Sunday, May 20, 2007

Defining Bipolar Wellness (Part 1)

I took three days off from blogging because my posts had gotten a little too intense--for me. After fourteen years of remaining silent about this illness, at least publicly, it seemed as if I had so much to say that I couldn't just write short posts or "fun" posts. I felt compelled to tackle difficult topics and write about "important" subjects that I had longed to read about--for all those years--but couldn't find in the books and blogs I was reading.

I realize that I am an "all or nothing" type person, which is either a personality trait or a part of my illness. Maybe it's a bit of both. Yet, after a few days of rest...I asked myself, "What does it mean to be a bipolar wellness writer? What is my responsibility to my readers? How can I help people achieve wellness? How do I define wellness? What are bipolar wellness topics?"

I spent a few days noodling this over. I "noodle" in different ways. Sometimes, I think about specific questions. Sometimes, I do research--either in the library, bookstores, or online. Sometimes, I put my questions on the back burner, and engage in other activities, and noodle unconsciously.

For the past few days, I've been cycling a bit. On Thursday, I was busy from the moment I awakened until I went to bed. I spent most of Friday napping and reading. One of the books I've been reading is Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. Ms. Prose (yes, it's her real name) is the author of 14 books, a finalist of the National Book Award, and she has taught writing and literature in major universities for the last 20 years.

Her thesis is that the best way to teach writing is to teach students how to read like writers. In the first chapter, she says she left graduate school years ago because her professors and fellow students didn't share her love of literature. After she had written a number of books, she began teaching literature at universities. What surprised her was that her students--even the best and the brightest-- seemed so stressed out by reading.

She writes, "...I was struck by how little attention they had been taught to pay to the language, to the actual words and sentences that a writer had used. Instead, they had been encouraged to form strong, critical, and often negative opinions of geniuses who had been read with delight for centuries before they were born."

She goes on to say that she changed the way she taught. She began focusing on words, sentences, and paragraphs. Rather than asking her students to critique and criticize authors, she taught them how to find pleasure in well chosen words, "true" sentences, extraordinary paragraphs. By doing this, she feels that she can teach her students to remember the joy and excitement they felt when they first learn how to read.

So how does this relate to me? To you? What did I learn from Francine Prose that has helped me define bipolar wellness?

(to be continued)

1 comment:

JayPeeFreely said...

Hi again - its been a while. I really like this post. I am one that goes through periods where I just read anything...but I do try to focus on the words and structure, not hard core critiquing.

I'm not a good writer or a critic so to me it is about what I can learn from any author.

Anyways, good posts since, just this one caught my eye. ;)