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The Power of the Pen

“The Pen is Mightier than the Sword.”

Recent events bring to mind this famous line, written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton back in 1839. In his play, “Cardinal Richelieu”, the title character discovers a murderous plot, but is unable to arm himself against the enemy. The Cardinal’s page, Francois, inspires him by suggesting “But now, at your command are other weapons, my good Lord.” Richelieu agrees, proclaiming, “The pen is mightier than the sword…Take away the sword; States can be saved without it!”

In these turbulent times, it’s more important than ever to take up a pen and express yourself, whether for publication or purely personal prose. Writing down your thoughts and emotions help you better understand them, harnessing the power of both sides of your brain. In her Psych Central article, “The Health Benefits of Journaling”, Julie Axelrod explains, “Scientific evidence supports that journaling provides other unexpected benefits. The act of writing accesses your left brain, which is analytical and rational. While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to create, intuit and feel. In sum, writing removes mental blocks and allows you to use all of your brainpower to better understand yourself, others and the world around you.” Maybe you’ll discover the elusive solution to a perplexing problem!

Wield your powerful pen to inspire others. Today, it’s easier than ever to share the results of your writing with the world. Post your thoughts online, submit for publishing to periodicals, blogs, or publishing houses, or publish your works yourself. Even if you keep your words private, you’ll reap rewards. Many studies have shown the benefits of journaling, expressive writing, creative writing and yes, even novel writing.

Journaling, even for as little as five minutes daily, can be very effective. Write about anything you wish, freed by the knowledge that no one will ever read your journal (unless you so wish). Psychotherapist F. Diane Barth, L.C.S.W., reminds us, “even if you don’t like what you’ve written, keep doing it. The extra benefits of mind clearing and self-defining are important enough to keep you motivated, even if you never look at what you wrote again.”

One of my writing professors had us start every class with this prompt, “Right now, right here, I am…” By writing these words on the page, you have a starting point. From there, you can write what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, or even just describing where you are “here and now.” Try it yourself for an easy way to get into the journaling habit.

Expressive writing, founded by Dr. Pennebaker, focuses on writing how an experience felt over the actual experience itself. In this exercise, spontaneity is key; write how you felt as quickly as possible, free of the shackles of spelling, punctuation, grammar or even a coherent narrative. Devoting four days a week, twenty minutes per day, is the suggested schedule for this type of writing. Dr. Wallace Mendelson, M.D. writes, “In summary, writing therapy has been found beneficial in a number of conditions, particularly in the setting of chronic stress, trauma, and some medical conditions.”

Novelist and “Psychology Today” blogger, Jessica Lourey, MA, MS, discusses the healing she experienced through writing her novel. “The research would tell you that I was externalizing the story, habituating myself to it, inoculating myself against deep grief by exposing myself to it in small, controlled doses. All I knew was that my brain wasn’t spinning as much and I was beginning to feel again, even if it was the emotions of fictional characters. …Through the gentle but challenging exercise of writing a novel, I was learning how to control stories, which is what our lives are—stories.”

So, pick up your pens (or keyboard) and start writing. You’ll feel better and may just pen a masterpiece in the process! Need inspiration? Look at the timeless seasonal classic “A Christmas Carol”, written by an author who wanted to address the issues of his day. Originally planned as a pamphlet entitled, “An Appeal to the People of England on behalf of the Poor Man’s Child,” Charles Dickens instead created a beloved story that shares his message with generation after generation.

Guest post by Laura Ehrke, CE Writing Instructor

Want to get started writing or publishing, but don’t know where to start? Visit our Writers Studio page for upcoming classes.

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