Friday, September 19, 2014


Writing a la Mode—Reflective Writing
Were you thinking ice cream? No, that’s for summertime I’m talking about modes of writing because reflective writing is considered a mode (manner) of writing. Opinions vary on the number of modes and exactly what constitutes a mode, but general consensus recognizes narration, description, exposition, persuasion, argumentation, and expression (generally meaning creative writing, like poetry or fiction.

A piece of writing rarely consists of just one mode and would, more than likely, be boring if it did. Human experience itself is shaped by multiple modes of experience—sensory, feeling, intellectual, and spiritual. Likewise, writing, if it is to do justice to human experience and understanding, must be able to embrace a complex construct of writing styles and modes. We want to hear a story (narration) told with vivid details (description) that sets out a challenging conflict (exposition), and so on.

Yet, despite the mixing of modes, each mode has its own distinctive nature. We know, for example, that with description comes the vivid detailing of a scene. Selection of a particular significant detail can shape the meaning within the scene in different ways. Description makes us see what is happening rather than just being told what is happening. It is the essence of the old dictum: Show. Don’ tell, advice that never goes out of style. Description is a mode we learn very young. To a two-year-old, “big truck” is much more exciting than simply “truck.” The descriptor adds new dimension to the experience (both literally and figuratively here).

Reflective writing may be filled with description; it may also contain narration and persuasion, as it often does. Yet certain elements exist in reflective writing that makes us recognize that reflection is the predominant mode in a piece of writing. So, what are these elements that create reflective writing?

Reflective writing moves inward. We experience that inner sweep of awareness. We consider our own thoughts and feelings when we write reflectively. We are exploring our thoughts (generally speaking) rather than, say, building a case for argument. Arguments can creep in. Who hasn’t argued with himself/herself. Yet reflective writing does not force us into a particular pattern of organization as argument, for example, does. Reflective writing allows us to wander among our thoughts and examine them, perhaps consider them in a new frame of reference. Consequently, memory plays a role in reflective writing because our own frame of reference is built out of our past experiences and knowledge, and that is what we are viewing.

Reflective writing is not just remembering, however, not just nostalgia. As we reflect, we see and re-envision. Our awareness expands to take in a broader understanding and, perhaps, a deeper understanding during this process. By writing reflectively, we can move to a broader comprehension of the topic we are considering.[1] Reflective writing allows us to learn, develop new insights, enlarge our personal understanding, and expand our frame of reference.

Stock Image: Ice cream

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[1]Research demonstrates that with practice of the Transcendental Mediation technique, students experience increased field independence—broader comprehension and improved ability to focus attention, an asset in reflective writing.

Global County of World Peace. Scientific Research on the Maharishi Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi Prgrams and Yogic Flying: A Brief Summary of 600 Studies, p. 8.

Previously published in

1. Perceptual and Motor Skills 39 (1974): 1034-1034.

2. Perceptual and Motor Skills 59 (1984): 999-1000.

3. Perceptual and Motor Skills 62 (1986): 731-738.

4. Perceptual and Motor Skills 65 (1987): 613-614. 


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