Hello, my friend! Welcome to the first day back in the real world. Maybe you won’t read this until this afternoon, or tomorrow. I hope that’s the case. I hope today you are sleeping late, taking care of your body, spending time with friends. I hope you haven’t had to push right back into the world of work, smartphones, data points, or commuting schedules.
It’s late morning and I, as one of your trainers, am still outside my usual routine. I am drained, overly full of human interaction, and missing you. After five days sequestered together, today we begin to drop back into our real worlds — we begin the process of integrating what and who we found and became during the training into our other life. I use “we” deliberately here — this is true for the trainers, too; we are changed through our interactions with you, the conversations and questions, the opportunities and invitations to examine our certainties, our points of view, and open just a little bit more deeply into this AWA method that threads itself through our hearts.
We spent five days — four of them nearly morning til after dark — discussing this writing group method that Pat Schneider developed, the one that each of us had already fallen in love with, that had already held most of us as writers, and opened a space for our own new and risky writing. You wanted to learn about holding that sort of space as a facilitator. This weekend we talked history and philosophy, craft and oppression, trauma and voice, poetry and creation. We experienced what is still a revolutionary idea: that it’s possible to invite and even teach writing outside of that traditional MFA/Iowa Workshop model, that good and powerful writing can emerge outside the mindset of competition and ruthless criticism. We talked about and then practice this method that has such a simple structure: Continue reading
Sometimes a candle is all you need, and a pen, and a notebook, and a cup of something warm. Maybe this morning, write about proprioceptive writing — write about freewriting and reflective writing.
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.