The new is always bewildering for us because it sets our thinking out of kilter. As you have read here many times before, studies in neuroscience have shown that whenever you learn a new word, for instance, your brain goes into a series of classifying rituals. It wants to know its meaning, its opposite meaning, if you have seen it or not seen it before, if it belongs to which class of things and so on.
This is partly self preservation, partly a quest for a sense of order. In my sometime role as a tour guide I always apprise newcomers of where we are: in the north, in the south, east or west.
I believe that this settles them a little and gives them context and meaning and a place in the greater picture. It explains the curiosity anyway, of why people visit places to gain an understanding of the area, the need to know why and where things are in place or in history.
There is a way of writing called proprioceptive writing which looks closely not only at the way we write but also the depth of meaning of what comes out of our pen or pencil.
Proprioceptive writing always prefers writing out text rather than typing them because in writing you are involved at a greater level, the haptics of writing activates many hidden pathways.
I said earlier that this is a way of writing in depth. But what did I mean by depth? This is a way the method flows, you write and examine your words and then you probe deep into them — as meaning, as exploratory routes, as indicators.
Not surprising therefore that its origin is in psychotherapy and it is used now, even by some established writers, as a way of unblocking, getting a freer flow. Writing is a comparatively new acquisition in terms of human skills. We have been ‘reading’, seeing, interpreting, explaining since time began.
Our explanations may have not been right — spirits for science and so on, but that gave comfort in many ways because it fulfilled to some extent our need to know. Before writing we merely memorised and then when we learned to make written representations of the sounds of words, that opened many doors and eyes.
The oldest palm print on the wall of a cave is somewhere in Sulawesi, but think how that changed our perception and thinking, knowing that we could copy what we knew for it to remain there for a long time as a mark of our being here. For new writers I have always recommended copying.
Yes, copying can be a creative act if you set out from the start where you want to go. Copy out any text that strikes you, any quotation, any paragraph from a book, words from a song, poetry that moves you.
As you write out the words onto paper your hand and your brain take in the shapes, the fee and the meanings. This is how Benjamin Franklin learned to write and to argue: he copied articles that he liked from the American Spectator magazine. He analysed what the words meant, he wrote counter arguments, and then he wrote out the arguments again, in poetry.
We always imitate before we find for ourselves the way to go. Journal writing is another way of making words part of your daily consciousness.
Keeping a journal is not the same as keeping a diary. A diary can be a record of events, a series of reminders of dates, appointments and so on, but a journal goes much deeper.
People who keep journals often say that they clear their minds of clutter, make their thinking clearer, and for writers, this is a way of practising the craft. You examine, you explain, you meditate, you make yourself feel and describe how it is so.
Journal writing need not be an everyday event, but once it becomes a constant part of your being, the rewards work subtly but they contribute towards your personal growth. T
This is why writing is sometimes superior to memory. You know that memory gives you the feel and the sense of rhythm and the story but writing probes even deeper because it is a slower process. In this slowness is time to examine closely, to see the shapes and syllables and the recognition of words.
The realisation of literacy is not when you can read words but when words leap out of the page and become instantly recognisable. You can see this as the beginning of mastery.
Words think and they make you think about them too. The love of words is a pleasure in itself, something you experience when you hear good poetry, the beautiful lyrics of a song.
Good speakers understand the value and the rhythm and cadence of words. And then you come to metaphors: you cannot live without metaphors and that is your mind thinking analogously, looking at things while thinking of other things.
Pick up a newspaper and read any news story and underline all the metaphors. You will be surprised by how we say things by saying other things.
The Act was bulldozed through Parliament. Can that be true? If not, what did the writer want to tell you? How many times in a day is our thinking influenced by metaphors?
There are many psychologies that work through the analysis and understanding of words. Words sway, shape, deliver, conceal thought.
Write that now and you will never read another book again without knowing yourself and other people. And that’s a road map that’s useful to know.
Wan A Hulaimi NST Columnist 4 OCTOBER 2015 @ 11:00 AM