The healing power of writing – reflections on being an author

The Power of Writing IT Down by Allison Fallon

Not all the books I read and want to review are about AI, Microsoft 365 Copilot, or business models. I also like books that help me evolve as a person and steer me in the direction I should take with my life and career.

I mentioned way back that immigration to the United States came through a reflection of a book that I read. The book had one sentence that hit me like a rock, and all the actions and decisions beyond that point were made either consciously or unconsciously. It seems that I have always loved to learn how the human mind works and what makes us "tick". The result of the text in the book, along with some additional aspects, was that I resigned from the company where I was head of software development and took a position in Dallas, Texas, as CTO/Senior Vice President for a solution provider. That is how my US career started 25 years ago. My career on this side of the Atlantic has been longer than in Europe.

I have been itching to write a book for the past few months. My two first books were published by a major Finnish publisher. My first book was titled "Succeed in the Big World" (Onnistu Suuressa Maailmassa in Finnish), which is based on my experiences immigrating to the US and building a business as an immigrant. This book was published in 2007, and the foundations of that book have not changed. However, some of the recommendations regarding marketing-related stuff have changed.

My second book, "Boldly Out into the World" (Rohkeasti Maailmalle in Finnish), is again a bit more of a "memoir" about what it felt like to build a life outside our native country. This book was published back in 2010 by the same publisher. I also interviewed more than 20 executives and their stories for the book to get context for how they felt when they did the same thing. It was a fantastic journey to listen, learn and contemplate. Now, 25 years have passed since we immigrated, and it is easy to say that we have been ingrained in US society.

This time, I want to bring to your attention a book that truly made a tremendous impact on me. I could not let the book go, and I finished reading it in two days.

The book "The Power of Writing It Down: A Simple Habit to Unlock Your Brain and Reimagine Your Life" is by Allison Fallon, author, writing coach, and speaker. She has worked with hundreds of individuals and their writing aspirations. Her writing style is engaging, and her "thread of thoughts and story" is easy to follow. Not many books can say the same.

The book explains a few things that I wish I had known when I was working on my own books. Things such as the separation of two parts of your brain when you write. You have the limbic brain and frontal cortex. The prior is the part of your brain that provides you with the creative side of things, thinking in images, is responsible for our physical sensations, and thrives on guessing.

The latter (frontal cortex), again, is part of your brain that provides logic and reason and is concerned about productivity, efficiency, and time management—all the organized things that you need in your life. However, it is the frontal cortex that typically gets you stuck in your writing as you try to apply logic, and your body and mind do not let you get into the "flow" state, which is where you want to be.

I wish I had known why it was so hard to get into the "flow" when I was working on my two first books (and Ph.D.). When I tried to explain to my family members that when I had decided to write, for example, the following day, I had to take specific steps to get into the "mood" and the "flow" so I would not run into the "blank page" issue that most writers face every now and then. And yes, you could use ChatGPT to spit out text, but that is not what being an author is when you create something new. The book discusses quite a bit of how to get "unstuck" in the writing process, and I found the information fantastic. I would have hoped to have it in the past.

The author refers quite a few times to Professor Pennebaker, a research professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and his research on how the written word can have a measurable impact on our brains and bodies. According to Pennebakers's research, "writing for as little as twenty minutes a day for as little as four days in a row can cause measurable improvement in your mood." The author calls the type of writing that will impact you "Expressive writing," which is "the act of sharing your deepest thoughts and feelings about a subject on a page."

You might ask yourself, who should be interested in the book? It is really for a broad audience because the entire idea is to use expressive writing to get direction in different aspects of life or career. According to the book, as little as five to twenty minutes a day, scientific research shows this daily practice can help you:

  • Identify your ruts and create new neurological grooves toward better habits
  • Find fresh motivation and take ownership of your life
  • Heal from past pain and trauma
  • Relieve anxiety and depression
  • Contextualize life's setbacks and minor frustrations
  • Live a more confident, balanced, and healthy life
  • Etc

I can see the book to be a great resource for somebody who wants to explore a new path in his/her career or make decisions that one has been pondering about but not being able to put "a finger" on.

This is NOT a therapy book, but it is a book that demonstrates that there is a real difference between talk and the written word. Talk is cheap, as is commonly said, and it is easier to grasp and reflect on things when it is on paper. The book gives numerous examples of people who have had profound changes in their lives by applying expressive writing.

You might also ask me why I am interested in this book. I guess my eye caught it because I have been "stuck" figuring out what my third book would be and why I should be writing it. I have always loved to sit and write and be almost "shielded" from the external world.

During my trips to Finland for board meetings (I live in Dallas, Texas) in the past, I used the opportunity to write in our Helsinki apartment. I could be on my own, not to meet anybody, but just work on the book, go out for coffee, and reflect on what I had accomplished during the day. For some reason, I was able to get to the "flow," and it might have been the beautiful 18th-century buildings around me with the smell of history and city life. I am not sure what it was, but it was magical. That is how my Ph.D. dissertation was created; it was in our Helsinki apartment, in hotel rooms, anywhere I could get into the "flow".

If you have a bit of writer in you, I recommend this book for you to get ideas on why writing can be helpful. The book is not suggesting that every one of us is going to publish a book; that is not why this book was written. However, it will help us who are contemplating writing a book that it would helpful. The author released a new book recently (2024), and I am currently reading it and will probably review it later.

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Dr. Petri I. Salonen

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