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From Chaos to Clarity

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Writing is a way to discover what is really important to you and how you think about what is important.  For that reason, I write frequently in journals and in blogs not only as a way to discern what is going on inside, but also because in writing I have found a way to have a confidant who doesn’t correct, complain or criticize. When writing, I have the experience of being truly listened too, a luxury that so many people never get to enjoy.

When I write, I can go for it, without restricting time usage or range of topics covered. Whether I write in a notebook or on my smart device or a loose piece of paper, the exercise has the effect of funneling my diffuse and disorganized thoughts into something more solid: words on a page where they are temporarily frozen and can be observed leisurely and compassionately.

Intensely Intimate

Writing in a private journal is intensely intimate and because it is, I don’t have to worry about all the things I worried about in school such as my handwriting (which was unusually untidy when I was a child,) grammar (which in a bilingual household borrowed a bit of each language for a thorough and comical mix-up of word order and metaphors,) and the red pen of correction.

Blogging is a modern form of journaling, except that it is in front of the web-eyes of the whole world. It changes the dynamic when you go public with your musings. For me it pushes me to think through the chaos of my first draft to come to a little more clarity before pushing the ‘post’ button. In the act of rethinking an article I’m nudged into better organization, and with a second and third read through I frequently discover more clarity for me and most likely the reader experience is improved too.

First Unruly Draft

My process of moving from chaos to clarity starts with writing the first unruly draft. I let myself vent onto paper or screen, if that seems needed at the time. I write as fast and as untidily as I want to. Sometimes I write about something that saddens me and I write without editing, concern for sentence structure, being nice or writing with clarity. That comes in the next step.

Then, I give myself a break from the writing experience and come back to my chaotic first draft with cup of tea and a fresh notebook and I rewrite the original article as if it is meant for public consumption. I write it as if it will be read on the evening news. The idea I have in mind while doing this is to get the language as clear as possible.

I like to do this second step with pen and paper, because handwriting slows down my mental process and demands a commitment to the word written on the paper. It’s not like an electronic document in which words can be cut and paste and rearranged quickly and rapidly. On paper, if I am not careful and mindful with the process I can end up with a lot of scratches and untidiness. And often I do. Necessitating a third writing out of the article I’m working on.

Try it for yourself. 

Write about something important to you. Tell the story of it on paper in a fast flurry of words and ideas. Let it rest for a while and come back to it with more paper and your favorite pen and go about re-creating it for public consumption. It is literally impossible, in my opinion, to write something and not learn a thing about yourself.

“I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart.”
Anne Frank

1 comment:

  1. I love journaling. I've been doing it since I was in my teens. It's everything you say it is. I call it my "free therapist." I recently wrote a blog post about it. Here: https://fillmyspirit.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/tell-me-everything-she-said-and-i-did/

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