Today’s big idea is that, on any given day, you may sit down to write something that’s in your heart and on your mind and that alone is a complete and wonderful act–it’s so helpful to get some perspective on whatever you’re facing on any given day. But when you start to look back on your daily writing over time, something really cool happens. You can start to discern patterns and hidden meanings that are deeper than your daily concerns. They help you see the arc your life is currently on. And THAT helps you make decisions from a deeper place.
You have to do two things to discern these deeper meanings: 1) actually go back and look over what you’ve written previously, and 2) be curious enough to let yourself observe them objectively so you can see the patterns, or the things that you didn’t necessarily say outright, but that are still present on the page.
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Let’s talk about number one
Going back and looking over what you’ve written previously. I know how tempting it is to NOT read over those previous entries. Maybe they’re painful, because you’ve been using your writing as a place to put all your worries, doubts, and complaints. Or maybe they’re tedious. Maybe it just feels like yesterday’s news and you don’t have the time to go backward. I’m not saying you need to keep your writings forever, or go back and read through every journal you’ve ever kept. But I am saying that going back and reading what you’ve written is how you get your subconscious and conscious minds on the same page. Remember the William Faulkner quote I shared in Monday’s episode: “I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.”
So once you have a week, or a month, or a season of writings, remind yourself to go back and read them to find their hidden meanings.
I need this advice myself, frankly as I am much more excited about the thought of creating something new than I am about going back and reading something that already exists. But every time I do, I feel like I can see my thought process come into view, like an old-fashioned camera finding its focus. And not only do I remember the details of what I was thinking and feeling, I can also see the bigger picture of the theme I was working out. It helps you have empathy for yourself.
And Point Number Two
OK, let’s talk about how to train yourself to see the deeper themes, patterns, and meanings that can emerge when you develop a somewhat regular writing practice.
As I mentioned, first you have to go back and actually read what you’ve written. And then, you want to ask yourself, what do I notice about these pieces? Am I writing about the same topic over and over? Am I jumping from topic to topic?
And then try to tune in to the emotions in your pieces. How do they make you feel?
It’s like you’re a book club of one, and you’re trying to figure out what the author of the book was thinking or feeling or trying to convey.
This past summer, I was in a weekly writing group where we would respond to different prompts
And everything that came out of me was so sad. I wrote about a friend who died. I wrote about how it felt to be the new kid when I was growing up. And I wrote about how excited I was to be moving my office into a room with a door and how hard it had been to be working in the living room during the pandemic. When I went back and read those pieces all at once I was like, dang! I am processing some stuff! I feel like I’m reading the writing of someone at mid-life who’s really taking stock of a LOT of different things!
Which of course, I am someone at mid-life who’s taking stock of a lot of different things. But if you asked me if that was who I was in the midst of any given day, I would say, Pfft, I’m just trying to get some work done before it’s time to make dinner! It helped me treat myself a lot more gently, and helped me really prioritize getting to those writing classes because I knew I was digesting a lot and I didn’t want to carry around a lot of undigested stuff, which I would do if I didn’t get to the classes.
Daily Tiny Assignment
And that’s your tiny assignment — to look back over anything you’ve written recently, including, hopefully, this week, and just see hidden meanings what you can see. Is there something bigger you’re working through? Do you need to treat yourself any differently based on what you observe? Maybe cut yourself some slack, do something to take care of yourself?
And if you’re having trouble getting stuff on to the page with any consistency, and you aren’t happy about that, really consider joining Becky’s 2022 Winter Online Salons that I talked about in this week’s ad. They will get you writing, reading, sharing, learning, and connecting–both with your identity as a writer and with some really cool, loving, smart people. Again, that URL www.readtomeliteraryarts.com/winter and use the code BETTER to save 10%.