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Freewriting in the Time of Crisis

17 April 2020

Yvonne read Turn Your Face: How to Be Heard and Get What You Want Most of the Time by Barbara Linney and is grateful for rediscovery of an old habit—freewriting--made new again.

Tags: covid-19, freewriting, turn your face, yvonne read

As a new hire, Turn Your Face had been recommended as an introduction to Allison Partners’ inner workings and how and why their business exists. I’d started reading Turn Your Face in the office, but this coronavirus-prescribed stay-at-home period has given me a perfect opportunity to better focus on my reading. Unlike the “orientation” offered by past employers, this book was not a catalog of dry and tedious company policies and procedures. With the first chapter, “Write What You Know,” my attention was immediately hooked by its discussion of freewriting, known also as stream of consciousness writing and journaling. It’s something I’d done since childhood and continued the practice for decades (often with long breaks between entries).

I had not been actively writing in this manner for some time when I felt compelled to renew the act after reading a suggested exercise on page 38 of the book. With a favorite pen at hand and a composition booklet at the ready, I didn’t set a timer for 30 minutes, and realized hours had passed when my unaccustomed writing hand was forced to put the pen down. Writing those first 12 pages was like getting reacquainted with an old friend. For me, such writing helps ease my psychic load, becoming a source of solace, a time for focused introversion. I carry on an exchange with my mind, a higher force, a nonjudgmental other of sorts.

Raised in a time when the mantra from my parents and others was “Children should be seen and not heard,” I largely kept my thoughts to myself out of some fear of punishment. Self-confidence was in short supply. By adolescence, I made up for that gap with defensive sarcasm. For me, freewriting became a spot reserved for free thinking bereft of the soul-crushing guilt and fear in those years. It offered a better approach to working through situations with intelligent calm rather than with emotional volatility. Perhaps I thought I outgrew my need for that, until Barbara’s book reminded me. Though short in length, Turn Your Face is packed with personality and accessibility through discussion of her own experiences. By making herself vulnerable in this way, I felt empathy for her. She reminded me that freewriting can be an excellent tool for working through my emotions. It takes practice and a strong sense of purpose to work through emotional blocks, allowing me to speak from a position of strength and composure.

Since joining the Allison Partners team, I’ve been learning a lot. My “sheltering in place” didn’t start with the pandemic; it began years ago when I worked in a home-based office, remotely transcribing the words of faceless digital voice, transmitted through VPN. (It couldn’t have been more different from the virtual contact with Zoom that we have today!) That isolation and rare social contact made working in an office environment challenging, but I am blessed to have found an office where I feel welcomed and where open communication is the norm. Meeting Barbara was a bonus! She is truly a steel magnolia (a woman who possesses the strength of steel, yet the gentleness of a magnolia, per Urban Dictionary).


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