Write to Release Your Stress Part 2: How to Claim Creative Writing for Your New Self-Care Superpower
by Brenna Liebold
In the first article of this series on writing to reduce stress, I prompted you to record your personal reality through journaling. As I pivot toward creative writing, I urge you to draw on your imagination to invent something new, at least in part. You write what you know, so you'll inevitably include bits and pieces of yourself. Reading fiction appeals to many as an escape from reality. Writing fiction also offers an escape with more than a dozen added benefits.
I chose to highlight journaling, creative writing, and songwriting separately to recognize the merits of each one as a standalone activity. This particular order reflects a progressive threshold of discomfort that I've noticed in new writers. I hear far fewer initial objections to journaling when compared with creative writing or songwriting.
If songwriting sparks an interest but you don't feel comfortable jumping in yet, start writing within your comfort zone. Journaling builds the confidence needed to attempt poetry. Writing poetry then establishes a process and structure to ease you into songwriting. If you feel even a glimmer of excitement at that, follow the path laid out in this series of articles on writing to reduce stress. Following this progression will prepare you to write your first song without any musical training.
If you don't already gravitate toward one of the three writing styles, read about them all to see which one stirs up the most inspiration. Otherwise, skip to the one already calling your name, and dig in!
The Stress-Reducing Benefits of Creative Writing
If you missed or skipped it, I provided a list of 16 health benefits of writing in the first article in this series. Writing also offers your mind a break from habitual thoughts and routines. You'll re-emerge from the diversion refreshed and ready to face challenges with new vigor. Creative activities counteract the effects of stress and ramp up feel-good dopamine production. Creative pursuits also increase your energy and enthusiasm for life, especially the next day. In other words, taking time for artistic leisure today better equips you to handle tomorrow's stress. Writing may improve your communication with others as well. It strengthens your ability to put ideas into words more quickly.
Pastimes that call upon imagination, such as creative writing, propagate other impressive skills. Flexible thinking, for example, improves problem-solving abilities. When faced with a tough decision, you'll come up with new, unconventional options. On top of that, inventing and writing from a character's perspective broadens your emotional intelligence. This intimate connection with your characters increases empathy toward others in real life. Understanding others' subjective perspectives helps resolve conflicts faster and easier.
Ideas to Get You Started Writing Fiction
Writing from imagination frees your mind to entertain limitless possibilities. It may take practice to let go of initial inhibitions, though. If you draw a blank when you sit down to weave your first tales of fantasy or pieces of enhanced reality, borrow one of the ideas below:
A Simplified Guide to Writing Poetry
Poetry with a strong meter establishes a predictable, repetitive rhythm. The rhythm stems from a natural emphasis of specific syllables over others during speech. Writing and reading this type of poetry produces relaxing effects on the brain. Hence, a look at writing poetry with a clear meter follows.
For the sake of brevity, I won't go into the traditional patterns of stressed versus unstressed syllables in poetic meter. Instead, I'll present a simple visual of how the voice creates rhythm and conveys meaning. Consider the sentence below. Jot it down if you want to take part in a brief exercise in poetic meter. At the least, say it to yourself a couple of times to see if a particular rhythm starts to develop.
Now, mark all syllables with a "/" that you emphasize as you say them, and mark syllables that sound weak by comparison with a "ᴗ." Notice that the pitch of your voice rises along with its volume on stressed syllables. Conversely, weak syllables coincide with dropping the volume and pitch of your voice. With syllable markings, does your sentence look like mine below?
Do you see a pattern in the stressed versus unstressed syllables? Add a "|" symbol between each repetition, limiting the pattern length to two or three syllables. Note where pauses contribute to the rhythm, too. Compare your markings with mine.
Next comes the partially subjective step of visually organizing the poetry by breaking it apart into lines. Doing so makes writing poetry quicker, as it emphasizes the meter. It also benefits readability and memorization. Where would you create breaks in the sentence? Hint: target the "|" symbols and natural pauses in speech. Does your arrangement of the lines of poetry match mine?
If you're feeling the rhythm, add some lines to the poem! Write out the meter symbols at the bottom or a fold of a separate piece of paper. Then, place it above each new line as you work on it until you no longer need the meter cue. As another option, bob your head or tap a finger to cement the rhythm into your motor memory. Allow yourself some flexibility in the meter, too. Aim for personal expression over accuracy.
To explore poetic meter beyond the minimalist presentation here, check out the in-depth lessons offered by The Society of Classical Poets.
More Poetry Prompts
As demonstrated above, not all poetry rhymes. If you want an extra challenge, though, write a poem from a line below, incorporating both rhyme and rhythm. The prompts allow flexible rhyme schemes, or the patterned location of rhyming words. You might consider rhymes in the same line, alternating lines, subsequent lines, etc. If you get stuck on a rhyme, I highly recommend consulting the Rhyme Zone. A little tip: the further apart you place rhyming words, the less likely the brain is to connect them as rhymes.
For a more in-depth introduction to rhymes in poetry, visit the LitCharts website.
A poem that goes beyond visualization to conjure up emotions and their sensations falls into the category of lyric poetry. Calling out your emotions by naming them benefits your mental health. First of all, it lessens, not worsens, negative emotions. Secondly, connecting sensations to feelings contributes to the "emotional intelligence" mentioned earlier. Putting these visceral experiences into words stirs up rich imagery perfect for poetry! For example, think of a time when:
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