Writing and Your Soul
The benefits of putting words on paper
In the era of social media and emojis, writing instructors are battling for relevance. Many of my students have asked why they need to know how to write. They argue that a particular career — computer science, software design, nursing — aren’t considered creative nor fall within the liberal arts program of study. While our discussion is good-natured, I make it clear that writing is not just about assignments and proper APA citation. It’s a process that’s actually good for one’s soul. It mines one’s subconscious, helping solve problems and heal emotional wounds. In addition, writing opens the door to critical thinking, an evaluation strategy that is becoming more valuable to employers these days.
Analyzing one’s emotions
It’s one thing to be angry or sad, it’s another to understand why one is feeling that way — or even if that’s the real emotion being experienced. For example, anger could be masking depression; sadness may be masking fear. Exploring these emotions with a writing strategy such as bubbling connects different emotions; it serves as a path to the core of an issue. Bubbling is simple, requiring only paper, pencil, an open mind, and a short amount of time. Begin with an emotion (or an idea or action verb) in a bubble, then draw more. Add additional bubbles, connecting them with lines. Like leaves growing from a branch, vine these ideas toward the edges of the page. Don’t think, just write. Write words inside the bubbles (or the leaves, or whatever shape one desires), and slow only when the mind becomes blank. At this point, glance at the page, noticing the words that grab attention. If necessary, begin again on a fresh page with the word or phrases that stand out. Bubble further, repeating the process until one discovers the Eureka! moment where truth and emotion converge.
I teach the bubbling prewriting strategy to my writing students as a method of discovery. It’s an effective way to isolate themes and develop supporting ideas for Composition assignments. The strategy mines the subconscious for concepts and their related connections. And, as noted, bubbling easily is adapted as a journey to emotional awareness. As written in John 8:23, the truth sets us free. By discovering the root cause of a strong emotion, one can manage it or heal it, becoming its master rather than its slave.
Learning to seek answers
Putting pencil to page is a simple act — and that’s good. The barrier to entry is low, which helps persuade those who are fearful of or disregard the benefits of writing. Asking a reluctant student to answer a benign question on a piece of paper is an easy way to break barriers. The process requires no technology. There’s no downloading of an application, no screen, no battery, no cord. It’s refreshing in its simplicity. The action of answering a question on paper stimulates the mind like no other form of writing.
To ease the process, I usually start by asking my students an oddball question to which I’d like them to pen an answer: Why are breakfast cereal boxes brightly colored? What makes them persuasive? (The persuasive questions always are good ones. Understanding persuasion is an excellent way to learn one’s motivation.) A robust conversation follows, and it leads to a discussion about rhetorical situations and why one is affected by certain texts and their purposes and messages. The best thing about this short writing exercise is that it’s “sticky.” In advertising vernacular, that means it resonates with the viewer, it’s engaging. I’m amazed at the number of students who don’t know how to ask questions or analyze a text. However, once they understand how to evaluate an image or text, a lightbulb goes on — and the beauty of that is that it’s lasting, and it was inspired by the simple process of writing on paper.
Helpful for experienced writers, too
The two writing exercises I’ve described assist students who are reluctant to write and need awareness about themselves and their actions. The methods work for seasoned writers, as well. There’s nothing like scribbling words in bubbles or analyzing a text to generate ideas or become otherwise inspired. In addition, these exercises of putting pen to paper unlock the subconscious. The depth to which these tasks can reach the heart is unfathomable, and they’re unique to the individual, making them useful and relevant. Unlike a math question that produces a set answer, these short writing prompts produce ideas applicable only to the writer, adding even more value to the process. The hope is that the exercises will inspire the writer-questioner to write more bubbles, ask more questions, and seek more answers.
Next month, I’m highlighting fabulous local bookstores — it may be my favorite blog post so far.
Spring is less than four weeks away, hurrah!
As always, happy writing.
~Tracey Kathryn, MA
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