by Mehreen Ahmed
Why do people write? The answers certainly vary from writer to writer, but writing evolved alongside a popular and a well-established oral tradition. Traces of the earliest writing system was first found in Mesopotamia, Iraq around 3200 BC. However, there is much debate around this, as some believe that the earliest script was found in South India. Wherever it was, it is obvious that only one form of communication did not suffice. Valuable information would often be lost because of a lack of documentation. Preservation of data in scripted words proved to be more lasting than the spoken medium. The archives today would be empty otherwise and history would remain forgotten.
A friend of mine had once told me how writing got her through many a troubled situation. There was a time when she felt totally helpless because of her husband’s acute anxiety. At this juncture in her life, it was writing that helped her tremendously. She often sat down at the computer and jotted random, non-linear thoughts without caring much about grammar, or punctuation. or spelling. She continued this for a while until a pattern emerged. An eventual plot began to show. That plot turned itself into her first book. This gave her pleasure beyond measure as a new window of opportunity and happiness opened for her. One book then led to many books.
If sad thoughts can be written in words, then sometimes they can help in difficult situations. That is the whole point of keeping a diary. My friend had no idea that writing could bring her such sweet relief. In a way, writing acted as her counselor or a psycho-therapist by giving her a platform to vent her unhappiness. Her life changed dramatically after that. She became a writer and found a way to help other emerging writers as well.
How does writing act as therapy? There is no specific research guidelines to prove exactly what happens to the human brain when it undergoes such activity. Researchers have tried to find out brain functions and effects of expressive writing. Advances in psychiatric treatment (2005), Vol 11, 338-346, published an article written by Karen A. Baikie and Kay Wilhelm. A study elaborated in this article shows a correlation between writing and mental and physical health benefits. Participants were asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings of traumatic situations. They were also asked not to care about grammar, spelling, and punctuation,. This research found long term benefits in both emotional and physical health outcomes: a reduction of mood swings and depressive symptoms such as withdrawal. And in physical health a notable reduction of blood pressure.
In a nutshell, therapeutic effects of writing were found beneficial to human health, generally. But even without delving into too much scientific detail, we can speak from our own experience that writing is good for the soul and for the mind. It gives us pleasure just to take flight on the wings of imagination; creating fantasies, otherwise impossible. Thoughts that would leave indelible marks long after we have passed away. Imagine if Shakespeare had not written a word. Not only would there be a vacuum in the literary world, but what a lonesome and boring place this would be.
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shape and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
-William Shakespeare, Midsummer Night’s Dream
About the author
Queensland writer, Mehreen Ahmed has been publishing since 1987. Her writing career began with journalism and academic reviews and articles. Her latest work, Moirae, is available on Amazon.
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