Welcome to 2015!
This year I have decided to start a new blog here on my website dedicated to empowering women in the academy. Whether you are a current or former client or simply someone interested in how writing coaching can help you achieve your goals, this blog will be a place where you can count on weekly posts to help you on your journey.
The theme of this week's post is New Year, New You. Often at this time of year, we begin to look at ourselves more critically. We wonder what we could be doing better and want to take steps in a new direction. But those resolutions usually fade quickly, and I'll share a secret about why.
The truth is that we cannot ever really start again. Many of my clients are historians, and the important work they do reveals how the past -- even when we try to leave it behind -- stays with us. More importantly, the past matters.
So what can you do right now to address the past and move forward with a new start?
Here's my suggestion:
Take 10 minutes with your journal and write. Time yourself for 5 minutes and write about an event from your past. Describe it as a journalist would. Who was there? What happened? When was it? Where did it take place?
Then, when 5 minutes are up, set your timer for another 5 minutes and write about all your feelings. How did you feel during the event? How did you feel later? How do you feel now?
Write as quickly as you can with no crossing out or editing. Don't censor yourself. Let the words flow from your hand to the pen to the page.
This short exercise will help you gain clarity for two reasons: First, the past is always with us. And even when we try to leave it behind, it becomes a numb, dark hole at the center of us. It can lead to a lack of confidence and a lack of trust in ourselves and others. And this can affect our writing. The writing project you've been avoiding? Your avoidance may stem from the energy you've been wasting avoiding the past.
Second, writing in this balanced way (where we focus half of our writing on the event and half on the feelings) has been shown by researchers to bring about tremendous healing. Many of us write only about the events, and this can lead us to feel more anxious. Others of us focus maninly on feelings, and this can make us feel stuck and depressed. Writing in a balanced way can help us move out of these repetitive patterns.
So, if you want a New You in this New Year, start with who you have been. Because that, my friends, is who you still are, and when you embrace her, it frees you to be fully in the present and move forward with your future.
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a writing coach with 20 years of experience teaching at the graduate and undergraduate levels in universities, as well as in diverse community settings. She specializes in working with women in academe.