Is it easier for you to write something than talk it out? This might be why.
Every day after getting back from middle school, I’d hurry to my room, open my notebook, and start writing. There were stories of things that happened which I didn’t feel comfortable telling anyone about out loud. There were emotions that needed to be expressed, which others might have called “too much” or “inappropriate.” And there were thoughts that needed to be sorted through which weren’t clear enough to be a part of an actual conversation.
I wrote to express these tales, feelings, and ideas. The page was my companion as I unburdened myself. It listened in silence without prejudice or judgment. It didn’t call me names. It just provided a safe space wherein I could dive deeper into myself. I felt my thoughts get clearer and my emotions ebb to calmness with every sentence. I felt heard and understood. And I found satisfaction in the process, as well as in the things I wrote.
If you have noticed that it’s easier and more enjoyable for you to write rather than speak out your emotions, thoughts, and experiences, you might be a highly sensitive person (HSP). Highly sensitive people are the roughly 30% of the population who are wired at a brain level to process all information more deeply. This makes them more sensitive to the world around them, both emotionally and physically.
In other words: if you’re a highly sensitive person, you’re experiencing the world very differently than others do. You think more deeply, feel more strongly, and have a lot going on in your head. That can make it hard to get your words out — unless you have the time to sort them out in writing.
Sometimes, this can feel like a liability. After all, who doesn’t want to always have the perfect comeback, or know the perfect thing to say? But your preference for writing can actually give you an advantage. Here’s why — and how to get the most out of it.
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Why Writing Helps Sensitive People
There are three main reasons why a preference for writing is actually an advantage for sensitive people:
1. It streamlines your many, many thoughts.
In the book Sensitive by Jenn Granneman and Andre Sólo, co-founders of Sensitive Refuge, there’s a line that really resonated with me: “She has a lot of thoughts — libraries of them — and people rarely understand them.”
Because highly sensitive people are deep thinkers and process everything deeply, there tend to be scores of thoughts swirling around in our minds. It is wonderful that we are this way, but when there are too many things to think about, it can feel heavy and overwhelming. It’s often difficult to talk about these thoughts aloud because, although there’s a profound idea in there somewhere, it may not be formed enough to be shared.
Writing can really help with this. The process of holding a pen to paper and writing — or clicking on keys and typing — grounds us. Writing streamlines our thoughts. Our focus converges to one thought at a time. And things slowly get clearer. Thus, writing can be a wonderful way to listen to ourselves.
(Plus, personally, I think HSPs make the greatest writers!)
2. It helps you release your feelings and emotions.
Sometimes, we experience overwhelming feelings that we can’t easily describe. Once, I felt an emotion that was like a mixture of sadness and excitement, as well as profundity and potential. It was very frustrating to know that I was going through something without knowing how to explain it to anyone else.
At that point, the flowers on the trees outside my window caught my attention. I began to write a poem imagining myself as a bud, wondering whether it could bloom. By the end of the stanza, I had concluded that I might as well try. Through that poem, I felt like I could express all my complicated emotions. I also had something simple that I could show to my loved ones to let them know what I was experiencing.
Writing can help HSPs express feelings and emotions that are not straightforward. The process of doing so can reduce overwhelm while also creating something beautiful. Writing allows space and time for the expression of what is otherwise difficult to convey.
3. It can be a judgment-free space for creativity.
We HSPs capture a lot of information from our environment and imbibe the emotions of the people around us. Then, we spend time reflecting on it… all of it. This tends to fill us with bustling ideas, and as a result, HSPs are often very creative. As Granneman and Sólo say, “sensory intelligence, depth of processing, and depth of emotion… together add up to a creative mind.”
However, we rarely express our ideas perfectly the first time around. Writing is great in this context, because it doesn’t put us on the spot with the requirement that we perform at 100 percent. Whether it’s planning a vacation or running a business, we can use the process of writing to better prepare ourselves. We can have secret notebooks and documents that are extensions of our minds. They can be judgment-free zones.
Mine are full of scratches and scribbles, incomprehensible and disconnected. It’s okay, because they’re for my eyes only. We can then work on our “scribblings” more, test our ideas, reorder, polish, edit, and rewrite as much as we’d like. We can also familiarize ourselves with, and become comfortable with, its content — and share only what we want to (and when we feel it’s ready to be shown).
So, if all this piques your interest, there are some writing techniques you might like to try.
Need to Calm Your Sensitive Nervous System?
HSPs often live with high levels of anxiety, sensory overload and stress — and negative emotions can overwhelm us. But what if you could finally feel calm instead?
That’s what you’ll find in this powerful online course by Julie Bjelland, one of the top HSP therapists in the world. You’ll learn to turn off the racing thoughts, end emotional flooding, eliminate sensory overload, and finally make space for your sensitive gifts to shine.
Stop feeling held back and start to feel confident you can handle anything. Check out this “HSP Toolbox” and start making a change today. Click here to learn more.
4 Ways to Harness Your Knack for Writing
Here are four writing techniques that can help you get the most out of your preference for writing — and turn it into a major advantage.
1. Morning pages
In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron says, “Write your morning pages. Three pages of whatever crosses your mind — that’s all there is to it. If you can’t think of anything to write, then write, ‘I can’t think of anything to write…’”
In essence, morning pages are three pages of thoughts. You write whatever comes to your mind without censoring, correcting, or editing. Your writing doesn’t have to be artistic or beautiful. It’s just the conduit for you to listen to the creative part of you within.
The first time I tried morning pages, it felt awkward. However, as I persisted, it slowly became a practice I enjoyed and looked forward to. I’ve found morning pages to be particularly useful when I’m waking up from troubling dreams, when I’m disturbed by the things I’ve encountered, or when I’m overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions. It has been very calming and has helped me understand myself better.
2. Timed free-writing
I learned this from my teachers at the Creative Writing Programme, UK. It’s similar to morning pages in that we write whatever comes to us without censoring or editing it. However, instead of the three-page cut-off, an alarm goes off at the end of 10 minutes. Often, our teachers would couple timed free-writing with a prompt to help us get started. A prompt can be anything, such as, “Write about a time you felt free/scared/happy,” or what have you.
This method has been my go-to whenever I feel unmotivated to write. It tends to feel like a chore in the beginning. But I tell myself, “It’s just 10 minutes. I can do that.” Very often, I find that I enjoy what I’m writing and keep going even after the timer has gone off.
3. Writing with the senses
As mentioned in the point above, we can use prompts to help us get started. One type of prompt could be a sensory experience. A couple of years back, I was writing a short fictional piece about a butterfly, inspired by something I heard on the news. However, a paragraph in, I was stuck and couldn’t write anymore. After trying to get my mojo back for a couple of days, I decided to try sitting in a park to write. Nature stirred me. I imagined what the world would feel like from my hero’s (the butterfly’s) perspective. Ideas began coming together and I was able to complete the first draft of that story in a few hours.
The prompt could be a piece of art, a song, or an object that you twirl between our fingers. Anything that teases the senses would work. These prompts can help kickstart a project, as well as enrich and deepen your writing.
4. Writing with questions
The final tool I’d like to share is writing with questions. We can use prompts that already exist (here’s an article on journaling that has a few to help you get started) or we could begin by first thinking of a few questions that we’d like to answer.
Once we have the questions, we sit and write out the answers. It’s as if we’re interviewing ourselves. As we do, we’d see just how much wisdom exists within us. I’ve found this to be particularly helpful when working on bigger projects, like essays. It helps bring structure and keeps me focused on what I need to cover. It could also help you reflect on your personal growth, business, and goals.
What Should You Do With Your Writing?
We’ve considered how writing can help HSPs and looked at a few techniques to get started. You might now be wondering what to do with your writing. What happens to all those notebooks full of your inner thoughts and ideas?
- It could be just for you. Writing is a very personal experience. We don’t need to share anything that we are not comfortable sharing. Our writing could be just for us. I save all my notebooks and look through them when I need inspiration. It’s often been very rewarding to read my ideas from years back. It could encourage you to see your growth. You might also find thoughts in there that were unformed when you jotted them down, which are now ready for further exploration.
- You could share it. While some writing may just be for us, we might find that there are other pieces of work that we want to show the world. We can develop it further, post it on social media, add it to our blog, send it out to magazines (including Highly Sensitive Refuge) or read it out and perform it for a group of friends and family.
- You could use it to inform your personal development. In many ways, writing can be a lifesaver. Personally, this practice has helped me get through anxiety and spells of having a low mood. It has also helped me rediscover who I am and give myself love and acceptance. In this way, the page has been my therapist. However, there are times when we need to reach out to someone else. A couple of good indicators are when successive pieces of writing seem to be obsessing over similarly distressing themes or when it feels like we cannot see solutions to our struggles. The process of writing itself provides a lot of insight and can help us identify when to reach out to another person.
So, Give It a Try
As sensitive people, we can write to understand and express our emotions, thoughts, and ideas. If it’s not yet a part of your daily (or weekly) practice, give it a try.
But as an HSP, also remember to be kind to yourself as you begin the process, and refrain from judging your words (or blank pages, for that matter). Happy writing!
You might like:
- 9 Types of Journaling Perfect for Highly Sensitive People
- 8 Tips for HSPs to Take ‘Little’ Things Less Personally
- HSPs Often Crave Quiet. Can ‘Selective Noise’ Be Even Better?
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