Writers write for the same reasons readers read

For as long as history records, people used stories to make sense of all that is. Ancient myths and epics often “explained” how something in nature originated or how to handle moral dilemmas. Today, we still tell stories to make sense of the universe, to connect with one another, to become part of something that is larger than they are in an effort to give them meaning and purpose. Stories help readers make sense of the world.

So then, shouldn’t writing also help authors make sense of both the world and the heart?

Indeed, writing marks a way for us to reflect upon our experiences and thoughts, to think critically about them, to give them context. By doing so, we learn of our inner feelings, needs and fears. Each draft of a story is merely another conversation in which we writers talk out our problems.

Try as we might to suppress personally-traumatic experiences, they will replay in our minds, always remain in the back of our thoughts, and emerge in our nightmares. We can begin processing those horrors by either reading or writing about them.

Studies show that writing about our feelings and the meaning of experiences reduces stress levels. Lower blood pressure, the ability to breathe more easily, and a better mood are two short-term benefits; improved memory is a long-term gain. Indeed, while journaling writers experience the same kind of brain waves as they do when meditating. Not surprisingly, a good book yields the same positives results for readers. Reading is a relaxing experience, and when the novel is about emotions and situations that bother the reader, it can be a powerful elixir.

If the writer has made an honest examination of himself through this creative processing, a sense emerges that something troubling has been understood. When that occurs – as when we learn – a good feeling overcomes us. In fact, scientists say when a person learns, the brain releases opioid-like chemicals that result in this physical reaction. Readers enjoy this natural high when they have an a-ha moment in the book they’re reading or when they can’t help but to keep turning pages.

A reader need not get very far in a book to realize the written word’s healing benefits. Sometimes only a few pages are all that’s needed. Likewise, a writer need not pen a novel or even a short story to enjoy emotional restoration. Sometimes only a few paragraphs are all that’s needed.

Writing Doctor’s Prescription: 5 paragraphs by pen/paper or keyboard once daily