"Naked" Writing for Anxiety Relief

"Naked" Writing for Anxiety Relief


Naked writing can be one of the most challenging, yet most rewarding, writing practices on your healing journey.

When you hear the term “naked writing,” what emotions arise? Do you feel excitement, trepidation, or perhaps a curious blend? For many, engaging in such a practice can evoke various reactions—from intrigue to outright fear. After all, the word “naked” implies a level of vulnerability and exposure that can be intimidating.

Amidst the tumult of modern life, naked writing has emerged as a beacon of clarity—a practice that transcends traditional journaling and offers a unique antidote to anxiety. While the term may sound provocative, it doesn’t involve literal nudity. Instead, it serves as a metaphor for raw, unfiltered self-expression in writing.

I understand the hesitation. Putting pen to paper without filters or constraints can feel daunting, even for the most seasoned of writers. There’s a fear of the unknown, a worry that our words won’t measure up or that our writing will expose us in a way we’re unprepared to handle. But I can assure you, the rewards of naked writing far outweigh any apprehension you may have.

How Naked Writing Helps Us Process Our Thoughts

I first encountered a similar practice 30 years ago through the work of writing pioneer Natalie Goldberg. Goldberg’s principles of “Keep your hand moving” and “Don’t think” form the basis for the rules of naked writing. Fans of Julia Cameron’s morning pages practice might also find a familiar kinship in this approach, as both encourage free-flowing, uninhibited expression.

Engaging in naked writing (or even contemplating it) often evokes myriad feelings. Perhaps you don’t consider yourself a writer or have never tried a writing practice before. If so, you’re not alone. As one convert to naked writing shared, “I’ve always had an estranged relationship with writing and seen myself as someone who doesn’t write unless forced to. It was outside of my comfort zone ... but [this practice] gave me permission to write freely and discover value and confidence in a simple, meditative writing practice.”

Just this morning, I turned to naked writing myself. My husband and I were on the verge of an argument, but each of us had backed off, sensing the tension. Instead of lashing out, I set a timer and wrote on the prompt, “I feel ...” The thoughts swirling in my head that made me want to lash out found a quieter space for release on my blank page. A few moments later, I could put myself more squarely in my husband’s place and speak with compassion instead of blame. This magic is the power of naked writing—it provides a healthy outlet that allows us to step out of our entrenched positions and open up again.

Powerful Testimonials for Naked Writing

A few years ago, I stood before a group of about 50 people on a three-day Outwild retreat. Sunlight filtered through the trees, casting dappled shadows on the ground. These individuals gathered for my workshop, “Going Outwild Inside: Cultivating a Writing Practice.”

Although this was an adventurous bunch, many hesitated to identify themselves as writers. I knew better; I knew that not only were there untold stories bursting forth from these people, but I had just the ticket to free those stories, along with the pent-up emotions that they may have been suppressing.

After a brief exercise in naked writing, I invited participants to share. Initially skeptical of the workshop’s purpose, one man tentatively raised his hand. “I never thought of myself as a writer,” he began, his voice tinged with vulnerability. “But something shifted within me during this session. I want to share what I’ve written.”

His words flowed effortlessly, baring raw emotions he had long suppressed. He spoke of his mother’s final moments, the unspoken words that lingered between them, and the profound impact she had on his life despite their tumultuous relationship. Tears welled in his eyes and mine as he shared his story.

Glancing around, I saw that his courage had stirred something within the group. Each tear shed was a testament to the power of vulnerability, a reminder that authentic expression knows no boundaries.

Recently, I introduced a new friend to naked writing. She had been through some trying times in her life, including breast cancer, multiple infant losses, and a difficult divorce. After a few months of participating in Write Now Mind (an online community I created that practices naked writing), she looked at me wide-eyed and said, “I had no idea all those thoughts and feelings were still trapped inside me. I was sure I had moved on.”

She went on to describe how naked writing has allowed her to process difficult emotions—that something about letting it all out makes her feel more at ease with herself, even though nothing has changed externally. Like the man at the retreat, hers is just one of the hundreds of testimonials I have received about the impact of this practice.

The Impact of Naked Writing on Anxiety

As the founder of Write Now Mind, I’ve witnessed how naked writing helps people unravel their thoughts and find inner peace. Unlike open-ended journaling, which often involves introspection or analysis, naked writing encourages individuals to embrace unfiltered natural self-expression without interference from the thinking mind. This practice offers a respite from the constant need to unravel life’s complexities—to figure things out. A scant, open-ended prompt gets the wheels turning, so there is no blank page to stare at, and your mind is left with plenty of room to roam.

Naked writing is one of the scariest and most freeing types of writing we can practice. It can be wildly enlivening to write without thinking about what to write. This practice helps us get back in touch with our natural voice, serving as both an awareness exercise and a writing practice that heightens our attention to the details of the present moment.

Importantly, naked writing also serves as a brilliant anti-anxiety tool, helping us release pent-up emotions. And in a group setting, it can be a formidable tool for forming connections with others through shared vulnerability.

How to Get Started with Naked Writing

To dive into naked writing, you’ll need only a pen and paper or a keyboard at the ready. You'll write to a simple, open-ended prompt (two or three words or a short phrase) and set a timer, typically for 10 minutes. After that, the rules are simple:

  • Keep your hand moving
  • Be specific
  • Lose control
  • Don’t think

These guidelines encourage you to let go of grammar, editing, and judgment, and travel wherever the pen (or keyboard) takes you. The prompts are merely a starting point—it doesn’t matter if you stick to the prompt. Just follow wherever your mind moves.

I invite you to embark on your journey of naked writing. Bring your curiosity, paper, and pen, and experience it yourself. The following prompts can help get you started:

  • Right now, I notice ...
  • I feel ...
  • I am longing for ...
  • I am curious ...
  • I remember ...
  • I belong/I don’t belong ... (choose either or both)

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to approach this practice. The goal is to let go, be present, and allow your authentic expression to flow freely.

One tip if you decide to try this at home: Write these prompts and any similar ones on folded pieces of paper, put them in a jar, and then blindly select one. This trick interrupts the mind’s desire to find the “best prompt.”

Naked writing offers a powerful antidote to the anxieties of modern life. By embracing raw, unfiltered self-expression, we can unravel our thoughts, foster inner peace, and forge deeper connections with ourselves and others. You should try it and see how this transformative practice can unlock your authentic voice. If you are curious about doing this in a group setting with anonymous encouraging feedback, check out Write Now Mind. It’s free and open to writers of all levels.

Explore writing prompts to unravel the "mother knot."

Naked Writing for Anxiety Relief

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