Anyone who takes writing seriously knows the importance and value of rewriting. A fresh perspective on something recently written will almost always allow for a more objective eye and ear to the words on the page. Indeed, one of the most valuable tips I’ve received as a writer is to speak the words aloud, as audible speech draws attention to rhythm issues not necessarily evident in a string of words which look good on the page.
In follow-up to a recent post, here are some additional tips about “Rewriting Your Life”, based on a series of short articles in the current edition of Psychology Today.
Re-experiencing a personal trauma by writing of the episode has long been considered cathartic, and a University of Texas study verified it. It was based on two groups with writing projects, where one half wrote about a traumatic episode and the other half about a ‘neutral subject’, i.e. time management (although, from my experience and observation, time management issues can be traumatizing). After having written only for a few hours over a few days, months later the group with the exorcising writing experience “not only reported better psychological health but also had fewer visits to the student health center”.
Such writing helps one to organize thoughts and feelings, establishing perspective, sorting out emotions, and enhancing one’s internal narrative, namely, who you and where you’re going.
According to this author:
- Writing times as little as two minutes at a time, totalling two to three hours, maximizes the benefits
- One should seek feedback, ideally from someone encouraging, or if not, a counselor
- Share the story
- Make sure the story is steeped in actual experience
- Don’t write if dealing with a separate critical issue
- Focus on personal growth opportunities
Another article looks at the mind shift required as one passes the ‘invincibility’ of youth, so that one’s “personal fables evolve, as experience pokes holes in the belief that nothing but fame and fortune awaits”. We need to ‘develop realistic expectations about life’.
Gaining a better understanding from disappointments, while moving one’s ‘personal fable and life span construct more into sync’, leads to “a more balanced sense of who you are and what you are capable of”.
A further article pushes the latter focus on adjustment to the issue of actually ‘reinventing oneself’. The blueprint is based on realizing your reality “is a story you tell yourself – and you can change it”. Altering the thoughts of your story leads to changing feelings and behaviours. Changing behaviour is more important than ‘figuring things out’.
Consciously we can choose the words in our head. Unconsciously, we need to have a trigger allowing us to ‘intentionally reengage’. Further, sometimes we have to challenge our own core beliefs. When a partner is involved, the relationship can become better “if you stay the course and choose to think, feel, and behave as the person you want to be”.
The last of these related articles looks at the rewriting spirit as it applies to one’s career.
Many people have struggled, and continue to do so, in finding work that is not only reasonably remunerative but also provides psychic satisfaction. This is also important “because the intrinsic rewards of work – how our careers support our life stories – are among the best predictors of performance”. Thus, rewriting one’s career story could mean focusing ‘more on what work gives you while you’re doing it’.
In practical terms, one should strive to complete mundane tasks as soon possible while less engaged, saving the more engaging aspects to savour while ‘being oneself’. Happily, “focusing on intrinsic fulfillment should lead to extrinsic rewards, too”.
Time to rewrite…