Going deeper…….

There’s writing………..

View from my window
View from my window

Many of us will be finding that the New Year’s Resolutions are already a distant memory and the familiar pattern of  commitment and resignation has kicked in. Perhaps you have started, renewed or continued a writing practice as part of that. Several people have asked me recently:

How can I deepen my writing practice?

It seems a good time to learn, remember or re-activate what I call the Feedback Loop. This is what distinguishes the therapeutic or reflective journal from the purely descriptive. Many people use their journal to remove things from their minds, to excise painful or difficult emotions.

But that is only the first stage (catharsis is not enough!): the therapeutic benefit comes from reflecting and eventually re-integrating the experience.

Journal Prompt 1:

After writing a journal entry read it through (out loud if you can).

Then write a few sentences of feedback to yourself. Select from the following sentence stems:

When I read this I am interested that… ␣␣

When I read this I notice… ␣␣

When I read this I remember… ␣␣

When I read this I realize that…

When I read this I am aware of…

Try this after everything you write for a period of time – see what happens, notice what you learn.

View from my window again
View from my window again

Journal Prompt 2: Repetition. Describe the view from your window every day for a period of time – each time finish

with a Feedback Loop reflection.

And there’s reading…………

One of my students  on an ethics course in an existential setting said to me that unfortunately, now that term had started, she was unable to find time to read novels. This seems such a deprivation that I was happy to be able to help her with a couple of relevant suggestions from my recent reading:

Stoner – John Williams  (is he an existential hero?)

Me Before You – Jojo Moyes  (whose death is it anyway?)

Aren’t there always novels relevant to our work?

I asked a group of colleagues for suggestions of published accounts about or by people with depression or existential concerns. My colleagues were surprised that I would include fiction in my list. But that’s where I start from.

What do you suggest?

7 thoughts on “Going deeper…….”

  1. Hi Kate
    Stoner was already on my list! I’ve been reading a lot for the Costa Prize awards recently and when I paused I realised how much I was learning . One of the most moving was The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer – I hope it wins -but I also loved Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and Instructions for a Heat Wave and Unexpected Lessons in Love. When you read so many close together they seem to talk to each other. An insight in one book seems to enhance your reading of the next.
    I’ve also recently got a lot out of Canada by Richard Ford and Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.


  2. Hi Kate,

    Thanks for keeping me on your e-mail list. I miss seeing you, but this helps me feel “in touch”. I really like your prompts and I am planning to use the Feedback Loop. I think it is a great idea to “go deeper”

    The view from my window today is; Brown branches etched against the grey tint of sky separated from me by a veil of feathery white snow.




  3. Vicky,
    Thanks for sharing this with your friend.
    Stoner is a book which seems to have received more attention in the UK than in it’s native US – and we should point out that it is not about a pothead!
    My complaint about bibliotherapy is that it focusses on self-help books rather than novels and poetry which contain far more wisdom.


  4. I agree that catharsis is not enough! My personal view is that writing need not be attached to our own experience at all in order to be therapeutic, because in writing we create worlds where we can experience ourselves differently, experiment, extend beyond our habitual constraints. Nice post 🙂


  5. Excellent post Kate – I’m going to share the link with a friend and colleague on FB who has been blogging on morning pages. And, yes, of course, novels – and poems and plays – where else do we find sufficient complexity to reflect how it is to be human. I’ve just ordered Stoner as you are the second person to mention it in the last 24 hours!


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