Monday, December 14, 2009

Healing power of writing

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, a program at Iowa State University pairs people who have a chronic illness, or a mental illness, with a graduate student for six weeks of free writing classes. (Click here to read more).

The article includes the story of a woman with cystic fibrosis who was able to come to terms with the progression of her illness through her writing.

This article brought up some beliefs about writing that I hold to very strongly.

Firstly, writing is healing. It helps us explore wounds, figure out what was real, write about them, and move on. It takes pain that is jumbled and sharp when it's in our heads, and lays it out on paper, clean and neat and precise. It is not going to fix everything, but the process of writing definitely has the ability to help the healing process along.

Secondly, writing is important and has that power because it forces us to be honest with ourselves. If we write about an experience we are going through now, we have to think, what if someone read this? How would it sound to them? Would they see a side to it that I'm missing? The process of writing, esp. when it is nonfiction writing such as personal essays, is that it gives us a framework that is more objective than our own point of view, from which we can explore conflicts and tensions.

I'm glad people realize the power and potential writing and other creative pursuits have to help people heal.

Friday, December 11, 2009

New Year's Resolution: Writing more?

I ran across this column by Ann Patchett, in which she discusses the New Year's resolution she made to make a be more consistent and focused in her effort to write.

The main idea of her column is that writing is, well, work.

Anyone who studies writing or writes for a living, journalists and poets alike, are well aware of this.

Yet, it's a fact we as writers often shove into the backs of our brains. While we know that writing is work, something difficult that requires time, how much effort and how many hours do we actually put into doing what we live for?

Patchett discusses how influential this idea was for her, saying: "The more time I committed to working, the more pages I stacked up." It is interesting how, once you get the ball rolling, the ratio of work produced to the amount of time spent goes up.

She also cited being very consistent in the behavior you want to change for the first 32 days of the year as another reason for her success.

As 2010 approaches, maybe all writers should be thinking about what they will resolve to do in the new year to improve their writing.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

National Undergraduate Literature Conference

The English Department at BYU-Idaho has issued a call for submissions to the National Undergraduate Literature Conference (NULC). Acceptance of submissions will begin Dec. 15, and will be due by Jan. 25, 2010.

The NULC accepts both critical and creative writings. The two main categories for submissions are research (American literature, British literature and world literature), and creative works (essays, fiction, poetry and even creative works in Spanish).

The NULC will be held from May 31 to April 3, 2010 at Weber State University. Featured authors will include Alan Cheuse (The Bohemians), Campbell McGrath (American Noise), Ana Menendez (The Last War) and Lawson Fusao Inada (Legends from Camp).

This will be NULC's 25th year running. It will feature workshops, discussions and presentations on writing and literature, as well as provide a venue for undergraduate students to present their works.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Article on Descriptive Writing in NY Times

I came across this article in the New York Times in the Education section, written by Dinah Mack and Holly Epstein Ojalvo. They discuss descriptive writing, based on using sports reporting as a model.

I thought it was neat that the NY Times would run this sort of "how-to" article. To get tips on writing from those who do it professionally is, I think, pretty cool. I'm glad the Times wrote and ran this.

The article outlines a discussion of descriptive writing, almost as a lesson plan. It includes a warm-up, questions to ask and have discussions about, and an activity that includes creating a "Mad Libs" style fill-in worksheet from a sports article.

Students and teachers alike who are interested in journalism, or writing in general, should take a look at the article.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Jane Austen Yule Ball

The EAS, spearheaded by English professor Zan Cammack, will be putting on a Yule Ball on Saturday, Dec. 5.

The ball will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. at the church across from the Kirkham. It is regency themed, and attendees will be encouraged to dress in regency costume. The dance is lady's choice. Tickets are free and can be obtained at the ticket office in the Kimball.

A workshop will be held on Thursday, Dec. 3, in which participants will be able to learn and practice regency dances.

Robert Downey Jr.: Why good writing is so important

The ability to write well is a skill that is almost taken for granted nowadays. That's why it is always surprising to me to hear peers (usually ones who don't share my major) talking about how much they hate writing, how pointless they think it is, etc.

Which is why I'm going to put this blog post on the back burner and pull it out the next time I hear someone complaining like that.

Apparently, Robert Downey Jr. did a lot o collaborating on the screenplay for Iron Man 2, and even some for a few scenes in the first Iron Man. In the blog post, director Jon Favreau is quoted: "Even in the first film, where he [Downey Jr.] was originally a hired gun playing the role, he really stepped up to rewrite scenes - he's a great writer, too. So we are really sharing the responsibilities, too."

I mean, if a multi-millionaire actor like Robert Downey Jr. finds ways to use good writing at his job, it follows that most anyone will be able to find a way to put those skills to use in their field. Even fancy brain surgeons and rocket scientists still have to write articles and research proposals and evaluations, right?

The power and importance of good writing should not be underestimated.

Especially when it comes to getting and keeping a job.