Writing to Remember
Journalers fill pages with details, memories and ephemera to remember events or people. Have a wonderful reunion with a friend? Write down details and you’ll remember that evening years from now. In your journal are all the details, ready to replay in your imagination long after your memory records it as fuzzy.
Journaling does both?
How can writing help you both remember and forget? Writing is a creative activity, and the act of forming words carefully, with a pen, creates a reaction between your brain and hand that lets you think through the emotional impact while you are writing. Writing by hand slows down your thoughts and helps you concentrate. (Some recent studies have shown that people who have learned to use a keyboard at an early age may get the same release from typing.)
Writing helps you forget, because you can vent on the page, examine your motives and reactions, and decide what to take with you as you move on. You learn from your hurts, as long as you don’t nurture them to feed anger and thoughts of retribution.
In the same way, writing down a to-do list allows you to forget, because you have the items written down. No need to keep rehearsing the list in your mind. Keeping a to-do list reduces anxiety and feeling overwhelmed because you no longer repeat what you haven’t done yet over and over.
When you write down to remember, something different happens. You write to enforce a memory, to recall more details, to bring a full range of emotions to the top of your mind. As you feel an enjoyable emotion or physical pleasure, the words you write create a path to feel that pleasure again, in full measure.
Keeping a journal is both a creative act and and act of healing. It can do both at the same time. Visit your journal often and allow your creativity to fuel healing.
Details live on in poetry, too. Poetry is a powerful healer and a wonderful memory keeper. And writing it is free. No special supplies needed.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer who creates and heals.