Change of Perspective

Musings on Writing, Reading, and Life Narratives

Fiction writers and literary critics speak of point of view. Social scientists are more likely to discuss perspective. But both of these terms refer to essentially the same construct: the consciousness behind the perception and narration of experience. Each individual’s point of view is unique, and point of view shapes the stories people tell to themselves and to others about themselves and their relationships with their environment. The same event narrated from two different perspectives will produce two different stories.

A change of perspective can expand our perception and reframe our thinking about our experiences. We can all benefit from an occasional change of perspective.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Okay, Here’s the Deal about Writer’s Block

Several years ago I fell into an extended period of writer’s block, when I had trouble even writing in my journal. All the traditional wisdom about writer’s block says to just write, write anything. So I began that practice, both in my personal journal and in my professional writing. I’d start each writing session with something like “Okay, here’s the deal about. . .” or “Okay, here’s what’s on my mind this morning.”

And it didn’t take long before this approach began to work. It worked whether I was pounding the computer keyboard or writing with a pen in my journal. Eventually I got to the point where just putting down the word “Okay” acted as the trigger to writing. I gradually came out of my blocked period, but even now when I occasionally can’t find a way into a piece of writing I’m able to use the “Okay” trigger to get me started.

I’m not the first writer to use this writing approach, of course. In The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron tells writers to do what she calls morning pages: three pages, every morning, of just writing whatever comes to mind. Some people call this practice automatic writing, free writing, or free-association writing. The idea is to start writing and keep on writing. If you can’t think of anything to write, then write “I can’t think of anything to write” and keep writing that sentence over and over again. Keep the pen moving on the page (or your fingers moving on the keyboard) until you begin to write something else. Cameron insists on three pages because, she says, somewhere around a page and a half you’ll stop writing junk and start writing gold.

The same kind of thing often happens to beginning composition students. Starting that paper can be a formidable task, but the only way to start is just to begin writing. Often the real introduction to the paper begins somewhere in the second or third paragraph. (This is why it’s so important to edit and revise first drafts.)

Another, related, lesson I’ve learned is that I don’t always have to start at the beginning. Sometimes, when I’m getting ready to start a writing project, chunks of it will come to me that belong somewhere in the middle. Once or twice the conclusion came through first. I used to ignore these gifts, thinking that the only place to start was at the beginning. But over the years I’ve learned to accept these ideas and be grateful for them. Nowadays, if a conclusion comes to me first, I slap the heading “Conclusion” down on the computer screen and write it up. Other parts of the piece will come later, not necessarily in order, and I’m getting more comfortable with that. I can work out the interrelationships between the various parts later. (This is why it’s so important to edit and revise first drafts.)

So, when you have a problem writing, just write. Write anything. Start anywhere. Just write.

Okay, so now you can take it from here.

© 2008 by Mary Daniels Brown

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Friday, February 15, 2008

What Color Is Your Mind?

Here's mine right now:

Your Mind is Green
Of all the mind types, yours has the most balance.
You are able to see all sides to most problems and are a good problem solver.
You need time to work out your thoughts, but you don't get stuck in bad thinking patterns.

You tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the future, philosophy, and relationships (both personal and intellectual).

What Color Is Your Mind?

I'm in the midst of writing LOTS of papers for my graduate courses right now, so what my mind really feels like is mush. I hope to be back up to speed here in a couple of weeks.

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Sunday, February 3, 2008

Perspective Switch

Perspective Switch � QuinnCreative
Quinn McDonald, a creativity coach, has a nice piece on the effectiveness of perspective switch on her blog. She uses a couple of photographs to illustrate how a change of perspective can influence what we see and how we think about what we see.

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Perspectives on Women

The Feminine Critique

"Women can't win," declares Lisa Belkin in an article about women and work. Studies done by Catalyst, an organization that monitors women in the workplace, have found

that women who act in ways that are consistent with gender stereotypes — defined as focusing “on work relationships” and expressing “concern for other people’s perspectives” — are considered less competent. But if they act in ways that are seen as more “male” — like “act assertively, focus on work task, display ambition” — they are seen as “too tough” and “unfeminine.”

Victoria Brescoll, a researcher at Yale, has found that, whereas men who express anger gain stature and clout, women who express anger are judged as being out of control and therefore lose stature. Joan Williams, who runs the Center for WorkLife Law and wrote the book Unbending Gender, says, “Women have to choose between being liked but not respected, or respected but not liked."

In an opinion piece on politics and misogyny columnist Bob Herbert tackles the issue of women and politics. He says, "With Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s win in New Hampshire, gender issues are suddenly in the news. Where has everybody been?" He goes on to point out "the toll that misogyny takes on society in general, and women and girls in particular."

Pornography, he says, is a multibillion-dollar business. Violence against women and girls also pervades society and is glorified by extensive and graphic news coverage, but these stories "seldom, if ever, raise the issue of misogyny." Widespread sexual mistreatment of women in the military and the dehumanization of women and girls by legalized prostitution in Nevada are further examples.

We’ve become so used to the disrespectful, degrading, contemptuous and even violent treatment of women that we hardly notice it. Staggering amounts of violence are unleashed against women and girls every day. Fashionable ads in mainstream publications play off of that violence, exploiting themes of death and dismemberment, female submissiveness and child pornography.

When I saw the title of Herbert's piece, I thought he was going to discuss the incident of Hillary Clinton's moist eyes in New Hampshire. That incident is not as representative of misogyny as the examples Herbert gives, but it does once again point up the double standard that strong women face. Hillary, in her characteristic pantsuits, is often criticized for acting too much like a man. Then she tears up, and suddenly she's criticized for acting weak and weepy, just like a woman. So which is it: too much like a man, or too much like a woman?

Sorry, fellas, but you just can't have it both ways.

© 2008 by Mary Daniels Brown


Saturday, February 2, 2008

Video: Frozen in Time

Check this out

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