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   Date: 4/4/11 Bookmark and Share

Accessing the Inner Self Through Creative Writing

By Lily Samuels ’11

Students: forget about MLA citation, present-tense narration, and subject-verb agreement. It’s time to start writing for fun again.

On Saturday, April 9, the Poetry Center and the Office of Religious Life will co-host a creative writing workshop for Smith students looking to explore their artistic side and enjoy a nonjudgmental setting, devoid of pressures common to academic writing.

“We will be looking only at the positive aspects of what we and others write,” describes author Peggy Gillespie ’69, who will lead the workshop, “learning to pay close attention to other people's writings, as that teaches us so much about our own.”

The workshop will be held at the Poetry Center, Wright Hall, from 2 to 5 p.m. Pre-registration—send name and class year—is required; space is limited.

The workshop is the second in a series—the first took place in February. Spearheaded by Hayat Abuza, the Interfaith Program Coordinator in the Office of Religious Life, the collaborative workshops are intended to help foster “mindfulness” and promote the development of the capacity for self-reflection in participants.

“In our writing workshop, it is the cultivation of curiosity and looking closely and reflectively that brings a person closer to knowing herself,” Abuza says. “This can create a skill for life.”

Peggy Gillespie ’69

A popular word that often eludes definition, “’mindfulness’ simply means paying attention in the present and allowing whatever is there to be seen and experienced fully,” Gillespie explains. “By applying that meditative clarity and openness to writing, it is simply an atmosphere of allowing writing to come to the surface without the harmful effects of the inner critic censoring our creativity.”

Mindfulness is the central theme of programs in the Wellness Initiative, also coordinated by Abuza, as well as a yearlong mindful living series for students coordinated by Emily Nagoski, director of wellness education.

Rachel Besserman, a graduate student at Smith who participated in the February writing workshop, describes it as “…thoughtful, contemplative and resourceful. Intimate, real and raw! We wrote outside in a picnic circle of depth and creativity.”

The high stress levels and copious amounts of academic writing that Smith students face each semester can impede the free-flowing, expressive writing that Gillespie and Abuza believe to be crucial to self-discovery and reflection. These workshops are designed to help mitigate some of those effects.

“In a college that has so much academic pressure, and where most writing is in the academic mode, this is a time to go back to the roots of writing without fear of being judged harshly, without grades, without a sense of pressure,” says Gillespie. “Hopefully, the workshops will lead students to take some time out of their busy schedules to write in this same way, whether journaling, nonfiction, fiction, or poetry.”

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