Monday, May 23, 2011

Writing Makes Thinking Visible

A flash of light darted past me and lit on a leaf. Following its path, I saw a dragonfly, bright, shiny, and luminous as a brand new car!

Dragonflies take my breath away. I moved cautiously toward the leaf for a closer look. As soon as I drew near, it flitted off, darting across the clearing. Time stood still as that dragonfly flitted through the woods, teasing me with a game of “Catch Me if You Can.” It refused to show off its ephemeral beauty for more than brief seconds.

Finally it tired and posed for a picture, allowing me to capture it with my handy pocket Panasonic. I must confess that like many life stories, my picture was adequate for my purposes, but not publication-worthy. This picture, taken by Sean Morgan, turned out  far better.

Only after I downloaded my photo onto my computer was I able to study the dragonfly in detail. The picture stays still, and it sticks around as long as I want to peer and ponder it. It fits nicely with my growing collection of bug pictures, including ladybugs, grasshoppers, butterflies and some gorgeous spiders. (Yes, I know. I have certifiably weird fascinations.)

I thought of that dragonfly yesterday. My thoughts were darting around like a troop of wild monkeys. I chased them here; I chased them there, and they hid behind leafy branches.
Finally I sat down and made a list — a sort of verbal snapshot. I enlarged the thoughts, zooming in and pondering them. I used some magic journaling questions on them to reveal many insights. As a result, I feel lighter, gentler, more patient — much nicer to be around. My stress bubble burst, a genuine health benefit.

The key lesson here is that writing makes thinking visible, and like anything else, once it’s visible, you can deal with it much better. Aside from freezing those thoughts on the page where they can be examined, writing them down has another advantage: the captured thoughts are now part of my private legacy of thought scraps. Since they are safely captured between the covers of a journal volume, it’s unlikely anyone else will ever read them, but now and then I visit them to refresh my memory and reconnect with thoughts from the past. Although there's plenty of drivel, sometimes I find nuggets of gold and brilliant gems on those pages, ready to be assembled into something beautiful. I’ll write more about that in a future post.

Write now: pull out your journal and spend ten to twenty minutes recording thoughts spinning loose inside your mind. Don’t think — just write. Whatever and however things come to mind. Write with no agenda and no intended outcome. You may be surprised by your results.

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