Trauma of filling forms.

I love to write. It is a known fact. Even before I had the audacity to call myself a writer, I have thought on paper.  It really did not matter if were writing my thesis paper, a short story, blog post or even plain to do list. The scratch of pen on paper is my biggest source of happiness. In fact to me free writing is a form of meditation.

Is it a surprise when friends and family want me to write their notes, edit their work or better their resumes? Not really. But expecting me to fill immigration forms at the airport is assuming my writing is just a scribble. But surprise! Guess who ends up filling all the forms? From school to travel, admissions to immigration, I have become the official form filler.form-fillophobia-the

And I hate it. Don’t know what is it about those forms but I just hate the thought of filling them. Maybe its the small space where you have to write all your details. Maybe I don’t like writing my name, in full, about six times in three pages. Or maybe it is because I don’t like telling so many details.

The hate factor increases tenfold when it is an online form. It is time consuming, slow and many times the server is incompetent to keep up with the traffic. Between every sale cart and abandonment of sale in my life is an unfilled form!

You have autofill you say? Many sites have disabled this. Intensely frustrating it is when you never know how long and to how many pages the form filling will go. Playing a maze game with my credit card details is not something I appreciate. And the most important of  all, why do you need so many personal information? Many times I feel I’m filling out a dating or marriage bureau site for a purchase of something trivial.

The best part of this frustration is, I spend half an afternoon coughing up my personal history to anonymous website and in 3 days when the delivery comes, the guy has no idea what is my postal address and calls me up to verify.

That’s just another half hour talking a moron through the city traffic to my house.

I really must love writing if I am ready to put up with this every time.

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The bond of reading together

Soft feet dangling over my legs, a cuddly body next to me, listening to every word I read and waiting for me to open the magical doors to a new storyland…. The pleasures of reading out to my kids had been immense.

Over years chapter books have replaced the picture books and then novels, which nowadays they just read it off kindle.

I missed those bonding time with my babies though. One day we decided to have family reading time instead of TV time. Of what a turnaround was that? We piled pillows on the carpet, got some late evening snacks and with each a book, the four of us had a magical time reading together. The enthusiasm of my kids was contagious and the time, momentous. I was reading a thriller, my husband something nonfiction, my daughter was in dystopian world while my son immersed in another prank inducing chapter book.

I just discovered – you don’t have to read the same story to read together.      

Reading together is a great family bonding exercise. The best conversations you can have are when the little ones imagine their story world. When the kids were younger, and I read out to them, they loved the different accent and sounds that I made for different characters and mostly created sing along villain poems. Today we have just as fun discussing the book we read. Of course they are my first audience whenever I want to write a story.

Many times these lead to making up new endings, reviewing my work and mostly having a world to ourselves. Of course sometimes conversations in my house goes something like this:

Me: P (daughter) can you get me some water?

P: accio water. Mom spell doesn’t work, do the muggle way yourself!

Other times my son might try out the tricks from Diary of a wimpy kid or from Horrid Henry. They love to share their world and in my experience this makes them share their life with me better.

Reading together means shared experiences and often on our trips to the grocery, park or beach many of the fictional characters come along. If the drive is long, they are definitely part of our conversation.

Reading together also helps me to suggest of so lightly that maybe they should try reading some book like “ Pride and Prejudice”? Some work where the language is better and characters have depth? Of course my failure rates are sky high.

Reading together especially in small children opens up their imaginative, thinking and language skills. There is a world of possibilities out there and children get to be more confident, open and optimistic as well as well read.

As children’s author Emilie Buchwald has so famously said, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” Like once upon a time, the bond of reading together also lasts forever.

Spread the joy of reading, and do it together with family!

Writing as Therapy

“I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form.” 

Ever since I read those lines by Prof. Dumbeldore in Harry Potter, I have wanted a similar Pensieve. Sadly, for want of a wand and quick magical powers I am forced to stick to paper, ink and some time alone.

As a writer just hearing the scratch of pen on paper itself is pure bliss and writing brings out many an emotions in me. The immediate relief of jotting down an idea even if it is a shopping list or my kid’s homework schedule; the sense of accomplishment of having completed a piece of writing, the frustrations of not getting the exact emotions on paper. But most profound in my attempts at writing have been the aimless wandering of my restless mind on paper. Sometimes in finding the right idea, sometimes to understand a problem and many a times just a silent companion as I plough through the emotional maelstrom to find myself a calm anchor.

Whether in ink or the inner monologue that we to listen to everyday, writing guides us toward our higher calling.

In the words of Graham Greene, Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”  

Writing is a meditative experience, a talk with your soul, psyche and a deeply enriching one at that. Writing therapy today is an important tool, a form of expressive therapy used widely in hospitals with patients dealing with their mental and physical illnesses, as well as in university settings aiding students in self-awareness and self-development. Clinically they are classified into therapeutic writing, free writing and reflective writing. Although people have written diaries and journals for centuries, the therapeutic potential of reflective writing didn’t come into public awareness until the 1960s, when Dr. Ira Progoff, a psychologist in New York City, began offering workshops and classes in the use of what he called the Intensive Journal method.

So what makes writing so powerful? A nice rant can work wonders too. Maybe even reading a good book.

The basic difference is in the kind of cure. An rant and submerging your emotions in a book is an attempt to bury your emotions, sweep them under the carpet. While writing does the torturous duty of confronting them.

It isn’t alchemy that makes the concept of merely venting out on paper a fundamentally life changing experience.  The mere act of penning down your thoughts, emotions and even fears can be incredibly cathartic. Writing is understanding our thoughts through a personal, inward looking lens that may not have existed till language was put to use. Words are a medium. They express, clarify, illuminate beyond the factual details to the deepest thoughts and emotions.

Cognitively, writing has been shown to increase working memory and performance in patients. Writing is more deliberate and personal. Hence there are better chances on being honest than having a heart to heart chat with your best friend. In this context, writing is like a truth serum. The greatest advantage being the paper is non-judgmental and hence will not ridicule, scoff, judge or carry tales.

Writing is both the teacher and the lesson that individualizes the course to suit your needs and will guide you to a more positively driven life. It is a multi-dimensional catalyst of change and learning that acts as a sieve separating your fears, insecurities, confusion and helps understand and confront them from the outside in.

As leading theorist in writing therapy James Pennebaker explains, “The development of a coherent narrative helps to reorganize and structure traumatic memories, resulting in more adaptive internal schemas.”

As a writer again I have found this to be my best therapy. Free writing of my thoughts that encourage no standards, compare no other work, disregard the odd grammatical error breathes new life into my writing. Perhaps the most important writing element that Writing Therapy enables is the discovery of your voice. Writing about your life is the best way to discover and develop your writing voice. Only you can tell your true story. You are the only person who has your perspective. Writing your life is a gift that only you can offer to the world.

So write freely, even if it is for just yourself. Many a great memoirs on the bestsellers stands today began with the same idea.

Some writing exercises

Random Writing – The Mind Dump

Write. Anything. Don’t know what to write? Begin with that line and write for a set period of time – 10 minutes or half an hour. It may read as nonsense, and that’s okay. That’s how our minds work. Write down all the random, apparently nonsensical words and sentences, anything that comes to mind. You might include brief descriptions or sketches of any images that come to mind. Don’t change or edit anything. Simply write.

Dumbeldore’s Pensieve.

Write about any emotion, thought or problem that’s overwhelming you right now. Vagueness and confusion can be overwhelming too. Write through the emotions till you come out the other end, clear and confident.

Stay connected, Create history – The power of alumni network

Friendship, fun, continuous talk and always a shoulder to lean on – that’s the joy of school life.

When we spend six hours daily for years an institution, we imbibe its values and its identity and in essence carry them with us as learning or experience long after we leave the campus. And then suddenly, years later, a chance encounter with a friend, an article in the newspaper or similar incidents in the lives of our children brings those memories of our alma mater hurtling through our minds in a rush.

Of course Facebook, WhatsApp and LinkedIn has made the link stronger and has given a new dimension to school friendship – the alumni network.

The alumni network is a school’s recognition and celebration of past student’s achievements and a storehouse of opportunity to its current students. It is in essence a network of Godfathers to each new recruit and an arm extended in help to every member.

Schools, colleges and Universities are radically changing the way they support the alumni, supplementing quarterly magazines and annual reunions with year round networking and communication.

Lifelong friendships, the collaborative community, and common connections with other alumni are among the most powerful benefits of an alumni network. The relationships built here gives us the power to move ahead in our job, change our career, and even relocate around the globe.

Some colleges call back the students with job offered, some benefit with fund raising and campus recruitment. Scholarships, campus access and referrals also form a major part of many alumni network. 

Alumni network is the backbone of recruitment. 94% of recruiters and human resources professionals surveyed by Jobvite (2013) credited LinkedIn as being the go-to source for recruiting. Facebook rose to second place, with 66 percent of hiring professionals using it as a source for recruiting, and Twitter placed third, at 52 percent.

The test of success of this long term fraternity association and bonding came during the recent recession when alumni network world over helped thousands of laid off employees get newer jobs.

Whether an alum is an entrepreneur striving to grow his or her company, a young professional seeking to accelerate his or her career path, or a venerable old grad mentoring others in appreciation for past guidance received, the alumni network is a vibrant and efficient platform for such “value exchange.” Childhood friendships indeed are the sweetest.