What 20 years of writing has taught me

I was 12 when I bought my first ever diary. I remember vividly writing as if I was talking to someone, my pal ‘diary’. I explained how things were about to change for me, I was about to turn 13 – a teenager – and I was about to be cool.

Well, was I in for a surprise! Instead of becoming cool, I became sad, frustrated, lonely and everything else you can imagine a young teenager would feel before developing an eating disorder. Over the next few years, my diary became my trusted confidant. The only ‘person’ I could tell about what I was going through.

I poured out my frustration, self-hate, panic and even what felt like mania into those pages. It was these pages my mum stumbled across when she began to worry about me. At the time I was livid that she had betrayed my trust and read my diary, but looking back, in so many different ways, my diary saved my life.


I went to the doctors and got the help I was crying out for with my pen.


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After university I used my diary less and less. I was longing to be a writer though and craved an outlet, an opportunity to hone my craft. A friend of mine suggested I started a blog and my first blog, To Limbo and Beyond was born.

Nine years later and I fell out of love with my blog, and started from scratch here, at Blue Jay of Happiness in 2017. I’ve not had a ‘diary’ in a long time, but I’ve always had some sort of journal or planner around, somewhere for me to comment on life.

Looking back recently I realised I’ve been writing and documenting my life for 20 years, and I’ve learnt a huge amount from it – including the following:

Writing is how I process

Some people process thoughts and feelings by talking it out, and yes, sometimes that’s super helpful for me too. But often, when I need some introspection, when I need to figure shit out, the best way for me is to write it out.

I’ll put a heading of whatever the problem is and then just go wild, letting my pen translate every thought and feeling into words. I can then put them into some sort of order, read it all back and see things from another perspective.


Even if there isn’t a clear cut solution, writing it out helps me to get it out of my head. It gives me some space back. I can close the book and walk away.


Writing is a need, not a want

This is similar to the above, but for me, writing isn’t something I struggle to force myself to do – it’s something I need to do. If I didn’t have this blog, I’m sure I would just be typing into a virtual diary, or scribbling in notebooks.

I don’t need all of my writing to be seen by others (indeed, it’s lovely to have some writing that is just for me), but I do of course get a great deal of pleasure from sharing online.  

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Photography | Elle Narbrook

Writing raises my self-awareness

Having a record of certain things I’ve found really helpful when it comes to spotting patterns and generally becoming more aware of both my mental and physical health. I notice how much my hormones affect me and what my triggers are when it comes to stress and anxiety.

I start and end my day by writing a few lines in a journal, and it’s honestly the best way I’ve found to bookend my days. I get to set an intention for the day in the morning and do a quick recap of how the day’s been, including how I’ve felt, before heading to bed.

Writing calms my anxiety

One tool I find really helpful when I’m worrying about something is to create a worry journal. The idea is to write what you’re worried about, what you can do about it, what you can’t do about it and what your next steps are. It was an extension of a technique called worry time I learnt during cognitive behavioural therapy.

Just writing out what you can and can’t do about a problem alongside a quick rundown of what your next steps will be is often enough for me to stop going over things again and again in my head. It’s not a perfect science and it doesn’t work every time, but I’ve found it incredibly helpful.

anxious guide networking 3

Photography | Elle Narbrook

Writing connects me with others

As much as I love writing in journals and diaries, there’s a reason I’ve been blogging for 10 years – I love the way writing allows me to connect with others. I get to share tips and learnings. I get to share stories and ideas. I get to have conversations with people around the world.


Writing allows us to tell our stories in the hope others will feel more able to tell theirs.


When I was first asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said I wanted to be an author. That changed over the years into many different things (including a vet, a singer and at one stage a masseuse…) but I’m pleased I’ve found my home again in writing.


Thank you for indulging me with this blog, I know there isn’t much of a ‘take-away’ here, but I selfishly wanted to reflect on my relationship with writing and I guess I’m hoping it’ll prompt you to think about your relationship with writing too.

One of my favourite ways to connect through writing is with my monthly newsletter, so if you’re not subscribed and are keen to connect, would love you to subscribe and say hello!

The newsletters focus on a particular topic and always include external resources on it and a downloadable from me with extra content to dig in even further. 

I’ll leave you with this question – what’s the best thing you’ve gained from writing?


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What 20 years of writing has taught me

9 thoughts on “What 20 years of writing has taught me

  1. Jess @theBraveandStrong.com says:

    WRITING IS A NEED, NOT A WANT- YES!!! I definitely NEED to be writing. It makes such a positive difference for my mental health. It’s one of my most important acts of self-care. Sometimes it’s even a meditative act.

    I think it’s a bit different for me tho- writing about myself doesn’t help me as much as writing about a certain topic, or even writing fiction. I don’t know why my brain prefers that, but of course, everyone is different`

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jess @theBraveandStrong.com says:

    (Oops, hit enter before I was done!!)

    Like you, I also like to write for other people. Having communicated something effectively- it gives me a huge sense of accomplishment. Probably because I’m not good at communicating verbally. But when you write something, and someone gives you feedback that shows they truly understood it- there’s nothing like it!!

    Great post as always :). What was your previous blog about?

    Liked by 1 person

    • bluejayofhappiness says:

      Ahh thanks Jess, that’s so interesting that writing fiction or topics helps you, I loooove writing fiction ❤️ my previous blog was a general lifestyle blog, quite random and acted as a bit of an online diary 😊

      Like

  3. The Growing Butterfly says:

    Similar to you, I have spent most of my life writing out my thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Having kept diaries for years on end, I only now realise what I was actually doing; processing and reflecting. Thank you for this amazing post! Reminded me of just how important and theraputic writing is for me x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. sarahrichelleblog says:

    I can relate to this so much and you seem to have experienced the same things I have with writing diaries! I have recently looked through my old diaries over the past 10 years (also when going through an eating disorder/being in hospital) and its very interesting to read my thoughts and secrets I kept from everyone but the paper.
    I also don’t really keep a diary anymore as such but I think one of things that has helped me in writing and starting a blog is becoming less secretive about my illness which I think is only a good thing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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