“But I’ve tried,” you may say. “I’ve tried journaling and I get stuck so I can’t write anything at all. Then I get frustrated which just makes matters worse!"
This is a common problem. Writing can help you cope with all sorts of negative emotions and let you organize your thoughts to see knew solutions. It can help you process things that just seem like a jumble in your mind. It can act as a type of catharsis, letting you express extreme emotions in a healthy manner without the repercussions of confrontation.
Unfortunately, negative emotions can also make it difficult to begin the writing process. Staring at a blank page with no ideas of where to start can be daunting. When already experiencing strong, negative emotions, it can be a short trip from daunting to frustrating to seemingly impossible. Giving up becomes just one more thing you feel you can't do which causes the negative emotions to just grow stronger.
Though it may seem counter intuitive, putting limits on your writing can help you reign in your emotions by providing specific rules to follow that act as a guide to the writing process. This method which is called Oulipo (Ouvroir de litterature potentielle/Workshop of Potential Literature), began in 1960 in France. This system is a collection of constraints and rules that you can use to guide your writing. If approached as a fun kind of challenge without expectations of the final product Oulipo exercises can help you adjust your emotions by providing a sense of positivity, enjoyment and accomplishment. This alone can alter your ability to balance and adjust negative emotions. Turning down the pressure associated with expectations will also free you to express whatever your thoughts and feelings which is a great coping technique for stress.
Some examples of Oulipo techniques are:
- N + 7 which involves taking an existing piece of writing and substituting each noun with the seventh one following it in the dictionary. This can be changed by altering the number you add to come up with new nouns.
- Snowball which is a poem in which each line is a single word, and the word on each successive line is one letter longer.
- Lipogram which involves excluding one or more letters. Vowels or consonants may be excluded.
- The Prisoner's Constraint which is a particular type of lipogram that excludes all letters with "legs" (b, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, p, q, t, and y).
- Palindromes which are words or sentences that read the same forwards or backwards.