How We Can #DoTheWriteThing

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(CAVEAT: If you are a Trump supporter who is celebrating, you might not find much in this post that speaks to you)

It has been a week. A week I hope our country will never, ever see again. Roughly 76% of eligible voters did not vote for the candidate who will be our next president. That makes for a great deal of shock, fear, and frustration in many Americans right now. So what can we do to deal with the emotions and thoughts we are struggling with?  I propose we #DoTheWriteThing!

WRITE.

One of the best ways to process what you are going through is to WRITE about it! WHY?

Writing is naming. It helps us to name the feelings and face them and maybe learn something about ourselves. Is it fear? Is it anger? Is it grief?  Writing helps us clarify those emotions, and provides an outlet to take the anxiety off of your mind/shoulders and transfer them to paper. When we don’t name and acknowledge what we are feeling, it runs as a background noise in our lives that distracts and irritates us. Writing helps us to contemplate and identify the emotion so that we see that elephant in the room.

Writing is meditative.  We slow down, breathe, and sit with our thoughts. Our brains have to choose the words our hearts are feeling, and it can be such a discovery to see how this unfolds. Those thoughts are part of who you are right now-connect with it, be present with it. It allows us to be in the moment without multi-tasking. It is Zen.

Writing is discovery. Once we lay out thoughts and ideas, we can revisit them in a day or two to see how they may have changed or intensified. When we can reflect on our thinking it might lead us to prioritize and problem solve what we DO have control over. It might help us to discover our own biases that keep us from connecting with others and help us to find productive ways to react that help us reach our intended outcomes and purpose.

Writing is documentation. We can chronicle our experience in this unprecedented moment in time. Think about reading the diaries or letters of people from history who are relating moments in real time, we have incredible insights into the human experience. What will our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren wonder about the America who made this decision? What will they wonder about you? What would you like them to know? Write it down. Create a piece of history.

Writing is healing. Researchers are discovering that writing can be good for our health by relieving stress. But the key finding is in the way people are using writing to interpret their experience, including in the words they choose. Venting alone is not enough, the writer must use it to better understand and learn. Studies have shown writing can boost the immune system  or even speed wound healing.  Writing can lower stress hormones and allow for greater sleep in many people. So if translating events into language can affect the brain,  immune function, and healing we might want to try it.

Writing is revision. We know there is never a single story. The story we were telling ourselves the night of the election probably changed the day after the election.  It is probably changing day by day.  In an article in Psychology Today author Sharon Bray suggests “The greatest health benefits of writing occur when we write a story with structure, causal explanation, repetition of themes, a balanced narrative, and awareness of a listener’s perspective.” James Pennebaker added, “repeatedly confronting an upsetting experience through writing allows for a less emotionally laden assessment of its meaning and impact. Once organized, events become smaller and smaller and therefore easier to deal with. Writing moves us to resolution; it becomes psychologically complete and therefore there’s no need to ruminate about it. beyond the trauma.” So don’t hold onto a single story of grief and frustration.  Allow your story to be revised. Let it reflect your thinking AND let it shape your thinking. Keep writing your story and living your story!

Don’t think you  have time? How much of your day is consumed by anxiety right now? Don’t think you know what to say? Trust your heart-it knows, it will help your head put it into words.  Don’t know what to write? I’ll share some ideas:

  • Keep a journal. Put those thoughts and feelings to paper for all the reasons I mentioned above. Keep it as long as you want or need it.
  • Document with a diary for future generation to share your current thinking and emotions. Add clippings of newspapers, magazines, webpages that will give a context to these musings.
  • Write a letter.
    • Write your congress people to share your concerns and express your hopes. No one man holds the power, remind them of “We the people” House =http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/   Senate=http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/
    • Write to Hillary. Imagine what she must be feeling. If you were “With Her” let her know you still are. Send it to Hillary Clinton: PO Box 5256, New York, NY 10185-5256
    • Write to Donald. Express your concerns and remind him he is the president for ALL people, not just the 24% who voted for him. Donald Trump 725 5th Avenue New York, NY 10022
    • Write to your friend/family member who supported your opponent and try to connect. This election has divided us deeply. Writing can be an olive branch.
    • Write a letter to yourself for a year from now.  Put in writing what you will DO in this next year to make the world a better place. Hold yourself accountable.
  • Write poems.  Sometimes our thoughts are not linear stories, they are a jumble of intense emotions and reactions. Poetry is a place to explore those ideas with less constraint and structure. Think of it as verbal art-abstract expressionism or surrealism!
  • Write on social media. Connect with others with thoughtful, hopeful, uplifting dialogue.  Try to avoid vitriolic posts that only serve to ramp up hate and fill an echo-chamber of despair.  Don’t become what you rallied against. Be a light in a very dark time.
  • Write on community platforms.  In New York City sticky notes were being posted on subway tiles. If there are places in your community, check it out.
  • Write your own book. It’s still NaNoWriMo, but if you don’t have a novel in you, try a short story, a picture book, a series of essays. Give a creative outlet to your experiences, thoughts, and feelings.

I’d love to hear other ways that people can #DoTheWriteThing.  Just use the hashtag on Twitter or reply here.  (And don’t forget STRONGER TOGETHER!)

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from author Dan Gemeinhart

What’s On My Book Radar?

screen-shot-2016-11-12-at-9-19-54-amIt’s still Picture Book Month, and I cannot think of a better book to encourage hope and goodness for our future. I WISH YOU MORE by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld is filled with love.   If you are a parent or a teacher, you could use this as a mentor text to write your own book to your children.  What would you wish for them? Read it, then write it!!

I wish you all more hope than fear, more peace than stress, more light than dark in the coming days.

 

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