Recently, I was invited to the 2012 Survive & Thrive Conference and Festival in St Cloud, MN. It was an event dedicated to the medical humanities, with its theme this year being centered on the heart. It was a fabulous event, and it provided attendees ample opportunities to explore various medical humanities topics. A diverse crowd attended the conference: from medical doctors, to college professors, to writers, to business people, and so on.
I was originally going to read an excerpt from an essay I’ve been working on about suicide and teaching titled, “Red Ink.” However, I was asked to run a workshop, and I jumped at the opportunity to give attendees a safe space to write about healing.
Those who’ve worked with me know that I’m easy going and often accommodating with collaborators. I’m that way not because I like to acquiesce; I’m that way because I find collaboration to be a dance, an odd polka; sometimes you have to give, and other times you have to take.
But, I digress.
Anyways, I put together a workshop focused on writing and healing. It was well attended, and I was told later during the conference that my workshop created quite a positive buzz. I’m always happy to hear that people enjoyed their time with me as co-learners.
Writing is an inherently expressive act. We can’t escape it because at the root of every text is a human, and humans are expressive creatures. It seems current writing pedagogy and theory spurns expressivist thinking. It’s mostly a reaction to the great expressivist movement in the 70s and 80s; from that, we got cognitive writing theory, then we got a combo, and now we’re coming back around to current traditional style writing theory, where grammar is the only thing of importance.
Drawing on the spirit of scholars, like Peter Elbow and Donald Murray, I focused the workshop on the theory and praxis behind writing and healing, identifying experiences on which to journal and why, and continuing practice with the aid of prompts. Importantly, we did lots of writing.
I provided two handouts to the workshop participants. First, I gave them a short bibliography of relevant sources for them to explore about the workshop topic; and, second, I gave them writing prompts clustered around certain themes related to the workshop topic.
Co-learning with these workshop participants reminded me of how powerful writing is in many contexts. Whether it is for healing, for business, or for the public, writing has power, and it can do great things. We should never forget the power of writing because it is an act that can free us all.
For those interested, here are the slides from the workshop:
Image by Flickr user Steve Snodgrass // Creative Commons licensed: CC-BY