July 13, 2022

Writing for Discovery

Last night, I had the joy of hosting the Northern Virginia stop of the National Writing Project’s, “Write Across America” (WAA) campaign, a nation-wide writing marathon in which writers spend 90 minutes learning about a new location and using setting-inspired prompts to create original pieces. 

The writing is informal and there is no pressure to share. Writers are given a choice of topics or prompts and then they simply…write. 

Participants come from a range of backgrounds. Some are affiliated with local Writing Projects. Some are teachers or published authors. Some are people who stumbled upon the event for the very first time and have never considered themselves writers until that evening. Regardless of our backgrounds, we all share one thing in common: writing. 

The event is a celebration of writers and their voices. Of people coming together and sharing pieces of themselves with others. Lives pausing and intersecting with one another for 90 minutes before moving along again. The marathon is a powerful bridge across time and space, an opportunity to remind ourselves that we are all part of the same community. 

Writing for Health

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But the event is also a way to slow down, a way to pause time and space and to exist in the quiet of our own mind. With all the time I’ve been spending nurturing Alexandrite Publishing, my summer has raced by in a blur of meetings and workshops, website updates and brainstorming sessions. As the days approached for the WAA, I must admit that I was feeling overwhelmed and more than a little burned out. More than once, I found myself wondering if I had taken on more than I could handle. 

The event started out rocky. A powerful storm moved in just in time for the session to begin, thrusting me out of Zoom and challenging my tech skills. My stress levels spiked. But thanks to the quick thinking and assistance of some amazing colleagues, the marathon continued while I struggled to regain access to the meeting. I finally made my way back into the meeting just as the Writing Room sessions began. 

I was not in a good head-space. But I sat down to write along with my fellow Zoomies and, within minutes, I found my pulse slowing, my mind clearing. As the pen flowed across the page, the stress I had been feeling for the last few weeks dissipated. For ten minutes at a time, there was nothing but me, my pen, and my notebook. As the wind howled around me, my mind settled and found peace. 

Writing is an incredibly powerful thing. In the hustle and bustle of these past few weeks, I have lost sight of the importance of writing. So busy talking to others about the importance of writing, I have failed to make time for writing myself. Sure, I’ve created copy for my website, my blogs, my posts. But I haven’t really written. Not in the way that really matters. 

Last night, for the first time in many weeks, I wrote. And I was reminded of why writing is so important. Writing centers us, returns us to earth when everything feels like it’s spinning out of control. The health benefits of writing have been well documented in research studies showing direct links between regular writing and our health. 

Writing for Community

The WAA marathon last night amplified those benefits by bringing me together with a community of writers. Complete strangers willing to share pieces of themselves. Volunteers who graciously offered their own time to ensure others had a positive experience. Friendships formed from thinking partners who took on far more than their role required to help plan, and strengthen, and even trouble-shoot the event to help bring joy to others. In a time when powerful forces seem determined to pull us apart, the National Writing Project and the WAA made time to bring us all together. 

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Write Across America 2022 runs until August 9th. I hope you’ll join us by registering for upcoming events. For those of you who cannot attend, or who wish to write in private, there are lots of other ways to enjoy the health benefits of writing. Here are some tips: 

  • Dedicate at least ten minutes each day to creative writing. If you simply swap out some of the time you spend scrolling through social media with writing time instead, many of you will find you have far more than ten minutes to write each day. 
  • Keep a small notebook and several pens handy so you are ready to write while you wait for a doctor’s appointment to begin or for a loved one to exit the bathroom. 
  • Don’t overthink. In fact, don’t think. Just write. 
  • Don’t worry about perfection. This isn’t the time for that. Focus instead of getting your thoughts down. 
  • Write for the entire ten minutes, keeping your pen moving the whole time. 

Writing for Yourself

And if you’re looking for writing inspiration, follow us on social media, @alexandritepublishing. As part of our#summerartfulness campaign, we are posting quick-write prompts regularly and are encouraging our followers to share their own quick-write prompts for others as well.  

For those looking for extra motivation, challenge yourself to revise your pieces and submit them for a chance to have them featured in an upcoming edition of The AlexandWriter Newsletter. 

Write for the marathon. Write for social media. Write for yourself. 

Whatever you do this summer, please, just write. 

About the Author

Andrea Yarbough is a National Board Certified Teacher and the author of Artfulness: Formula-Free Creative Writing Explorations for Secondary ELA Classes. Trusted by major organizations with curriculum design and professional workshops, she has extensive experience developing meaningful, effective instruction for students and teachers, resulting in better outcomes with less work. 

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