How to Write your Way to Bliss

writing_helpsIn the writing workshops I teach, I advocate that writing can save your life.  Using my own life as a compass, I suggest that when navigating difficult waters, we all need something to turn to—whatever tempers our stress levels. For some people, it might be exercise; for others it might be talk therapy. But for writers like myself, it’s about cracking open the journal or turning on my computer to create a story. The truth is, all my books began from a place of pain and the bliss came through the writing and publishing process. It has been said that miracles happen at the border where pain meets joy.

When we give voice to our feelings not only do we honor them, but through writing we are able to make sense of what we feel. This is especially clear when we use techniques such as free writing or stream-of-consciousness writing, which is writing without lifting the pen off the page and allowing thoughts to go where they want to go. We might begin by writing about how we had such a bad day at work and before we know it, we are writing about how our boss reminds us of a disgruntled sibling who we don’t get along with.  Making connections between our present and past experiences can offer clues on how to move forward and find bliss. In doing so, we open ourselves up to life’s wonders.

Often when we feel sad, we look to external factors to understand our emotions, but if we tap into our feelings through writing, we learn that the external world might be a trigger to an old event that elicited sadness. Through writing, we can get to the core of our emotions and remain healthy—emotionally, psychosocially and physically.

According to WebMD, between 75 to 90 percent of physician visits are connected to stress-related ailments or complaints. By itself, stress may result in serious medical problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, musculoskeletal problems, skin conditions and psychiatric problems. These conditions are a result of the body’s response to a stress reaction.

Writing can bring awareness to our emotions in a way that allows us to move forward through difficult times. Bringing awareness to our emotions involves being present or mindful about them. Being mindful is especially important during the writing process. In preparing to write, you might want to make some emotional shifts to bring yourself into the right frame of mind.

Steve Sisgold, who advocates bodily adjustment to decrease stress, in his Psychology Today post, “De-Stress on Demand,” offers some poignant tips. As you sit down to write, you might want to try these as a way to ground yourself in the moment. For example, he suggests shifting your attention and removing yourself from external stressors or situations, slowing down your breathing, being aware of your breath, and changing your body’s position. For example, if your shoulders rise to your ears when you are under stress, then relax them. Imagine a calming wave and consider a positive action toward change. The positive action I propose is writing down your feelings.

Here’s how to begin:

  • Set aside 15-20 minutes where you will not be disturbed
  • Find a journal and pen that resonates with you and makes you feel good. Lately, I have been using fountain pens. They tend to ground me in the moment as the tip moves smoothly across the page
  • Consider a centering ritual like lighting a candle, stretching, yoga, having a cup of tea or coffee or whatever works for you
  • Date your journal entry
  • Begin by writing, “Right now I feel….” Let your thoughts go wherever they may. In other words, “Let it rip.”

What to remember about writing towards bliss:

  • Start with a slight smile on your face
  • Let your mind go and allow your pen to flow
  • Try to write from your heart and not your head
  • Avoid thinking about having a beginning, middle or end in your writing
  • Make writing a habit
  • If you have difficulty beginning, try writing a letter to someone. Sometimes writing to an audience allows the words to flow. Important: You don’t have to mail it
  • Pick a word that keeps popping in your mind and write about it

Creatively Yours,

About the Author

Diana Raab, Ph.D. Diana Raab is a memoirist, poet, blogger, workshop facilitator, thought provoker, and speaker. She’s the award-winning author of eight books, including two memoirs—Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal and Healing with Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey—and four poetry collections, the latest called Lust. She’s also the editor of two anthologies, Writers on the Edge: 22 Writers Speak about Addiction and Dependence, and Writers and Their Notebooks. Dr. Raab has published more than 1,000 articles and has been anthologized in various publications such as The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, The International Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Qualitative Report, Boiler Room Journal, Elephant Journal, Boomer Café, The Writer, Passager, and Rattle. She was also a Pushcart nominee. Her doctoral research focused on the transformative and empowering aspects of memoir writing, connecting Maslow’s theory of metamotivation and creativity, and emphasizing the advantages of reaching one’s full human potential. For more than fifty years, Dr. Raab’s passion and expertise has been writing for healing, transformation, and empowerment. She has been on this creative path since she was a young girl, when her mother gave her a Kahlil Gibran journal to help her cope with the suicide of her beloved grandmother. She is also a two-time cancer survivor who inspires others to chronicle their journeys as they seek wholeness and self-realization. Dr. Raab is very interested in creativity and what drives the creative process. In addition to a PhD in transpersonal psychology, she holds a BA in health administration, nursing, and journalism; and an MFA in nonfiction writing. She is also a registered nurse and was a medical journalist for more than 25 years. Dr. Raab serves on a number of boards, including Poets & Writers, and Beyond Baroque; and she is a trustee for the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). She blogs regularly for Psychology Today and also pens an inspirational monthly newsletter featuring writing for transformation, psychological tidbits, book reviews, and upcoming events. Readers may sign up on her website at:

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