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When writing doesn’t “work”

Does Writing Work?


You might believe writing doesn’t “work” for you.


At Find Your Voice, we’re clear on one thing: we believe writing is a powerful tool for personal transformation. The problem is, when people hear the words “personal transformation,” their mind goes straight to a number of other self help tactics which have left them high and dry.


You might relate to this. After giving [insert self help tactic here] a try, you found yourself in the same place. Understandably, you might approach “writing as personal transformation” with a sense of healthy skepticism. Maybe, you’d even say, “writing is just not for me” (more on that sentiment here). 


We get it. We’ll be the first to admit that “self help” doesn’t live up to its promises. But if “self help” has never helped you before, writing might surprise you. 


Self Help Doesn’t Always Work — but Writing is Different


There are plenty of reasons why “self help,” in general, doesn’t “work.”


Caveat: I actually really like reading self help books, and I like working on them even more. When done well, it can be incredible, authentic, and true to the name, helpful writing. But on this point I agree: self help, as a category, is a mixed bag. 


Here are just a few of the reasons “self help” strategies may have failed you in the past: 


Many self-help strategies only “work” for some personality types. Tips and tricks are only motivating or helpful for a certain group: weather that’s introverts, type As, or creatives. Oftentimes, a strategy has a target demographic. And that demographic might not be you. 


  • Unlike other self help methods, the brain science behind writing (more on this soon) applies to everyone who has a brain. It’s not just a tool for some: it’s here for all of us. 


At its worst, self help is thinly veiled motivational speeches. Motivational speeches have a tendency to gloss over the difficult truths of life, preferring the sunny side. 


  • Instead of distracting from the truth, expressive writing forces us to see what’s inside of us. The blank page has a way of confronting you: there are few places it is more difficult to hide from yourself.


Perhaps the biggest reason is that self help arranges your life around someone else’s plan for your life. As much as we love to lean on other people, only you can know what the next right step is for you. 


What do you mean by “work”?


When people tell me, “Writing doesn’t ‘work’ for me,” I want to ask them what they want it to do. What do mean “work”? If you want writing to instantly solve all of your problems (your work, your relationship, your body, your health), you’ll be disappointed. If you want writing to take the truth of your life and change it into something it’s not, you will leave dissatisfied. If you want your problems to go away without working through them, find another method.


Writing will, slowly and surely, align you with your own values and aspirations, and help you work through how to take next steps towards your goals. In the long run, this does move you through your problems. But it’s not magic: it’s intentionality. 


If you suspect that writing doesn’t “work,” think again. 


Allison Fallon’s new book, The Power of Writing It Down: A Simple Habit to Unlock Your Brain and Reimagine Your Life, demonstrates just how much writing changes us, our communities, and our world. Start your writing journey, order a copy today:

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