Reflective Writing: Taking time to invest in your work.
For some it may seem counter-intuitive to stop and take stock of your own work. The pressure of looming deadlines often means that you want to keep moving forward and keep producing work. However, taking time out to pause and reflect on your work can pay great dividends and allow for much stronger work to be developed as a result.
If you reflect on a regular basis, then reflective writing will not just be about reviewing your work at the end of a project with hindsight. Instead you will be able to capture more of your ideas and progress on your work ‘in the moment’ rather than retrospectively. This can help give a more realistic feel to blog posts.
Since a workshop in January, I have been a convert to reflective practice. As an academic, I have been using it to shape my research in a variety of fields and connect various strands of seemingly unrelated thinking together.
What I do have a problem with, is the word ‘reflective’. It implies looking into the past. In essence this is what reflective writing is but to move your work forward you need to think beyond the simple reflection of recording what you have done. Used constructively, the process of reflection can unlock thought processes into previously hidden corners or avenues for you to follow.
In the workshop reflective writing was shown to be part of a wider reflective practice. Something that is ongoing (and to some extent never ending and continues as you move from assignment to assignment and course to course).
Our thinking of ideas and production of work doesn’t neatly tie up at the end of each piece of work that we complete. Reflective practice allows for threads to be continued or for you to put on pause and then be picked up again at a later stage.
How to do it?
Make reflective practice part of your work schedule.
It shouldn’t be an onerous task – if it is, think about how you can streamline it. Would audio notes work better?
You may find that other aspects of life come into the review – in this case just edit out what you do not want to share publicly or with your tutor.
Plan when you will do it. Daily may be too much of a commitment, weekly is good, monthly is probably far too long.
If you stop doing it, then just pick up again, don’t worry about trying to fill in the gaps. Better to be sporadic but in the moment, then always running behind.
You may find a separate handwritten journal works best for you. Otherwise a rolling word or similar online document that you can cut and paste from.
Draft blog posts are another option, allowing for editing before you publish the post.
What to write
There are many models for reflection available. The Gibbs Reflection Model is a popular one and there is plenty of information and templates if you research it. Below I have adapted the Gibbs model with some questions prompts that can be used to help start the writing process.
The time you take to reflect will be an investment in your work. Some, if not large chunks of your reflection may not ever make it into blog posts or journals for your OCA courses.
But there is a huge dividend to be paid from the effort expended. Just as even the most experienced piano player will still practise scales, the process of regular review and reflection will become second nature. The win is the production of action planning to move your work forward – or take it in a different direction. The thinking will allow you to follow tangents that allow work to evolve from beyond the most obvious interpretation.
“What’s the best way to start journaling? Is there an ideal time of day? How long should it take? How many pages?
Forget all that. Who cares? How you journal is much less important than why you are doing it: To get something off your chest. To have quiet time with your thoughts. To clarify those thoughts. To separate the harmful from the insightful. To prepare for the day ahead and review the day that passed. There’s no right way or wrong way. The point is just to do it.”
This post is adapted from a Zoom talk delivered in February 2020. The slides for this talk are available on this Padlet: https://oca.padlet.org/andreanorrington/laq2kvhc5mpg