Sunday, August 24, 2014

Write While You Read

I love embarking on new journeys.

I'm not talking about physical journeys. I wish I were the sort of person who loved to travel, but I'm not, mostly because I don't like the effort required to do so. I admire people who love to travel, but that is not me.

The journeys I love are "Journeys of the Mind" (not to sound too Star-Trekky). I love it when I've hit upon an interesting new idea, one that sits on my brain and rolls around, growing and deepening and taking root.

That's happening to me right now. Overall, I will call this thing "mindfulness. It involves an entire way-of-living I haven't fleshed out in my head yet (that's part of the wonderfulness of mind journeys: they take a long, long time to figure out), but I have figured out one aspect of this mindfulness that is changing my life for the better every single day.


I write a lot. Hours and hours every day, and I've done that for years now, but writing stories is not the kind of writing I'm talking about. I have begun writing about everything. I've begun recording my thoughts on all sorts of issues. I'm keeping separate notebooks for the different facets of my life.  I've started several "boxes" to keep track of projects I am working on. For example, I am working on healing an emotional struggle I've had for a very long time. Whenever I hit upon an article or a quote or a scripture or an idea—maybe just an image—that helps me in this battle, I write it down or cut it out and put it in this box. When I read a book now, I have a pencil with me, and I take notes in the book or in an accompanying notebook.

It sounds like journal writing, but it's much, much more than that.

Shaemus loves to build things (and I'm one step closer to creating what will be called our Makey-makey room thanks to a long trip to IKEA yesterday), but he does not like to write. We have four rules for our homeschool:

1) Stick to your schedule
2) Write down everything you learn (and don't learn)
3) Clean up after yourself
4) No fighting

Number two is my favorite rule. The others are necessary for my sanity, but my kids have had a VERY hard time adapting to number two. It's been their hardest rule.

"What do I write?" they say.

"Tell me what you want me to say."

"I didn't think while I was reading."

"I don't know—I just did it!"

These questions have been very disturbing to me. For whatever reason, my kids are not aware of their thinking and they are not comfortable discovering it. I have this uneasy feeling that this will eventually mean (if it doesn't now) that they are uncomfortable with themselves and their own thoughts.

Shaemus made a car out of wheels, foam paper, and binder clips this week. It was awesome. I was proud of his work and his creativity, but he couldn't write about it. He came to me in tears. I wouldn't tell him what to write, but I tried to give him an example of what I would write if I were doing a completely different project. I quietly watched him after this discussion. He looked at his car. He looked at his "building" notebook. He wrote something down. He looked at his car and frowned. He went back to his notebook and wrote more. Within minutes, he was tweaking that car, pulling off binder clips, glueing on sticks, doing things to make the wheels turn together—something they weren't doing before. His handwriting was messy. His sentences were incomplete, but he did it, and that writing became a vehicle for more learning and more improvement.

That is why I write. I write because it forces me to think, and when I think, I find ways to learn even more.

Warren Buffet spends eighty percent of his day reading. Wait, wait! Not just reading, thinking. He says that writing things down is the key to refining your thoughts.

Writing things down is the key to refining your thoughts.

In one of my favorite books, Seraphina, the main character regularly tends the "garden" in her mind. She has to or she gets ill, both physically and psychologically. Tending the garden in her mind means walking around to the different parts of her garden and putting things in order. This sounds to me like refining your thoughts. Going over the different parts of your life on a regular basis and making sure they are in order.

There is no better way to do that than writing what's going on in your mind down. It's like putting your children to bed for the night. It brings peace.

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