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How Writing Saved My Life

Writing can be a lot of things, but at its best it can be a life saver. Read on about how writing changed (and saved) Keith Maginn.

I found myself slipping away.

I was in a relationship with a woman struggling with bipolar depression, and she was adamant that no one should know what was going on. I was keeping everything locked inside myself, until I realized that my fiancée’s illness had become my illness.

Bottling everything up was taking a physical and mental toll on me. I needed an outlet desperately. I was on the brink of a physical and nervous breakdown when something pulled me back from the ledge: writing.

This guest post is by Keith Maginn. Maginn believes that writing to help and inspire others is his life’s purpose. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Keith earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Miami University before going to work for AmeriCorps and Habitat for Humanity.

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He is the author of four books, including the forthcoming (Extra)Ordinary: More Inspirational Stories of Everyday People (October 2017).

Along with therapy and meditation, writing saved me. I feel fortunate that a strong urge to write is deeply ingrained in me and that I had writing to turn to, like a trusted and nonjudgmental friend, during a tumultuous time in my life.

Writing out my fears, frustrations and desires helped release some of the pent-up emotions that were stuck inside me. Because I did not want to betray my fiancée’s trust by sharing our reality with another person, I put my heart down on paper, purging myself of some of the toxins I had been ingesting.

Right away, the story seemed to write itself. Words and emotions poured out of me. I felt others might benefit from what I wrote, that people could relate to at least some of what I was going through: living with chronic pain, anxiety and depression, heartbreaks, frustration.

What started as a personal diary evolved into something I wanted to share with others. When my relationship with the young woman ended, I took a leap of faith and published my story as a book.

And the response was wonderful.

[10 Meaningful Practices for Every Writer]

I underestimated how many others were fighting their own battles. Many people appreciated hearing from someone who finally saw some light after having lived so long in darkness.

I found that sharing my weaknesses made many of my relationships stronger. My first book also led to new relationships and opened doors. One such opportunity was a spur-of-the-moment road trip around the southeastern United States, which led to my second book. A friend and I combined a desire for fun, travel and philanthropy into one amazing adventure. We gave money to deserving people along the way, with the understanding that those people had to choose someone else to whom to give the money.

Through writing both of those books, I came to feel stronger than I had in years—and less alone. People I met or reconnected with reminded me that everyone is going through something. There’s always a struggle, yet many people choose (or feel forced) to keep them private.

If you are struggling in some way—especially if you internalize the pain—I urge you to write out your feelings. You don’t have to share your writing with anyone; just write to exorcise the demons.

[5 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block]

If you don’t know where to start, here are a few recommendations:

  • Use fast, stream-of-consciousness writing. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, etc. After all, in a conversation about something important, words just flow with hardly a breath in between.
  • Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Your writing can remain private if you so desire. You can jot down your deepest feelings and then immediately shred them, which is therapeutic in itself.
  • If you want to take this to the next level, challenge someone you trust to do the same thing and then exchange what you produced.

These days, my writing is meant to inspire others and to provide an antidote to the negativity and sensationalism we see in the news and on social media. In my third and fourth books—the first installments of the (Extra)Ordinary series—I looked for people who are lighthouses for the rest of us, and they were not hard to find. Extraordinary people are all around us!

I’m thankful to know that and to know them. And I’m thankful for the life-saving gift of writing.

Writing has taken me out of myself and connected me to people in new ways. I’ve discovered more about who I was, who I am and who I want to be, all while learning about others in the process. Writing gave my life a renewed purpose. Writing saved me.

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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer's Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

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