Writing and the development of the self- heuristic inquiry: A unique way of exploring the power of the written word

Pages 55-68 | Received 08 Jan 2014, Accepted 07 Feb 2014, Published online: 12 Mar 2014

This article presents a heuristic research project designed to explore the role of personal writing in the development of the self. True to the heuristic process as outlined by Moustakas, the author analyzed over 30 years of personal poetry and journal writing through her mother’s mental illness and brother’s traumatic brain injury and epilepsy. Phase two of the project included nine participants (co-researchers) who were lifetime writers. Results indicated themes related to the (i) interpersonal and personal nature of writing, (ii) the spiritually transcendent nature of writing, (iii) the fact that writing facilitates perspective taking, (iv) the importance of challenge in personal growth, (v) the dynamic nature of writing, and (vi) the power of writing to influence personal identity. The paper presents the process, stories of the author and three participants, synthesized results, the power of the heuristic process, and potential application to the creative arts.


Experimental manipulations of perspective taking and perspective switching in expressive writing


Cognition and Emotion

Volume 25, 2011

Previous studies suggest that those who naturally vary their pronoun use over the course of expressive writing subsequently report the greatest improvements in physical and mental health. To explore possible perspective taking or perspective switching effects, two studies manipulated writing perspectives about emotional events from either a first-person, second-person, or third-person perspective. In Study 1, 55 students were randomly assigned to one of the three writing perspectives and were asked to write from the same perspective for three 5-minute writing sessions. In Study 2, 129 students wrote for three 5-minute sessions, one from each perspective in a counterbalanced order. The results showed that writing from a first-person perspective conferred more perceived benefits and was associated with using more cognitive mechanism words, whether engaged in perspective taking or perspective switching.