Tuesday, July 31, 2007

TO WRITE: Being outside
Have you noticed? It's summer! (OK, at least here in the U.S. -- if you're in the midst of winter where you are, just adapt this for your clime.) It's sunny and bright here in Northern California this morning, and I'm thinking it might be fun to walk to the nearly regional park after class today. But the half-written chapter on my desk will probably call me back.

Are you celebrating the weather by spending time at the beach, the lake, the strip of grass outside your door? Are you a forest person, a desert person, a mountain person -- or would you really rather sit in the living room with a book? (That's OK too.)

Personally, while I love the snowy winters I grew up with in Wisconsin -- up to a point -- I get most excited when it's a bit warmer, like this, and I can hike on a forested mountain trail. Watching for wildflowers and animals as I climb beside a gurgling stream with tall pines overhead is as wonderful as it gets for me.

Play with this...
Choose some type of outdoor space and write continuously for 20 minutes, beginning with "In a forest, I am. . . " (fill in whatever word is appropriate for the site you have in mind). This might be a spot you love or hate or are afraid in, one you're near everyday, or one you dream of visiting.

Then consider: How does it feel to write about this location? What can you do to feel well emotionally based on this writing? Does it confirm that you're a contented indoor type who despises mosquitoes, or does it trigger ideas about where to stroll this afternoon or camp this weekend?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

TO WRITE: Responsibility
"Responsibility"means many things -- I know, I admit I looked at the thesaurus after a student recommended this topic. My first thought had been about "taking" responsibility, being the conscientious one who steps forward and is accountable when a task needs to be done. But we also use the word when we lay blame ("Kids, who is responsible for this mess?"), or assign trustworthiness ("Beth would never make a mess; she's very responsible").

What does responsibility mean to you? For me, in the larger sense, it indicates a sense of rightness, of standing up for what I believe in, even in the face of intense opposition. It is an inner compass that reminds me of what truly matters to me -- like ending the war; like trying to live more sustainably; like treating people fairly.

Play with this. . .
Write continuously for 20 minutes on the topic of "responsibility" and what it means to you -- whether it's finding a baby sitter you're comfortable with, or protesting for civil rights, or taking proper care of your mental health.

After you write, consider what your thoughts and feelings on this topic indicate about you. Do you feel overly responsible for things? Do you tend to shirk duties? Are there ways you would like to manifest more responsibility for certain areas in your life? All of these issues play into my self-image, and thus my mental health, I'm sure. Are there ways you could adjust "responsibility" in your life and improve your mood in the process?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

TO WRITE: Wishes and Dreams
Are you a shopaholic? A collector? Do you dream of a different home, more money, a new job?
Even if you don't consider yourself very materialistic, I think all humans have wishes about things they'd like. A way to end the war? Enough food for everyone? Peace of mind?

I know my list includes items big and small. I had my eye on a new laptop for quite a while before buying it, but going to the mall depresses me (really). And it's very hard for me to watch TV news without aching for ways to mend all our problems. There are many days when just an extra hour of time to work or to read for pleasure would be fantastic.

Play with this:
Write continuously for 20 minutes starting with the phrase: If only I had...
You can come back to this phrase in your writing as many times as you like.

What sorts of items did you come up with? Are any of them readily attainable? Are any worth planning and working toward? Do any of them give you insight into your mental health? You may even want to write another 10 minutes on the answers to these questions.

Monday, July 09, 2007

TO WRITE: If I Weren't Doing This...
Do you work? Even if your depression has interrupted your work life, you may identify with a certain occupation you once held. Whether you're a corporate VP right now or a mechanic on sick leave, a retired salesperson or a former astronaut -- or even if you've never been paid to work --you've had jobs. Weren't you a student in high school? Have you been a homemaker, a gardener, a cook? Have you ever mowed the lawn or helped a child or walked a dog?

Now that you've thought about what you've done in the past, consider what things you'd love to do in the future. Imagine you could do anything, starting tomorrow -- whether or not you think you have the experience or education for it. What occupation do you dream of?

My friends may be surprised to learn that I've always secretly yearned to be a long-haul truck driver. I suppose the solitude to think as I watch the miles of America roll by somehow calls to me. It's certainly unlike anything I've done professionally before!

Play with this...
Write continuously for 20 minutes on: An alternate occupation I'd love to try....

Let the sky be the limit (or don't, and go for that astronaut job). How about a sculptor or a real estate mogul? An Olympic swimmer or -- oh, the irony! -- a psychiatrist? Describe how it would feel to be working, where you would go each morning, what you dream of doing on the job.

After you re-read your writing, consider how your mood might be affected by this new position. Are there healthy aspects of this type of work that you could implement now? Is this dream job something you might want to actually pursue -- and what steps would you need to take? Does your writing shed any light on how you've felt about work you've done in the past or are doing now? Is there any other job you'd also love to investigate? Write that one out too!