Tuesday, December 11th, 2018...4:05 pm

Learning to Write Freely and Other Life Lessons From a Writing Workshop

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By: Samara Moore, Gradlife Ambassador

Do you long to reconnect with interests and activities that used to bring you joy? Has the process of academic writing stifled your love for the craft? At times, do you feel divided in the multiple spaces, or worlds, that you occupy? These were some of the themes that emerged at a recent Grad Connection event that I attended. The event was led by Ronna Bloom, U of T’s very own Poet in Community.

Grad Connections are bi-weekly informal meet-ups for graduate students. It is a space where we can engage in an honest dialogue with other graduate students about our experiences. We discuss our struggles, celebrate our triumphs, and support each other in a nonjudgmental environment.

While I learned tips at this Grad Connect that have been invaluable, in terms of supporting me with my writing, my key takeaways from the experience were about life. I am pleased to share three life lessons from the workshop that resonated with me.

Lesson 1: Perfectionism is a Trap 

One key barrier that I identified in my writing process, is the desire for what I write to be perfect right away. Sometimes I am so overwhelmed with wanting to have my thoughts communicated ‘just right’ the first time, that it can make it incredibly difficult to start writing anything. I have now decided that I will give myself permission to write as freely and terribly as I can, the first time around. I will try to take comfort in knowing that the first draft is only for me. It is not for my professor, supervisor, literary critics, or the grammar police.

While this lesson is certainly applicable to the writing process, it is also useful in life. If you have struggled with perfectionism at any point in your life, you may know what I mean. Just like with writing, sometimes our concerns about not being good at something, or things not going “perfectly,” can hold us back from taking opportunities or trying new things. Just like with writing, we have to give ourselves the space to try things and the grace to make mistakes. It is only when we make that space, that we can learn, improve and grow. We cannot do any of those things if we do not give ourselves the freedom to try, fail, and try again.

Lesson 2: The Importance of Keeping Expressive Space

Ronna really emphasized the importance of having our own space to express ourselves. She recommended that we keep notebooks for this purpose. I have always kept journals. I have found that writing in them has helped me to process my thoughts and emotions over the years. I also recognize that some people process non-verbally. If non-verbal processing works better for you, perhaps keeping expressive space means carving out a time and place to make something. It could also involve engaging in self-reflective processing through dance and movement, or by going on a thoughtful nature walk.

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Lesson 3: Showing up whole

One point that Ronna made that I deeply connected with, had to do with the importance of bringing our whole selves to our academic writing and work. Oftentimes in life when we inhabit particular spaces, we may be made to feel like we have to fragment ourselves. Have you ever felt like there was a disconnect between your academic and artistic self, or your professional and spiritual self? While there are certainly reasonable boundaries in school and work, this workshop reminded me that it is important to be intentional about bringing all of who we are to the places that we occupy. For me personally, as a social work student, a part of showing up whole involves exploring new ways to integrate my love for photography and creative writing into my social work practice. For others, it may involve allowing the issues that you are genuinely passionate about to guide your research interests. It could also involve being more open with people in your academic or professional circles, about some of your interests outside of the academy that you may not freely share.

I hope that these takeaways have been helpful! I would love to learn more about your experiences with writing, and your journeys as graduate students. Feel free to leave your comments on either this post, Facebook or Twitter.

Until next time,


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