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Published January 30, 2013, 04:00 PM

Positively Beautiful: Why I write – bookclub and beyond

Today marks the two-year anniversary of my first blog post. As someone who vehemently stated, “I hate writing” during high school and college, I’ve surprised myself – in a good way.

By: Dr. Susan Mathison, Areavoices.com, INFORUM

Today marks the two-year anniversary of my first blog post. As someone who vehemently stated, “I hate writing” during high school and college, I’ve surprised myself – in a good way.

I’ve managed an essay almost every week, and despite the stress I feel as I get dangerously close to the deadline, I’ve really enjoyed writing.

I get up early, usually around 5 a.m. I usually have an idea with some preliminary research done and then I start writing. I handwrite a title and a brief outline, and then move to the computer.

I pretend I’m talking to a friend, telling a story that segues into my theme. It takes me two to three hours to research and write. Maybe someday I’ll be faster.

This year, I’m trying an editorial calendar, so I’ve blocked out timely ideas each week for the next quarter. If there is something in the news or something I come across that I feel inspired to write about, I allow myself to shift.

I credit my book group friends, Pam, Tonya, Chris, Carolyn, Nancy and Andria, with getting me started. We gathered to go through Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way,” chapter by chapter. This book asks you to make a creative commitment to leading a fulfilling life, with assignments such as observing nature in all its glory, making a gratitude list and making “play dates” with yourself and having fun going to a park or a movie.

Our leader, Pam, established our meetings as guilt-free zones, thankfully, as I rarely found the time to do the assignments. But the company was wonderful, and I was inspired by my friends. Our time together felt transformative.

Cameron suggests a ritual of “morning pages,” which means taking a few minutes every morning to write three full pages, stream-of-consciousness, unfiltered.

I admit I chose a smaller notebook, and even with that, rarely accomplished my morning pages. But over time, I grew to appreciate writing as a great tool to clarify my thoughts. I find myself writing more lists, more cards, more photo captions and more Facebook posts.

We moved on to another wonderful book, “Life Is a Verb,” by Patti Digh. Once again, we went chapter by chapter, enjoying Patti’s stories, writing the prompts and activities she suggested to inspire us. We shared thoughts and ideas beyond the weather, kids, spouses, hockey, work and wine. Not that these aren’t important, but they can crowd out other conversations that may expand our sense of self. We had lots to write and talk about, and these books gave us a framework.

So, why do I write? Cameron suggests, “Observed closely enough, all of life is interesting. … If we just go back to writing as an act of listening and naming what we hear, some of the rules disappear. When we just let ourselves write, we get it ‘right.’ ”

My reasons for writing

  • I write to process what going on in my world. I clarify thoughts, feelings and reactions. By noticing, hopefully I learn from mistakes and continue my journey to being a better person.

  • I write to learn. By synthesizing what I’ve watched and read, it becomes knowledge capital that I draw on in the future.

  • I write to teach. By writing about things that I know in an understandable way, I can help patients and readers.

  • I write to inspire. I want to tell stories of people I’ve met that are doing things to make the world a better place.

  • I write to give thanks. I notice the many treasures in my life: family, co-workers, mentors, patients, books, experiences, travel. I try to write more cards.

  • I write to celebrate. So many simple pleasures and joys aren’t appreciated unless we give them attention.

  • I write to remember. This is a big one for me, especially as my little boy grows up so quickly. I want to remember his many one-liners and funny observations, his favorite things and his friends. I want to remember the people in my life and the way they make me feel. I want to remember experiences and occasions, big and small.

    Just yesterday, I got a note out of the blue from a college friend, now an ER doctor in San Diego. In two pages, I caught some great highlights of his life. I haven’t seen him in 30 years, but I can smell the campfire from some of our travels and hear him playing Neil Young on the guitar. Life is rich.

Some of what I write is read, but even those words stored in my computer, journals, calendars and to-do lists have meaning to me.

Are you ready to write? Just start, and see where it takes you. I never could have imagined how much I’ve enjoyed it.

This column was written exclusively for The Forum.

Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created PositivelyBeautiful.com.