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READ LIKE A WRITER, a teaching blog


Photo by Karin Henseler from Pixabay

Self-isolation is an interesting term the medical experts chose for avoiding social contact during this present virus crisis. Self-isolation is what monks and priests and nuns of all religions do when they cloister themselves away in monasteries. Self-isolation is what writers do when they write first drafts and deep revisions.


What exactly does one do in self-isolation? And how does it apply to us as writers?


Self-isolation should be more than deprivation of pleasures. It should be more than the absence of another's company. Or to sit in silence. The purpose of self-isolation is to lead toward transformation.

Those seeking spiritual transformation do so through the practice of prayer and meditation through deep contemplation. After internalizing what is revealed to them through these practices, some scholar-monks/priests transform the world by sharing their revelations through writings.


Prayer is an earnest hope or wish. In prayer we examine our faults, make confession, and ask for help in doing better. Putting the religious aspect aside, this would also apply to writers who desire to write better. First, we need to examine our writing and see objectively our weak spots. We also need to confess where we get defensive during critiques or editorial letters. Then, we need to adopt teachable spirits and be open to learning from others. We can find resources to write better online, through writing books, and by reading mentor texts.


As an example of learning through a mentor text, last week I re-read PAPER TOWNS by John Green. For a year now I've been thinking about writing a travel/journey YA novel. I know the title, theme, four of the characters, and locations. However, there are some aspects that escape me, so I'm looking at novels where the characters travel. (Would love your recommendations in the comment section!) I hadn't read PAPER TOWNS for more than a decade. I'd completely forgotten about how the teen girl ran away from home and left clues using LEAVES OF GRASS by Walt Whitman. In re-reading this novel, it was obvious that the author meditated deeply on the poem LEAVES OF GRASS, and wanted his readers to contemplate the meanings, too.


Which brings me to the next purpose in self-isolation, spending time in meditation and contemplation. For years, this had been my New Year's resolution—to meditate. To think deeper. In another blog article I wrote about "Creating in Kairos instead of Chronos Time." This article was the cumulation of contemplating about time for probably close to a decade. I'm not saying meditation is easy. Busy schedules and people (family, mostly) interrupting our thoughts crowd out time for meditation. But that's the silver-lining part of self-isolation. The medical experts, government entities, and organizations are closing down many of our distractions and telling us to stay out of crowded venues. They are telling us to cloister ourselves at home. And if we must go outside, take a nature walk in a secluded place.

As writers, we could use this stepping-back-from-distractions time to meditate, to think deeper, to contemplate motives, purposes, and applications. Spend the time to create more imaginatively, beyond our boundaries of yesterday.  Expand your creativity.


Experiment. Writers are used to rejections, so it's not a big deal if we experiment, fail, and try again. Inventors, scientists, and writers know it's not really a failure, but rather a trial that didn't work, an elimination to the stepping-stone of a break-through success. (The drug company medical researchers are going through this exact process right now to find a cure to the Corona-virus.)


In this time of self-isolation, use these tools of prayer, meditation, and contemplation to transform your writing. Transform the way you look at things. Transform how your readers look at things. Transformation is the goal. Imagine how you can transform your creative process and product. Imagine. And imagine deeply.


How are you using this time of self-isolation?

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