S4L Book Club – The Help

Aibileen writes her prayers. I loved that and understood it. It was one way that I related to Aibileen.

Recently, on Facebook, a friend shared a note her daughter had left on her bed. The thirteen-year-old girl wanted my friend to consider an important matter, and rather than discuss it, she put her request in writing. This is not the first note the child has written. This is how she addresses important matters.

Through the comments, I learned that the daughters of another friend text their important issues rather than broach the subjects aloud.

I remember writing letters to my own parents about important things, and several female friends have admitted to doing the same, so this is not an unusual tactic.

Why do you suppose we choose to write about important issues?

There’s a saying, “I don’t know what I think until I write it down,” that I’ve seen attributed to several authors, so I don’t know the real origin, but I do know that it’s true for many people, myself included. Why do you think this is true?

For one thing, thoughts can be fleeting, but writing is slower; it takes time. Slowing the thought process down may be key to thinking more deeply.

Also, writing something down allows us to see it, to see all the different parts of an issue, literally and figuratively. Gaps are revealed. We can then rearrange the parts, which, when they first come out, are often muddled, and we can fill in the gaps. This rearrangement and filling in, I think, creates order and understanding.

The technique used in Teaching College Students to Read Analytically is to have participants write about what they read. Teachers respond to the writing, ask probing questions, and students rewrite. Writing requires thinking.

Surely research has been done on how the brain functions while writing, but I’m not familiar with it. I’d be interested to know.

Have you ever written about something or written routinely, the way Aibileen writes her prayers? Have you ever chosen to address an important issue in writing rather than through discussion? Has anyone around you chosen writing as a way of communicating something important to you?

Categories: Reading

5 replies »

  1. This was so well-thought-out, and stated in such a clear way. And what great questions!

    There was a time, back in high school, when I kept a journal. I remember having a burning need to journal–having the feeling that I just had to get it all down on paper, that I didn’t feel complete until I had written about it.

    But, like most healthy and beneficial habits, I dropped that practice by the wayside.

    My kids have apologized in writing (and in a more heartfelt way than they probably could have managed verbally) and once wrote out a contract for something that they held dear to them. And my youngest son journals all the time. From time to time he shares it with me. From what I can tell, it’s mostly about his day-to-day life, with details about who he was with and what he did. He pours out his frustrations on paper. He even greatly embellishes sports games that he took part in. Or he’ll watch a game on tv and write about the game as it’s happening. I admire his tenacity.

    Routine writing was a huge help for me during college and nursing school. I’d take notes during class, then recopy all the notes in a more organized, clearer fashion back at home. I was very aware that the act of recopying etched the notes more indelibly in my mind’s eye. During tests I could actually see my recopied notes in my head, and could often read off the paper. I know I wouldn’t have had anywhere near that grasp on the topics if I hadn’t recopied.

  2. I’m happy to hear examples of boys finding writing beneficial, too. There are plenty of male authors, but journal- and letter-writing seem to be embraced more by girls in school-age kids.

    I, too, find writing–and re-writing–useful in learning and remembering. Hmm…I claim that facts and info conveyed in puzzles sticks in the mind better than facts and info conveyed in stories or writing. I wonder if and how much the process of writing while solving a puzzle contributes to that? Would solving a puzzle digitally, in an app, be as memorable as solving one with a pencil?

    Where is the scientist who’s going to test this to find out?!

    I got–and get–the same emotional benefits you did when journaling, too.

    During our recent trip to Hawaii, we had a problem with an airline. I wrote a formal complaint letter. I didn’t expect any satisfaction beyond that which I got from writing and sharing my frustration, but I wanted that much, at least. In the end, I got a little more than that bit of satisfaction, so woo-hoo!

    I think if everyone journaled and expressed themselves in writing, the world would be a kinder, more pleasant, and thoughtful place.

  3. First, I play Sudoku online sometimes, and never on paper, and it’s pretty enjoyable to me! But, I don’t think I’d like a crossword puzzle online. I do think that discussing books online like we are, makes me more thoughtful and perhaps analytical, than if I were just speaking off the top of my head in an actual in-person group.

    I have gone through stages of journaling, but never seem to keep up with it. I do think that writing things out helps me think through them, and get my thoughts in order. I like to do that before, say, a presentation. I also think that writing, for me, especially in terms of important, or perhaps emotional, topics, helps me be more composed. I can write several drafts, and, in the instance of your complaint letter, I can get my thoughts together and make my case, without becoming more emotional or upset as I talk with a person.

  4. “writing…helps me be more composed.” Ha! That works with two definitions of “composed.” I love that!

    I’ll tell you, when I’m writing about emotional stuff, I’m experiencing that emotion. I think we glean emotion from the words on paper, but they are easier to understand and bear when they aren’t accompanied by tears and clenched fists and a raised voice. Those other things seem to just fan the fire.

    Interesting point about a written book discussion vs a more off-the-cuff in-person discussion. Have you participated in face-to-face book clubs? I haven’t. I have no idea what they’re like, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to generate some of the thoughts I’ve had on the spot.

    I suppose there are advantages to spontaneity and bouncing ideas around quickly, too. Like a brainstorming session.

    And now I want to do both!

  5. Oh, and I have a sudoku program on my computer. I can print and play or solve on the screen. I actually prefer to print and play, despite my opposing preference to save trees.

    This will sound odd, and maybe I’m making it up, but I feel as though my brain operates differently when solving the puzzles in the different mediums. It’s a slightly different experience.

    Grab a sudoku puzzle in a newspaper and see what you think!