In the summer of 2005 I took a course on research at the University of Victoria. The professor (Antoinette
Oberg) was incredible, creative, and innovative. My learning was profound. I was intimidated when I began, but soon came to enjoy the adventure of exploring a new field of study.
At the beginning of each day Antoinette put a few words on the overhead projector. She called these words a “writing stem”. She then led us through a relaxation deep breathing exercise for a few minutes. Then we wrote in silence for ten minutes. We followed the guidelines for writing practice provided by Naomi Goldberg (see previous post about reflective writing). For ten minutes we just kept our pen moving. If I did not know what to write, I just wrote junk until thoughts about the topic started to come. If I wanted to write about something else, then I wrote about what was on my mind. But I kept my hand moving. I tried to silence the inner critic, and did not worry about messy writing or spelling or grammar.
Each day our homework was the same: to read from the list of resources, and then write. I read and I wrote.
A couple times we submitted our writing. We were not critiqued. Antoinette simply asked more questions helping us to dig deeper. The topic we were studying came alive. The intimidation I once felt melted away. I discovered that not only did I learn about research, but that I already knew a lot about research. I realized that at the heart of research was material that I was stimluated by.
Yeras later, I still write when I want to learn about a new topic. Writing can help me understand what I am thinking, and helps me clarify what I want to learn more about. Writing can also help me to pull together knowledge and figure out ways I can apply knowledge in practice.
So, if you too, think that writing is for expressing what you already know… think again…. or, don’t think… just write… and perhaps you also will discover new learning!