On Science, and Art, and The Power of Communication

A while back I submitted a post to Psi Chi’s blog, Psi-Chi-Ology Lab, and I’m proud to announce it’s finally posted!

Generally, it’s about how we have to break out of the academic bubble and be able to talk about scientific findings if we want to actually do anything with them.

Check it out here: https://www.psichi.org/page/Ology_Main_16#.W8-E-mhKjIV

Why I Write

Today, October, 20th, is the National Day on Writing. I’m not sure who decided that, and I wholeheartedly believe that we should reflect on the value of the written word every day of our lives. However, having reserved a national day seems to be a good way to step back and remember some of the reasons we devote so much time to this activity that can be a hobby, a passion, a craft, or a job.

I write because it forces me to observe the world around me and take in the little details, appreciating every moment. I write because my voice is small, but it won’t be silenced by life’s storms. I write to make beauty out of pain and to immortalize beauty. I write to learn about myself and about reality through the lives and lenses of fictional characters.

I write because sometimes talking is hard and it’s easier to put my thoughts on paper. I like having a written record on which to reflect and look back, to tell the story of how I got here and where I’m going.

Why do you write? Or if you don’t, why do you read? Share your love of words, and maybe go write some today!

We Are All Poems That Only Some Read

Say what you will about Christopher Columbus/Indigenous Peoples Day (and trust me I have a lot to say), but I’m thankful for the long weekend we’ve got. That being said, I’ve spent about half of it procrastinating when I should be accomplishing important tasks, such as writing this blog post that’s been languishing on my laptop for literally the entire day.

*sighs and shakes head bitterly at ever-growing to-do list*

Even though I’ve been doing my best these past few days to avoid thinking about anything related to school and/or my future (which I know is a really really bad coping strategy and I should stop), this post is dedicated to the value I’ve found in the poetry class I’m taking this semester.

Besides giving me a space to practice writing poetry, a form with which I hadn’t been too familiar before, this class puts me in touch with other writers, most of them virtual strangers to me, who are using this medium to tell stories about very personal and sometimes traumatic experiences.

Had they lacked the courage to write them down, I would likely never know about half of the things they share. Through their work, I get to see the parts of people they hide from the world. There is incredible strength in openness, and that’s why I think writing is so empowering, so helpful for both reflecting and challenging our perceptions of ourselves and of others.

Empathy is so important. Seeing events from another’s perspective is eye-opening. Bottom line, I never want to hear anyone tell me ever again that writing can’t help me see the humanity in others.

It’s all we’ve got.

Why Writing is Like an Exorcism

I’ve been attempting (very key word there, attempting) to get back into a habit of regular journaling. The opportunity to look back on my day forces me to recall specific moments and be more present, combining my two favorite things, mindfulness and writing. Tonight, as I sat down with my favorite Stonehill College pen in hand, two quotes echoed in my mind, perhaps because they sound so similar:

“Some things you let go in order to live.” ~ Florence + the Machine (side note: I finally ordered Florence’s book of lyrics and poetry and I’m beyond excited to check my mail today)

and Joan Didion’s famous opener:

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”

My journal is my record of my life. It’s what I can look back on years from now, in addition to all the pictures and videos and embarrassing Snapchats. It’s my voice on a page. It is the story I tell, of the life I’m living. I use it to shape my life into a particular narrative. I consolidate what I want to remember and discard what I don’t.

Ironically, though, some of what I write – and this goes for journaling as well as my fiction – involves thoughts, behaviors, people – that I’m better off letting go.

And this seems counterproductive, right? Why would I want to immortalize the bad experiences? By writing them or using them for inspiration, aren’t I reliving them? Or making myself emotionally regress to wherever I was in that particular situation?

My awesome critique partner Michelle and I discuss this all the time, usually in an elaborate email chain (thanks, living on opposite sides of the world). She and I find a similar liberation in putting less-than-ideal experiences into words. And while the whole act of writing can be cathartic, I think it also goes a bit beyond that.

In my experience, it’s almost like an exorcism (not to get too Catholic or too spooky, since I know, it’s only October 2nd *sighs bitterly*). This bad situation or this feeling or this person had so much power over me, and by writing it/him/her into a story or into my journal, I reverse the tables so that I can have power over it. I can arrange it, direct it, cast it out and tell it to get gone for good.

Not only am I returning the power to my own hands, but I’m acknowledging that I’ve done all I can to fix the situation and whatever happens next is out of my control. Then I’m freeing up mental space to absorb more material, to let in more life.

And so the cycle goes.

So it’s possible to hold and to let go at the same time. As it is to write and to live.