Monday, December 11, 2006

TO WRITE: Changing Perspectives in Your Writing
In his book Writing to Heal, James W. Pennebaker reports that recent research demonstrates the importance of the writer's perspective or voice when writing about traumatic issues. People who derive the most benefit from writing on a difficult topic for several days in a row are those who can switch from writing exclusively about their own thoughts and emotions to writing about how others who were involved might have experienced and thought about the trauma.

This change in perspective can be accomplished by writing in the "first-person" voice versus the "third person" voice. (If these terms make you cringe about a failed fifth-grade grammar test, fear not. The first person uses "I, me, we," as in: I ordered a pizza for us to have for dinner. The third person uses "she, he, her, him, they," as in: She ordered a pizza for them to have for dinner.)

Play with this...
Think of an annoying event in your life -- not a massive trauma -- that you've been worrying over. Now write continuously about the event and your reaction to it for 10 minutes from your usual first-person perspective. ("I threw up my hands when...")

Now read over what you've just written. Then write on the same topic, covering the same basic information, for 10 minutes from the third-person. You'll sound like an outside observer. ("She threw up her hands when...")

Now read over your second writing and compare how these two pieces felt to write. (Writing in the third person may feel awkward at first, but does get more comfortable with practice.) Did it give you a sense of distance from the problem? Was that useful to you? This technique can be particularly helpful when you are later approaching a serious trauma through writing.

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