Writing Your Guts Out – A Writer’s Best Medicine

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I am sitting in the lush and comfortable living room of a heritage home Bed & Breakfast as I write this.  I am not on vacation, but rather resting with my feet up after preparing a gourmet breakfast for the guests who are staying here. Yes, I work here off and on as needed, and in this moment of respite I am contemplating the words, ‘writing your guts out’ as the title for this post.

writing your guts out

Adversity and The Ways We Often Numb Out

So often in life we can find ourselves with our backs pressed up against a wall. Anything from illness, financial burdens, relationship issues, or loss of a loved one can leave us feeling derailed and without a compass or a map.

How many times have you heard yourself saying, “I just want to feel some relief.”

Sadly, many of us would rather numb our pain with anything external including the likes of alcohol, drugs, sex, food, gambling, social media, or spending.

A Natural Way To Soothe Emotional Pain

But what if there was another way to deal with this suffering? One a lot less damaging to our sense of well-being and a lot more natural.

Over my lifetime, writing my guts out became a way of dealing with adversity and trying to make sense of the often staggering emotional pain that being a mere mortal can entail.  There is something entirely therapeutic about holding a pen in hand and letting yourself ‘bleed onto the page’ as author Derrick Jensen, so profoundly quoted.

It’s All In The Hands

Our hands are connected to our hearts via an energy meridian within the body. This is why whenever we are doing something creative with our hands like writing, pottery, knitting, carpentry, cooking, gardening, quilting, etc., we feel so much better; so emptied, so alive.

Specific to writing, we are also using our inner voice to speak the words we so desperately need to say.  This inner purge requires no listener except the humble page in front of us.  The very action of moving our hand across the page is something I’ve always equated with the healing balm of love writing across the heart.

Leaving Messages Across Our Heart

This kind of written purge can often leave a swath of relief and peace within the hidden and mysterious chambers of an organ that can seemingly expand and contract energetically according to our most deeply felt emotions. Many times it can feel like messages are being written across our heart that remind us that we are our own healer, and that deep comfort and succor can come from emptying our hearts of rage, bitterness, grief, fear, or resentments.

A Powerful Daily Writing Practice

One of the very best practices for writing your guts out that I learned early on was from the renowned creativity expert and author, Julia Cameron and her book, The Artist’s Way.

The practice is simple. Every morning before beginning anything, you have to write out, by hand, three 8 x 11 pages of free form writing. There are no rules about what to write. You can even write the same word over and over again if you feel stuck. The practice is that you write and keep moving the energy flowing across the page until all three pages are filled up.  The practice is to serve as a daily dumping ground, a sacred space to express anything from joy to fear, a clearing of the slate so to speak.  I kept this up for years and I can tell you, if you want to write, or even if you’re already are a writer, that this is a powerful daily tool to open up the veins of gold that lead to the mother lode of genius writing.  I invite you to begin using this practice as the foundation of your writing life.

writing your guts out

Writing Your Guts Out Will Empty You To Fill You

One of my favorite quotes by the late martial arts expert and actor, Bruce Lee, speaks so well about the meaning and power of emptying ourselves in order to be filled.

“Emptiness is the starting point. In order to taste my cup of water, you must first empty your cup. My friend, drop all your preconceived notions and fixed ideas, and be neutral. Do you know why this cup is useful? Because it is empty.”

So many times when we approach the page to begin writing, especially if we are a new ‘wanna be’ writer, or even if we are seasoned, there can be many moments (or even hours, and sometimes days) of staring at the blank page and feeling a sort of combo ‘dead dance’ between numbing panic and total lethargy.

Every Writer Needs To Empty The Trash

In  my experience, this happens when we haven’t done the regular practice of emptying the trash by writing our guts out. When we are weighted down with the heaviness of life, it can make us feel as though we are unheard, unsure, or living without a purpose.  Along with this can come the feeling of not being ‘good enough, or, if you’ve always been afraid to have your authentic voice heard, this stagnation can further push any buttons that may have been telling you that you have strayed far from being authentic and natural by being either too loud, too meek, or too much.

And Writing Will Lead you Home

If we want to write and we want to write well, it behooves us to take care of the very foundation of good writing – the self – by doing a daily detox in the form of daily writing. This I consider a great act of self-love for any writer. When we violate or neglect our true selves it can soon lead to feelings of worthlessness and undeserving, and before we know it the flow of creative juices has dried up. This in turn can often stop us from acting on our own behalf. Saying ‘yes’ to our inner artist often involves saying ‘no’ to other people in our lives, and ‘no’ to some of the many roles we play as well.  Making our creative self a priority in our lives is essential for any artist. It’s a stand we must make for ourselves and our creative work which eventually leads us home.

“Whatever creativity is, it is in part a solution to a problem.” -Brian Aldiss

Any Questions?

If you have any questions whatsoever or need a hand with anything, feel free to contact me.  You can also leave me a comment in the comment section below.

Wishing you much love & happy writing,

Heather

15 Responses

  1. What a beautiful an inspiring post! I have never thought about writing like that first thing in the morning, but now I see how it is so obvious: if we don’t clear out the clutter there is no place to store the new stuff. Just like you can’t fill a cup that is already full. Thank you Heather, this was an eyeopener.
    Love, Kristina

    • Hi Kristina,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and have found the information on the morning writing practice helpful. I can assure you that if you begin doing this, it will become a habit that you will soon see the incredible value in as it begins to ’empty out’ and make room for more of everything to flow into your life.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by.

      Happy writing and many blessings,
      Heather 🙂

  2. Hi Heather! Great, inspiring post especially for all folks out here looking to find some natural emotional outlet away from drugs, alcohol, etc. I like the sense in this whole idea of bleeding onto the page or writing our guts out in relief! Using the pen on page sure often seems to allow for a better inner expression than the keyboards.

    • Hi Stephen,

      Many thanks for your comment. Yes, writing our guts out is certainly a natural way of getting those emotions out to make room for the ‘real’ writing to come through. I couldn’t agree more that putting pen to paper somehow allows for a better inner expression than what takes place via a keyboard.

      I think pen to paper for the daily detox practice is important, especially for beginners, where I feel they should follow this exercise for as long as it takes to feel that constant flow of the ‘motherlode’ of expression coming through, and then keep doing it!

      Thanks so much for stopping by.

      Happy writing!

      Warmly, Heather 🙂

  3. Thank you for an extremely well written post.

    Reading through I can actually see how writing can really clear your mind.

    Does it have the same effect if you write at the end of the day? I know for me it would be great to clear my mind before hitting the land of nod!

    • Hi Dawn,

      Thanks so much for your great comment.

      This daily practice really does help to clear out all kinds of things that may be holding us back from expressing our authentic voice.

      As for doing the practice in the evenings, no, it would not have the same benefits, mostly because the mind would have become too engaged or activated by then, not allowing for the taping into the stream of consciousness writing which tends to come through so well when our mind still quiet and at rest after a good night’s sleep. Having said that though, writing in the evenings would be a lot better than not writing at all!

      Hope this helps you out, and happy writing!

      Heather 🙂

  4. I didn’t look at writing this way. I sometimes find myself having those “staring” moments. I can definitely appreciate this article. I will have to implement some time in the morning where I just sit down and clear my mind. I’m guessing after my workout should be okay?
    Thanks for the info Ms. Heather!

    • Hi Morris,

      Many thanks for your comment. I so know what those staring moments are like! Have had far too many of them. Uggghhhhh…..the sometimes ‘not so much joy of writing!’

      As for the morning writing practice, it really ought to be the very first thing you do upon waking up…I’m talking like reaching over for your journal and pen to begin writing. Of course, you can always go and make yourself a coffee first. 🙂

      The reason for this is the mind has not become too engaged or activated yet, so better for taping into that stream of consciousness writing that hardly comes through when our mind is full-on in thinking/doing mode.

      Appreciate you stopping by, Morris.

      Happy Writing!

      Heather 🙂

  5. Hi Heather,

    I love this post. I’m a stand-up comedian and I have constantly struggled over the years with writing new material and being able to trust my inner voice.

    This daily practice is definitely something I’m going to be doing from now on. I’ve realized that at the start of my career I did write every night before I went to bed and in all honesty, I don’t know why I stopped. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Hi Ben,

      I’m so happy to hear that you are going to begin using this writing practice!

      As someone who is in need of fresh, new, authentic material for your stand-up comedy act, I can almost guarantee you, that if you do this diligently, you will be amazed by what comes forth from your own natural creative well-spring.

      I invite you to read some of my other replies to get the ‘low down’ on writing these pages in the morning rather than the evening.

      Wishing you much success with this and your work as a stand-up comedian.

      Happy writing! 🙂

      Heather

  6. I love being a musician….sometimes playing or writing music can be just as, or more, effective… as it comes from the subconscious into audible form…..I think those cathartic moments are enhanced, however, by any creative endeavor! Bringing something into being that has not existed before is quite the purge, emotionally, spiritually, and physically…..ask any sculptor, writer, poet, musician, or painter…..

    As always, I love your writing….and consequently your lovely self!
    In Truth, Simplicity, and Love
    Steve

    • Hi Steve,

      Always such a gift to hear from you!

      What you have said about creating art by bringing it forth from the subconscious into the material world is so true. I also find it incredibly cathartic on all levels, and you are right…music definitely has a powerful way of reaching us so deeply, both in its creation as you mention, but also as a listener.

      As a fellow artist, Steve, do you think the majority of people realize the power of creativity, or that their creative energy was always meant to be used as a natural detoxifier and creator of joy?

      Thanks for taking the time, and one day I’d love to hear you play in person!

      Warmly, Heather 🙂

  7. This process really intrigues me and I am going to give it a whirl and see how it does for me.

    Many of the points that you hit on here made a lot of sense to me and I hope that I can learn from this technique and improve my writing skills for my website.

    • Thanks for your comment, James.

      If you find you need a hand with anything or have any questions about this, just let me know.

      Happy writing!

      Heather 🙂

  8. […] along the way as we learn to reclaim our inner artist, we discover the pain of what we had been taught to deprive ourselves of; things like taking the […]

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