How to Write Your Way Out of a Problem

Writing Can Be a Powerful Tool for Clarity

Let’s forget about outlines, drafts, and editing. Right now, I want to talk about writing as a powerful tool for moving you past obstacles.

Writing can be a way to slow down your thinking and channel your own inner wisdom. [Tweet that]

When I lived in Chicago, I got around most places on my bike. I loved the pace of bicycling. Places didn’t rush by the way they did when I was in a bus or on the train. I could feel the breeze and absorb the sunshine—in the right seasons. 😉 I noticed thrift shops I’d never been to before and finally located the great Ethiopian restaurant someone had told me about.

Meditative writing can be like a bicycle ride on a warm spring day. In this kind of writing, you can let yourself meander, noticing whatever comes along, and heading down streets that call out to you. 

And as you tap into your creative “write” brain, you can actually gain the clarity to solve problems or move past hurdles, whether those arise in your writing or in other parts of your life.

I’m going to share one of my favorite writing meditations. It came into my life via a wonderful friend and inspiring coach, Ella Barnard, the queen of graceful and practical solutions. 

This writing is so simple yet amazingly transformative. It starts with an obstacle and a question, and it ends with a fresh perspective and sometimes even deep wisdom.

Bring Your Best Thinking to the Surface

Here’s what to do:

  1. Grab a journal or piece of paper. Think of your current challenge. Are you stressed? Stuck? Frustrated? Lost? Overwhelmed? Under-inspired?
  2. Now think of the opposite scenario. If I’m fed up because I don’t know what to write for a blog post, the opposite scenario would be that I know exactly what to write.
  3. Form a question based on the opposite scenario. Start your question with, “Why am I so good at…” For example, I might write, “Why am I so good at choosing amazing blog post topics?” Write the question in your writing space.
  4. Then, without planning your response, begin answering that question. Write in a stream of consciousness. Allow ideas and suggestions to bubble up naturally. Your job is just to listen and write, like a transcriber.
  5. Write down everything that comes up. The only rule is not to contradict the statement in your question.

Why Does It Work?

If we simply tell ourselves that something is true, we may not listen to ourselves. (Especially if that “something” is big, new, or scary.)

But we can easily trick our minds into believing something when we sneak it into a question. The language parts of our brains are trained to accept the premise of a question and to take for granted that it’s true. It’s the last part—the question part—that we care about. 

Asking a “Why” question in particular sends our minds straight into problem-solving mode since our brains want to get to the bottom of the mystery! This catapults us immediately into a more inquisitive and open head-space.

Then, when we start writing out the answer by hand, we’re forced to slow down. The conscious mind that usually has us speeding along from one goal to the next, like a car, takes a break. The subconscious “bicycle mind” (aka, intuition) takes over. At this more relaxed pace, we become less anxious and more observant, tapping into a more productive, positive mode of thinking. 

Finally, since the question is not the one we would naturally ask, it has the ring of an outsider asking it. And what could be more reassuring than a friendly voice asking us about how we’re doing and then listening patiently to the response?

What Does It Look Like?

Here is what has come up for me and for other people I’ve talked to who have done this exercise:

  • relief from pressure and stress
  • practical solutions and strategies
  • encouragement and greater belief in self
  • clarity and increased motivation
  • energy to continue, despite the challenge
  • deeper insight into the block or frustration

I wanted to share with you a personal example so that you could see firsthand the power of this activity.

Writing about myself is generally really challenging for me, as I think it is for a lot of people. As I was working on my About Page for this website, it came to feel like an insurmountable task. When I realized I was really stuck, I paused and did this exercise. Here’s what I wrote:

Q: Why am I so good at writing about myself?

A: I’m really good at writing in general because I write from my flow. I know how to tap into the Universal word bank and allow writing to flow to me and through me. I allow my first drafts to sit and rest. I make revising checklists so that I rework with purpose and clear intention. I’m so good at writing about myself specifically because I know exactly why I want to help people write. I know how I want to help them. I am great at giving people the words they were already thinking but couldn’t hear until I spoke them. I am so great at writing about myself because I really believe in my talents and abilities. I am excited to put myself out into the world and use writing to bring peace, joy, happiness, and prosperity! I’m so good at writing about myself because I treat myself as a client. I listen to myself when I talk about my unique abilities, and I encourage myself to think big about all my accomplishments.

You can see that I kept repeating the phrase “I’m so good at writing about myself” as if it were a mantra or an affirmation that I could make true by repetition. This wasn’t something I planned to do, yet it really helped; it started training my brain to let go of the problem and accept a new reality.

What also came up for me in this writing exercise was a practical solution. As soon as I hit on the idea of treating myself like one of my clients, I knew just how to proceed.

I grabbed some of my own worksheets and spent the next few hours doing the writing exercises I usually help other people complete.  As I worked, I was kind, patient, and encouraging, just as if I were my own client.  

Asking and answering my question took only a few minutes, but it completely transformed my approach to the situation. I became more positive and more hopeful. I also became more effective I because I remembered the tools I had at my disposal.

Your Turn!

Give it a go! Choose an obstacle, either in your writing or in life more broadly, and try this writing exercise. What did you learn? How did your perspective shift? What tools or strategies came to mind?

I’d love to hear what came up for you! Tell me about your experience in the comments below.

And if you dug this exercise and want more like it, check out the free resource: 7 Strategies to Calm Writing Anxiety and Start Writing Right Now.

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