This month’s newsletter is packed with journaling information as well as special opportunities to deepen and broaden your journal writing experience. The first article is about a tried and true journaling technique, The List, but looks at lists from a very different viewpoint. It will change your perspective on list writing forever.
The other article is about the new spell check function—Spell Check As You Type (SCAYT) in LifeJournal Online. One of the benefits of LJO is that you have nothing to do to have this new function working. It’s simply now available to every LifeJournal Online writer!
I also want to tell you about two really exciting opportunities we’re offering relating to writing and health–both emotional and physical health. First, emotional health:
When we writing in journals to express our full emotions, does it help–or are we going in circles and digging a deeper rut?
Here’s the answer that few people know: It all depends on how you write about your emotions. There’s an art and a science to writing to BALANCE your emotions and then to effectively carry the new perspectives into your everyday lives.
Psychologist and author Beth Jacobs, PhD has created especially for us, an e-study course with a structured, practical set of materials–both based in science and based on her decades of clinical experience–to help you balance your emotions.
Whether your emotions feel out of control or if you are barely aware of them–and everything in between–you’ll learn and experience how writing helps with emotional issues.
If you would you like more information about journal writing and emotions, read an interview that I did with Beth by clicking: No cost, just great information.
And here’s the opportunity to learn about writing and physical health:
Dr. James Pennebaker (yes, the scientist who discovered the link between writing and better health) and Dr. John Evans (co-author of the new book with Pennebaker Expressive Writing for Health) will be the guests at this month’s IAJW telechat, The Essentials of Writing for Health, on Wednesday, October 30. Learn more, and please join us!
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By Ruth Folit
We were three generations—from 65 years old to 4 years old—spending a few late afternoon hours paddling in kayaks and canoes on Sarasota Bay. Miren, the granddaughter of a close friend, is very curious and observant and I love to spend time with her when she’s in town. She’s keenly aware of her world. As we walked around the yard, she smelled the herb rosemary growing by the back door. Miren wanted a sprig of it to carry around so she could sniff it whenever, which when she did, a radiant smile rippled across her face. And as we headed to the nearby beach edge to put in our small watercraft, her face wrinkled painfully with the sulfur smell of low tide mixed with a splash of rotting seaweed.
No surprise, with Miren there are a lot of why? questions that pop up in our conversations. I wish I could remember what the pun was that started it, but in the general banter one of us used a word that had two meanings—a homonym—and Miren was confused. Her mom explained what a homonym is and gave an example. As we paddled along the adults got the list bug. We started shouting out—maze and maize; hear and here; blue and blew; there, their, and they’re; mean and mien; lead and led; two, to, and too; read and red; hare and hair; pear, pare, and pair. Help me, I can’t stop. And I bet that you too are thinking of more homonyms. Watch out, it’s addictive.
As we later headed to the Chinese restaurant for dinner we were still at it. “Stationery and stationary!” one of us triumphantly shouted in the parking lot. Yes, there is something very appealing about creating a list. What is it?
In the German magazine Spiegel there’s an interview with the Italian author and semiotician Umberto Eco who curated an exhibit and created a program of events at the Louvre museum in Paris several years ago. The name of the exhibit was the Vertige de la Liste, which translates into Vertigo of the List, or Dizziness of the List, or perhaps best–The Infinity of Lists. Take a moment here to consider this: one of the greatest museums in the world invited one of the greatest living scholars in the world to create some work for the world to see and they focused their lenses on lists. This tells me that although lists are seemingly mundane, there’s something much more to consider than our everyday concept of lists.
From the Louvre: “The exhibition … traces the evolution of the concept of a list through history and examines how its meaning changes with the passage of time: from its ancient use in funerary traditions to its present-day use in everyday life, via the creative processes of contemporary artists, the list is a vehicle for cultural codes and the bearer of different messages.”
Umberto Eco explains when asked about his choice of lists as his subject for the Louvre exhibition, “The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order–not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries. There is an allure to enumerating how many women Don Giovanni slept with: It was 2,063, at least according to Mozart’s librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte. We also have completely practical lists — the shopping list, the will, the menu — that are also cultural achievements in their own right.”
Eco continues, “At first, we think that a list is primitive and typical of very early cultures, which had no exact concept of the universe and were therefore limited to listing the characteristics they could name. But, in cultural history, the list has prevailed over and over again. It is by no means merely an expression of primitive cultures. A very clear image of the universe existed in the Middle Ages, and there were lists. A new worldview based on astronomy predominated in the Renaissance and the Baroque era. And there were lists. And the list is certainly prevalent in the postmodern age. It has an irresistible magic.”
In journaling, lists fill two almost opposite needs. Write a list when you feel overwhelmed, when you are so inundated by things to do, possible directions to take, ideas that are overflowing in your brain. Journal experts and productivity experts alike tell us to enumerate them in a list. It helps drain the confusion and chaos from our brain. I can vouch for this; it definitely works. After writing a list, suddenly the feeling of “too much” becomes finite. The list may be large but now it’s defined and if you can quiet your inner angst it may even appear manageable.
When my brain flits from thinking about one task to another and I start one task but don’t finish it because I’m worried about the next one, and then bounce back to the previous one, simply creating the list serves to calm me and get a grip on it all.
Now, oddly, lists are also a useful tool when you feel a scarcity of possibilities and options. When you feel trapped into just one path and particularly one that you aren’t happy with, ask yourself to list at least ten solutions to the problem—or push yourself to come up with 100 possibilities! This kind of list writing pushes you to expand your thinking and broadening horizons.
As Eco says lists have “an irresistible magic.” Yes, magical they are!
One last intriguing quote from Eco about lists:
“We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That’s why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It’s a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don’t want to die.”
By the way, remember that on the iPad, the native iPad spell checker is the only one that runs on and overrules any other spell check funtion that LifeJournal has.
Remember, our next IAJW telechat is with Jamie Pennebaker and John Evans on Wednesday, October 30 at 7 PM Pacific/4 PM Pacific. They will be discussing the The Essentials of Writing for Health. Learn more here. IAJW members, sign up here.
Last few months’ IAJW telechats were with Dennis Palumbo, Mark Matousek, Barbara Abercrombie, Pat Schneider, and Natalie Goldberg. IAJW members can listen to these telechats here. Not an IAJW member yet? Sign up here.
“We were clever enough to turn a laundry list into poetry.” – Umberto Eco
“Far more harm has been done by repressing, blocking and avoiding emotions than by expressing or feeling them.”–Beth Jacobs
“Emotions are a process, not a thing. The constant fluctuation of emotional process makes feelings tricky. It also gives us leverage to influence the process.”–Beth Jacobs
“Research dealing with expressive writing suggests that people are most likely to benefit from writing about a trauma if they can build a coherent story of their experience. The operative word his building a story–not just having one.” –James Pennebaker
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