Structure

by tamarjacobson

Back in 2010, I wrote a piece as an application for attending a writer’s workshop with Natalie Goldberg. I decided to share and edit parts of it here, because, as an author, it describes what I feel or think about writing in general.

Last night (October 4, 2010), driving home from work I heard Jon Stewart interviewed by Terri Gross on the radio. Terri Gross asked him what his morning meetings were like as his team plan for their evening shows. Stewart told her that contrary to what some people might assume, their meetings were well organized and structured. He went on to say, “… I’m a real believer in that creativity comes from limits, not freedom. Freedom, I think you don’t know what to do with yourself, but when you have structure, then you can improvise off it and feel confident enough to kind of come back to that.” I marveled at the coincidence for earlier that day I had started writing this piece for my application to the intensive workshop series with Natalie Goldberg, and had been thinking about my own relationship with boundaries and limitations. Indeed, Jon Stewart summed up some of my thoughts.

I need a framework or some type of formal structure from which I can develop my creativity in the area of writing. With regards to writing and meditation, I am self taught. By reading books, attending a few classes, and then going it alone. I experiment, do a lot of observing of others and learn the jargon – adapt to the culture, and then develop my own way of doing things. On the other hand, I have had years of formal education, including acquiring a Ph.D. In that sense I was taught to write and research in a certain type of structure that is common in academia. However, it is not helpful in writing about memories or telling my story. An intensive workshop with Natalie Goldberg could provide a different type of guidance and structure for the things I have learned to do on my own – things I am already doing day to day: mediation, walking, writing.

I have written articles for magazines and journals, columns for newsletters, and a number of books or chapters for teachers about self-reflection, attitudes and emotions affecting interactions with children and families. Indeed, most of my writing includes telling my story. At times I do that to model for others how they might tell theirs. In the case of teachers, I want to help them become more authentic in their relationships with children. At others times I share my story as an act of self-expression.

Twelve years ago, when we relocated to Philadelphia after many years in Buffalo, New York, I left behind a therapist who I had been seeing for several years. I began writing a blog. As a blogger I have been able to use writing as self-discovery and reflection. When I began it often took the place of therapy for me. Blogging is an interesting forum for writing because as personal as it is, it is also as public as can be. Over the years I received much feedback about my blogging posts in all sorts of forms – from the quality of my writing to the appropriateness of the content. I learned to write for a public audience, even as I shared my inner life, at times in a most intimate manner, and my writing has certainly improved as a result of all the feedback and practice.

Blog writing is a writing exercise for me. Writing a journal for no one else to read is a different kind of practice. Either way, writing practice is a form of structure from which I can develop creativity in thinking, style and expression.