Magic of pen and paper
A certain Englishman, who shall remain nameless, accosts me now and then with the question: ‘well what are you going to write about in your next article?’ I tell him truthfully that, although I have some ideas, I don’t know.
The topic I select usually comes to me on the day that I set aside for writing. Just as it did this morning. The topic is writing! Not typing or word processing. No, I mean actually writing words and sentences down on a piece of paper with a pen or pencil.
Apart from talking and other sounds, this is the most ancient form of human communication. Over the centuries people have written letters, poems, songs and stories. They have also written essays and books about every imaginable subject from how to make a perfect glass of Pimms to the theory of evolution. It saddens me to see that practice of physical writing is disappearing and is being replaced by texts and emails.
There is something magical about holding a pen in your hand and putting words onto blank paper. It engages the senses as you touch the paper, feel the pen in your hand and see the words and sentences tumbling forth into some form of meaning. I find that the brain and mind are more effective when writing than when typing. Thinking and decision making improve when you put your thoughts on paper.
For the past 12 years I have been writing my thoughts down. This is known as journaling. It was suggested on a course that I was on so I decided to give it a go. I bought a hardcover book with blank lined pages and started writing in what I came to call my Personal Learning Journal or PLJ for short. This is definitely not a diary. It is really a conversation with myself. We all talk to ourselves in our heads – endless chatter, imaginings, delusions, illusions, hopes, anxieties, fears and a host of other subjects. I use my PLJ and a pen to get all these thoughts into something I can read. It helps me to think more clearly. That’s a major benefit of recording your thoughts in the written word. Another benefit is that you can go back and read what you were thinking about yesterday, last week or a year ago.
Over the last 12 years I have filled 20 such books with my thoughts and ideas. I see my journal as a way of talking with myself about issues that are important to me. I write about what is happening in my life at the moment and the decisions I need to make in order to be healthy and happy.
Occasionally I look back over what I have written and I realise that journaling is also a journey of self-discovery through reflection. Research shows that reflection plays a huge role in personal growth. So, the process of journaling involves the regular practice of recording activities and/or situations on paper with the goal of reflecting on those experiences in order to learn from them and grow personally and professionally. Journaling is useful in providing self-awareness and insight into what you do (behaviors), why you do it (values, assumptions, aspirations), how you feel (emotions), and how you think. In short, it helps you turn every incident into a new potential learning experience.
Why not give journaling a go yourself! Buy a hardcover book with lined pages – A5 is a good size. Buy a good quality book since you will be writing about your life, which is the most valuable asset you have got. Then just start writing. You don’t have to write every day. Write when you have something to write about. And, keep it private!
Recently I came across another form of writing that is very useful – the humble letter. I was told of a person who would write a letter whenever he wanted to get something off his chest, especially if he was very angry with someone.
Instead of expressing his anger in a shouting match he would write a really angry letter to the other person. Then he would fold the letter and put it into a drawer. The following day he would take out the letter and read it again. He usually found that his anger had subsided so he tore up the letter. It was never sent. However, he found that the initial act of writing allowed him to express his anger and take it out of himself. Later he was able to tackle the situation more calmly and with better results.
Finally, my thanks to that certain Englishman for stimulating this piece and I hope to enjoy a perfect Pimms with him some sunny summer’s day!
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