theme “journaling”, which involves the powerful attitude of gratitude. It represents listing good things that made your day, that were fun/helpful/inspiring/good, that you’re grateful for. If you write about positive things every day, your perception will slowly shift. You will focus on what works rather than on what sucks. You will start noticing more goodness. And what you focus on will expand.
There is a one hack: be as specific as possible with your gratitude journal. For instance, if you repeat that you’re grateful for the roof above your head every evening, after 5 days you’ll start doing it automatically, while feeling indifferent. Small things and details are disproportionately powerful. If you write: “I was grateful for seeing green shoots on the trees, because I feel that spring is coming and the nature is waking up,” high five! Detailed descriptions invoke more appreciation.
Resource: Alex Ikkon’s Five Minute Journal.
When asked about the benefits of blogging, Seth Godin said that if you make someone write and publish daily, he’ll have no choice but to become more observant and thoughtful about life. He’ll have to come up with something valuable to say and share with the world. He’ll have to swallow his own fear many times. That’s exactly what Seth does: writes and shares something valuable daily.
But that’s still a lot of work. How about writing one post weekly or every two weeks? What is you expertise? What can you teach others? Write it up. Share it with the world. Repeat.
Bonus tip: you don’t even have to open a blog. You can publish your posts on platforms that already have tons of users, such as Linkedin, Medium or Reddit. It will spare you from investing too much work upfront and you’ll bring your content in front of many more eyes.
6. Idea lists
Your creative muscles are just like any other muscles: they require a regular workout to stay strong. This is James Altucher’s idea, which became my daily practice.
This is how it’s done: every day (preferably in the morning) write a list of 10 ideas on a random prompt. Here are some examples: 10 books that I could write, 10 lessons I learned from XYZ, 10 things I would tell to my 25-year old self. The key is, as Altucher puts it, to make your brain sweat and do the creative workout.
Ideas don’t have to be good, you don’t have to execute on them, you just have to kill the resistance and practice. After listing ideas for a while, you’ll see that your brain becomes quicker, more prolific and creating becomes fun.
“Life can only be lived forward, but understood only backwards,” said Soren Kerkegaard. That’s why the reflections are so effective.
You can reflect on your creative process, work progress, exercise practice or anything else, weekly or monthly. Here is the idea for the template: write down what worked and what didn’t, what are you proud of, what are you letting go and what is the plan for the future. You can add the lessons you learned. You can waive a gratitude list into it. Keep it as simple or as complex as you want.
If you only work-work-work, without ever finding time to reflect, you might be wasting your energy without even noticing. Reflections will help you understand yourself better and improve quicker.
Resource: Nicole Antoinette shares free monthly reflection templates with her subscribers.
8. Noting the random ideas
The idea #6 calls for creativity on the command. Sit down, write 10 ideas, do it now. But here is another option. Always have a notepad handy and write the random ideas that pop up into your mind.
We all had the experience of stumbling upon a good idea while walking, driving or taking a shower. (I was recently at the concert, when I got a brilliant idea, so I had to go to the restroom and write it down.) Sometimes we remember the idea clearly, but more often its vanishes before we know it. Hence, use the notepad. Be ready for the inspiration, at any place, at any time. Some of the world-class artists (Tom Waits, Neil Young) are keen on this practice.
Resource: Evernote. Install it on all of your devices and use it for notes or any writing project.
9. Answering questions on Quora
Quora is an online platform where people answer each other’s questions. Topics range from technology, science, personal development, to politics, nutrition and dog grooming. In short, you’ll find everything.
Best answers get upvoted, shared and published on other platforms. Quora community is witty, knowledgeable and super creative. You’ll find some big names there, too. Adam Grant, the author of Originals, recently had a long session with more than 30 questions answered. Noam Chomsky is on Quora, too. And many more.
If this sounds fun, open a Quora account and add your own drop into the bucket of Quora knowledge. Or if you have a good question, challenge some of the great Quora minds. Quora is a great place to share your expertise, practice your writing and learn a ton.
10. Collecting stories
When something funny happens, write it down. When something unexpected happens, take a note. When you hear a great story from someone, capture it. Start working on your collection of stories.
This practice will make you more mindful and observant. It will enhance your memory. If you have a blog, a collection of stories will provide you crisp, fresh material to work with. Storytelling is the best marketing. Knowing and collecting stories will help you become a better communicator: you’ll have authentic stories to tell and you’ll be opened to hear other people’s stories. We forget the facts easily, but stories stick with us much longer.
Resource: Tynan’s Superhuman Social Skills.
I recently read a beautiful quote from Flannery O’Connor: “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” This is an outstanding definition of writing: the process that brings you clarity, mindfulness and insight into your own creative being. Choose your favorite writing practice and understand yourself and your life better.
Photo by Denise Krebs