Personal Writing and Self-Discovery

Personal Writing Tips Series

Personal writing is often therapeutic as well as creative. It can help you gain insight into who you are, what makes you happy and how you want to live.

Blogging has become my passion because it links my three loves of new media design, teaching and writing. Blogging is far more than just a job. It’s the creative outlet I’ve always craved.

I’ve prioritised lifestyle for decades. I live in a gorgeous place and work from home so I can spend time with the kids. Now I have a job I love all those things combine to make me feel fulfilled and content.

I feel lucky and never take that for granted because it hasn’t always been that way.

For the first 10 years of my adult life I wasn’t sure what to do when I grew up. Travel and teaching English filled the gap and postponed the time when I actually had to grow up.

Then I had a baby, another baby and another. Suddenly I was a mother of three but I still hadn’t worked out my place in the world.

Post-natal depression set in.

Motherhood is a time when many women lose track of who they are and stop looking after themselves and I was no different. Seana Smith, co-author of Beyond the Baby Blues, says 16% of women suffer from post-natal depression after becoming a new mother. Many more new mums endure stress and anxiety.

Although I ran a successful business and enjoyed web design and copywriting I still felt there must be more in life. I was usually stressed out and generally unhappy.

The kids pulled me one way, the business another and household duties ruled my life. There was no time to nurture my creative inner child and be me. It wasn’t that I’d forgotten who I was, more like I never spent time working it out.

I was almost 40 when I realised I needed to prioritise myself and my writing. I vowed to liberate myself from drudgery, put housework, laundry, shopping and cooking on the backburner and make time for writing because I needed to nurture my soul. I needed to feel fulfilled.

My awakening didn’t happen overnight. It took 40 years and help from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, a book I recommend to anyone who needs help discovering or recovering their creative self.

Personal Writing and Self-Discovery

For better personal writing it helps to know:

  • Who are you?
  • Why do you write?
  • What defines you?
  • What do you stand for?

How can you really tell your story to your readers unless you know exactly what your story is?

Personal Writing Practice

I’ve suggested fun personal writing exercises before here, but I’ve got more quick ideas below for exploring who you are.

They won’t help you find out who you are if you’re really lost but if you’re on the right track you’ll enjoy doing them and get to know yourself a bit better through writing them.

Take a moment for yourself, sit down with a nice cup of tea and relax with a pen and paper while you do them. You deserve it.

1. Choose 10 adjectives that describe you: 5 Strengths and 5 Weaknesses.

2. Choose an experience that shaped who you are today and what it revealed about you.

3. Choose one person who’s influenced you and what that relationship revealed about you.

Personal Writing Warning

There are many great reasons for personal writing:

  • It’s fun.
  • It gives people the feeling of really knowing you.
  • It makes you seem more human and helps people relate to you.
  • It lets you take a trip down memory lane.
  • It captures people’s imagination and evokes their emotions.

But beware.

Personal writing is great unless you get too personal. You don’t want to scare your readers and should never use them as a dumping point for your pain. Personal writing is about sharing your story, it’s not a therapy session.

A lot of the writing you do may be something you can never share with anyone. The point of that writing is to help you learn about yourself and grow until you can write a good personal story that enlightens you and your readers.

Need more help finding out who you are?

Read my post How To Work Out What Your Dream Is.

Check out The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

I also recommend coach Barrie Davenport’s course How to Discover Your Passion. I met Barrie at Blogworld in 2010 – she’s highly trained with years of experience and utterly passionate about helping other people discover what their passion is. Find out more about Barrie and How to Discover Your Passion here.

Otherwise remember to take time to do these personal writing exercies and stay tuned to Get In the Hot Spot for the rest of our Personal Writing Magic Series and more hot travel stories.

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  1. Red Nomad OZ April 19, 2011 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    I’ve always been a frustrated writer – frustrated because I never seemed to be able to find an outlet that wasn’t too intimidating, difficult to break into, expensive or time-consuming. And, of course, I was afraid of failure – and success!! So I didn’t write much at all. But at night, I’d lie awake mentally transcribing stories from my life and travels for non-existent readers …

    Then, after a series of energy-sucking and self-confidence-draining events, I discovered blogging! And it’s been therapeutic for me too – to the point where I can’t imagine ever NOT blogging!!

    But the personal? That’s the tricky part for me. But my readers give more positive feedback when I DO slip something more personal in (albeit inadvertently!), so your advice above is, as always, timely and effective!

    Thanx again!!

    • Annabel Candy April 23, 2011 at 4:50 am - Reply

      Hi Red, loved reading your comment and that you’re slowly finding the solutions by your own writing and experiments;) Keep up the great work.

  2. rob white April 19, 2011 at 10:00 pm - Reply

    Expertly put, Annabel. Most folks never get started when the dubiously ask themselves, “What qualifies me to write/blog/paint or bake a cake?”
    Everyone is qualified to create. It’s a matter of seeking the truth, and seeing things as they really are. Anyone can do that if they really want to. My own nagging self-doubt was drowned out by my conscious desire to discover something wonderfully new about myself. My purpose was to take Emerson’s advice and stop slumbering on myself. It worked for me – it can work for anyone.

  3. Linda ~ Journey Jottings April 19, 2011 at 11:02 pm - Reply

    So true Annabel – People love stories – I certainly love hearing about people’s life adventures – but I still get twinges at recounting my own stories in black and white (no problems verbally where its not being committed to posterity!)
    Like you I have many travelling tales, so am enjoying all your pointers to learning how to ‘spit it out’ ;)

    • Dave Doolin April 20, 2011 at 1:19 am - Reply

      Linda, I very rarely put any of it down in black and white. I suppose my online identity is fairly pedestrian. I’m cool with that. For now!

  4. barbara April 20, 2011 at 1:32 am - Reply

    I loved The Artist’s Way! Doing morning pages… digging deep. I’ve shared it with many of my friends.
    I like your writing practice questions. It can be very revealing.

    • Annabel Candy May 9, 2011 at 9:20 am - Reply

      Hi Barbara, it was a great writing tool for me. And wonderful to have permission to actually write:) So powerful.

  5. Alex Blackwell April 20, 2011 at 2:19 am - Reply

    Well-said Annabel and thanks for the motivation.

    You’re right about not wanting to scare our readers. A term I use to make certain I keep my personal writing in-between the lines is “a properly-sized window.” Lift it up too much and you can scare readers; lower it too little and you can alienate them. Finding the right size is the key – and you’ve found it.


  6. GutsyWriter April 20, 2011 at 2:24 am - Reply

    Annabel, You’re lucky you discovered who you are in your 40’s. Some people never do, and so the exercise you recommend can help. Others change with time, and it’s through time, ( my youngest son now 16, and out of the house at a military school, and yes, he chose it, and wants to join the Army) that I can focus and learn about ME.

    • Annabel Candy May 9, 2011 at 9:21 am - Reply

      We do change and evolve constantly but there comes a time when you have to put your own needs and desires first:)

  7. Brandon Yanofsky April 20, 2011 at 3:22 am - Reply

    On my blog, I’ve begun writing about much more personal topics. For instance, I recently wrote about my opinion of sexual urges.

    Because of these more personal writings, I have friends coming to me saying they understand me much better now.

    Plus, it feels incredibly freeing.

    • Annabel Candy May 9, 2011 at 9:22 am - Reply

      Hi Brandon, great to hear from you. Personal writing does deepen relationships, create opportunitues to speak about personal issues and definitely free us up:)

  8. Dana Udall-Weiner April 20, 2011 at 4:41 am - Reply

    Really helpful tips. I have also found it hard to make time for creative expression while having small children, given the priorities which always seem to compete for my attention. In addition, I appreciate what you’ve said about the task of engaging readers through sharing enough, but not too much. For me, the goal is to disclose my story, but not in a way that would compromise my professional identity as a psychologist, or make me feel too vulnerable. As you say, blogging is not therapy; it is certainly therapeutic, but it’s good to maintain some discretion, I think.

    • Annabel Candy May 9, 2011 at 9:24 am - Reply

      Hi Dana, lovely to see you here and find out more about your approach to personal writing:)

  9. Riley Harrison April 20, 2011 at 5:30 am - Reply

    Hi Annabel,
    “There are many great reasons for personal writing” – for me it’s a necessity. I find journaling is cathartic, clarifies my thinking and prepares me for the day. Although I have been published, that’s somewhat secondary. I write (self help genre) for myself and if it’s useful to others so much the better.

    • Annabel Candy May 9, 2011 at 9:26 am - Reply

      Hi Riley, I guess writing is a primal urge for some of us! There’s no way we can’t write:)

  10. Seana Smith April 20, 2011 at 10:19 am - Reply

    Hi Annabel, there’s so much to think about in this post. I have always written as part of my job and the urge to help others tell their stories and to spread useful information is very, very strong in me.

    But there is definitely also a more creative urge, and I have just started on the new blog writing some personal things under the Good Enough Mother banner. I’d really like to write more humour… I think I need to after the last two books!

    • Annabel Candy May 9, 2011 at 9:25 am - Reply

      Hi Seana, I love to get a bit of humor in too. It’s so important and really carries people through a bad day/week/year!

  11. Sandra / Always Well Within April 20, 2011 at 10:31 am - Reply


    I loved hearing your personal story and I know many moms will relate to it too. This is what’s unique about Get In the Hot Spot > your willingness to be personal, speak from the female perspective, and let your creative side bubble. I’m so inspired by how you rediscovered your creative self and your story holds many lessons for all of us.

    On top of that, these are terrific and fun exercises in personal writing. I can’t wait to try them out. Thanks so much.

  12. Taty Hindes April 20, 2011 at 11:27 am - Reply

    Finding that joy inside of us is one thing, but being able to express it is another one.
    I found that passion and joy doing what I do for a living when I was 19, I’m 46 now and I can’t imagine being or doing anything else.. I do stress a lot about the house being clean, because it makes me unhappy, VERY…
    So I guess the balance is not there yet.. I need some tips on how to be able to relax in that area.. so maybe a blog post about it will be great to share with people like me Annabel!!

    • Annabel Candy May 9, 2011 at 9:28 am - Reply

      Hi Taty, well, if you can find time to keep a clean house and still be creative that would be ideal!

  13. Teresa Long April 26, 2011 at 7:21 am - Reply

    This is a fabulous blog! So, much information for one who is trying to find their way and their passion! I can’t write to much I have too many things to look up :)

    • Annabel Candy May 9, 2011 at 9:29 am - Reply

      Yay! And look forward to reading some of your personal writing soon I hope:)

  14. Stephanie Hodges April 26, 2011 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Thank you, what a great post! I’m having my first baby this June and have only the faintest idea of how completely this is going to change things. I have kept my blogging fairly impersonal until recently, but I think I do need more personal writing on my own time to find the stories that will help others.

    • Annabel Candy May 9, 2011 at 9:30 am - Reply

      Hi Stephanie, such an exciting time for you. I know blogging and personal writing will be a great way for you to share your experiences of being a new mum and connect with other women who are going through or have been through the same thing:)

  15. Catherine White May 13, 2011 at 6:29 pm - Reply

    Hi Miss Hot Spot

    Personal writing is just that personal, which is why getting up close and personal is difficult for me.

    That said, I’ve worked at it, long and hard, to reveal more of myself in my writing. Writing doesn’t come naturally to me, indeed I view myself as a communicator, more than a writer.

    Writers who want to make a difference in the lives of others, need to hold their breath, and make the reveal.

    Great read lady

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