Writing from Experience

Written by Jeanne Polochansky, Digital Content Writer, Psychology Specialist 

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Despite how daunting writing may seem, everyone has the skills to do it well. Jeanne shares how she overcomes her anxiety about the writing process through a set routine of reflecting, selecting, and revising. 

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I’ve loved to write since I was very little; words helped me speak what was on my mind better than anything else did. Still, the term “good writer” sounded scary and unattainable to me, imagination running wild with photos of bestselling books and high-and-mighty authors. Some of that fear returned once I became a student at U of T, where I felt intimidated to have my work meet demanding academic standards. Along the way, I learned that not all writing has to look a certain way. It doesn’t exist only in stressful contexts – anyone can write a thoughtful piece of text. All it takes is one vivid experience, careful consideration, and some revising. 

Starting from Within 

Writing follows me everywhere – it’s part of my personal life, my classes, my extracurriculars, and every job I’ve held. To deal with the flux of writing styles and multiple roles I take, I use introspection whenever I don’t know what to write. This frequent self-reflection has never failed me, and it’s how I came up with my first post for the Innovation Hub, Working with Wellbeing in Mind. Although I didn’t have much external material and prompts to work with, I could pull from my daily experiences, and then look at how the iHub supports them. When I write, I like to think of questions like these: 

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  • What is something new that I encountered? 
  • What is an interesting story from my life that I have learned from? 
  • Why are these experiences meaningful to me? 

I find introspective writing to be the easiest and most impactful because I’m not just an observer – I have lived the experience and I’m comfortable in talking about it from start to finish. 

Inspired by Experience 

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My biggest fear surrounding writing for the public was my minimal life experience. My most recent doubt was, ‘How could I write something for the iHub blog when I haven’t participated in its projects, and hadn’t even known “design thinking” was a term?’ To resolve my lack of confidence I experimented with using the experience that I did have to help set up the “takeaway” of my texts. Having a key insight in mind helps break down my ideas into bite-sized pieces, frames the most important thought, and constructs the “why” behind my writing. For the reader, my succinctness is more accessible and conscious of their time. I look towards introspection to form a balance for me – to make sure I’m selective of what I’m including, but not restrictive.  

Revision is Support 

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I tend to work independently, so something I had to actively remember when I started seriously writing was how much of a group effort it is. The story might be written by one person, but there’s a lot of people behind making it happen. At the iHub, those who inspire, those who proofread, those who clean it up and make it look its best are all helping me get my ideas down on the page. Without mentors, even bestselling authors wouldn’t be who they are. In the end, I remind myself that all good writing has gone through many drafts, so getting feedback should feel uplifting – it’s a necessary step of the process, and one that first-time and full-time writers go through. 

Trusting the Process 

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I stepped into the position of being this year’s Digital Content Writer not fully prepared to have my comfort zone stretched and my writing critiqued – I just knew I wanted to tell stories, and help my peers do the same. Through the weeks I began to appreciate the opportunities that have come my way, the flexibility of learning from them, and sharing what I’ve learned with others. Looking back, I realize that even my creative writing started from a single meaningful experience that branched into a lush narrative. I’ve found that no matter the piece, even in the most obscure poem, there’s always a nugget of learning the reader should remember. It doesn’t have to be grand, or moral, or all-encompassing – just honest and important to me. 

4 comments on “Writing from Experience

  1. Thank You Jeanne for writing! I wholeheartedly agree that you are never alone in the writing process and there is so many people that can help!

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