Real Art: Public and Private Writing (November Blog… Belated)

Some writers create diary entries with the intention of keeping personal thoughts private. And some student writers write for school but shutter at the thought of anyone reading their compositions (except maybe their teachers). For me, writing has always been a way for me to communicate publically and share my thoughts with others. As a precocious nine-year old, I was always looking for an opportunity to write, to show people my writing, and to announce that I was going to be a writer when I grew up. I wasn’t entirely wrong… I teach writing; I suppose that’s close. What I learned as an adult, however, is that writing is not only a great way to communicate with others, but private writing is an incredible therapeutic tool that should not be overlooked because it has psychological and cathartic benefits.

I have penned academic journal posts and blogs for years; however, it had seldom occurred to me to journal my private thoughts. Several years ago, I decided to take on a project on personal writing. I developed and delivered a presentation on Therapeutic Writing for the Summer Seminar at the Center for Writing Excellence at Montclair State. As I was preparing for my presentation, it occurred to me I hadn’t done much (if any) personal journaling as an adult, despite my advocacy for therapeutic writing. At this point, I thought I should try it out, but with grad school, jobs, etc. it didn’t come to fruition until years later.

Even though I had presented on the benefits of writing therapy, and my argument was based on scholarship, I still viewed it as just a nice thing to do when I had time, which I didn’t. Years later I was in the midst of a personal crisis, and one day I just “accidently” started personal-journal writing in order to cope with my thoughts and feelings. I wrote to “release,” and I never shared my writings. I didn’t even keep them. At this point, I don’t even remember what I wrote. I just remember that this act of writing helped me. At this point, I had been holding my thoughts and feelings captive for months, and when I started writing them down on paper, it was like I was freeing them from my mind.

So, as a public writer who likes to write for the purpose of communicating with others, I can now say that I truly embrace private writing both in theory and in practice. I also now realize how liberating private writing can be, especially as an English major and teacher. One trick I found is to just freewrite and not worry about writing conventions… grammar error?… fragment?… sloppy, incomplete thought? Failing to capitalize, properly punctuate or use Oxford commas (puns intended)… Who cares? (Okay, I admit… it still pains me to exclude an Oxford comma even in private writing). There’s a lot of pressure involved with writing to communicate (and that’s a blog topic for another day); however, writing is art, and private writing can be a real art… your art.

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