Writing as a Living, Self-organizing System

By Edith Friesen for Enlivening Edge Magazine

What if you thought of writing like a living, self-organizing system? How might that change what you write, how you write, and why you write?

Most of us have been taught to write from a mechanistic view. Our rational mind functions like the CEO, instructing us to write top-down, head-first. We write in a highly structured fashion, putting one good word, one good sentence after another. We manage the writing process by sheer will, and churn out a written product—cog-like. Such a mechanistic approach might have served us well at one time.

However, as the world becomes more complex, we are challenged to meet that complexity by upgrading everything we do. Including writing. So, how can we upgrade our writing to meet the challenges of complexity? Let me riff off Tim Winton’s PatternDynamics™ seven principles of living, self-organizing systems, suggest how they might apply to writing, and ask you some generative questions.

Feeling the Rhythm

Where in your body do you feel the impulse to write, or not write? How do you honour that impulse and adjust it for both regularity and flexibility, as the situation requires? How can you increase your sensitivity to timing in relation to your writing?

Locating Perspectives

What level of consciousness are you writing from? Which points of view are you privileging and which contentious perspectives are you avoiding or including? What assumptions are you making about your readers, and how can you engage directly with them to verify where they are coming from?

Outlining Structures

To what extent do you diagram the concepts you are writing about? How do you represent their relationships? To what extent do you align the left-brain structure of those diagrams with the right-brain structure of the writing itself?

Coordinating Perspectives

How do you search for common ground with your readers, build trust, and exchange information? How do you dovetail your priorities with theirs? To what extent do you widen the context and identify principles that unify perspectives?

Designing Decisions

How do you help your readers solve their problems more effectively? How do you group similar elements of their challenges into broader themes? How do you creatively integrate previously unconnected ideas?

Governing Reflectively

How do you set your intention and goals for a piece of writing? How do you dynamically steer your way through the writing process? When circumstances change, how do you modify your goals and keep things on track?

Source-Sensing

How do you connect with your deepest purpose for writing? How do you intuit the “where” the writing wants to go, moment to moment? How do you remain relaxed, present, and aware as you write?

Many of us long to impact our readers, our organizations, and the world with our writing. But too many of us still see writing in two-dimensional terms: words on a flat page. That shifts when we approach writing as a living, self-organizing system. Along the way, we naturally drop our desire to control the writing process, and also the heavy mantle of authorship. What remains is greater freedom and agility.

What would it take for you to approach writing as a living system? And if you already do so, what have you learned that could benefit us all?

 

 

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As a lifelong writer, Edith has worked in diverse organizations and coached writers. She enjoys helping people write in Teal-inspired ways that touch the body, heart, soul, and mind. Send email to edith (at) enliveningedge.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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