A Year in Longhand Day 3: Getting Over Myself

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Writing lets me escape the incessant chatter and thinking that goes on inside my head. Once I start writing I usually enter a certain flow, a movement that feels close to the wind, ocean waves, and the roots in the earth. I step out of my own mind and get swept up in a tide.

 

I love many of the exercises in Karen Benke’s marvelous book Leap Write In, a book for “tweens, teens, and other Earthlings,” and I have found in working with my students that her exercise on Personae is especially powerful. You recall a journey to a natural place – a park, the ocean, a favorite tree – and imagine the route one takes getting there. At the same time, imagine one person you meet along the way. Here’s the simple catch: give yourself a new name.

 

This last instruction pulls the writer out of her personal mindset and frees her to become a new character. Combining familiar settings with a new mindset frees the critical mind. Through this process, I’ve seen shy students transformed into rock stars, concrete thinkers morphed into artists, and the most hyperactive minds channeled into concentrated imagination.

 

Try this: Write an account of a place you’ve been in nature, all you felt and smelled and heard. But give yourself a new name, a new gender perhaps, maybe even a new species. I bet you’ll see that place anew, and escape for a little while from that critical mind that is always aware of who you are, your limitations and fears and distractions of daily life. Let yourself leave that version of you behind as you transform into someone else for a journey into nature.

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