Exercises and Tools #1: Reflecting on Ones Writing Biography

In the advanced education course for writing consultants I started two weeks ago, I learned an exercise I’d like to share with you. You can do the exercise alone or, better still, with another writer. You need only something to write and some time.

The exercise is called writing biography (or more generally, literacy biography). In the course, I interviewed a course participant for twenty minutes, asking questions about his relationship to reading and, especially, writing. While he talked about his first reading and writing experiences up until the present day, I took notes. He then interviewed me, inquiring about my writing biography. On the basis of the interview, we had to write the other person’s writing biography from his or her perspective. The portrayed person then read the text and gave feedback.

Although it might be easier to tell someone else your story, the exercise should also work if you do it alone. First write down questions you want to answer, maybe take some notes, and then write your own writing autobiography. In either case, the exercise allows you to reflect on and explore your relationship to writing and reading. Like me, you might remember experiences you had forgotten about when asking or being asked the right questions. Maybe you will even find out that you have a different relationship to writing than you had thought.

This exercise may be a good tool for starting a new project or if you are stuck. It allows you to write about something you know well and gives you an opportunity to get into writing. You can use the exercise every once in a while and can shift your focus from your entire writing biography to a specific time or context. It allows you to reflect on your attitudes, expectations, or wishes concerning writing. The exercise might help you to clarify your role as a writer (academic or otherwise).

Next week, I will talk about an exercise similar to freewriting.

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