I’ve been thinking a lot about reflective writing, I think because I want more time and structure for reflection in my own life and work. I have my morning pages, which are a momentary core dump of sorts, but not a specifically reflective time. In the morning, I’m still stum-numbly with sleep and dreams, and I’m trying to capture that emotional energy on the page, I want those dreams, I want those images and words before they split and slip away. I want the thickest heaviest emotion, those blocky truths — but at this hour, I’m not always, or I haven’t been, deeply reflective, at least not directively so.
At my day job at the UCSF School of Medicine, I learned about reflective writing as a way to further a medical student’s education, to deepen and broaden their empathetic learning, to encourage the student to engage deeply in a particular incident or interaction (particularly a situation in which they learned something, or one that went especially well, or one that didn’t go well) with a patient, and to go deep into what happened: how the student felt when it happened, what they noticed, how they felt changed afterward, how things might have gone differently. In asking these questions over time in a reflective writing practice, students integrate their experiences differently, and connect emotion to their learning and patient interactions. Of course, these practices aren’t limited to medical students — everyone (I believe!) can benefit from this reflective writing. There are lots of good resources around Reflective Writing; I just finished reading Gillie Bolton’s Reflective Practice: Writing and Professional Development, which I had to check out several times from the UCSF library, because I just wasn’t ready to let it go.