Writing, Medicine, Dance: I am

When I tell people that I am a Writing Fellow majoring in Dance, I often am asked, “But I thought you were pre-med.” To that, I respond, “I am,” and the conversation generally turns into something like, “Wow, you’re really all over the place.” 

Perhaps. But in these seemingly different fields runs a common thread that ties together my interests, passions, and career goals. For instance, a Writing Fellow is chosen to be one only if she can demonstrate a level of empathy toward others so that she can connect to the student with whom she is working. Doctors undergo the same recruitment process–if they cannot identify with their patients, they will certainly not be able to treat them. Interestingly enough (well, at least for me!), Dance/Movement Therapy resides on the premise that the dance/movement therapist displays empathy for the patient in being able to embody the patient’s movement patterns (including facial expressions), which in turns provides healing. 

And, while empathy is inherently vital in each of the three realms, so is leadership. There is no “perfect” Writing Fellow meeting simply because humans are not perfect. Whether it is breaking the ice between the Fellow and the student, talking about ideas for a potential draft, or talking through the draft about ways in which we can together strengthen the paper, the Fellow needs to be able to take “control” of the situation. Although “control” may not always have positive connotations, in this particular instance, it does. Essentially, even though it is the student who technically guides the meeting with her questions, it is the Fellow who tries to file away the rough bumps encountered during the meeting, who leads the student though the writing process–all while making certain to abide by the rules of “pedagogy.” And, if you take this leadership quality of a Writing Fellow and superimpose it with the qualities that distinguish Doctors and dance/movement therapists, there will be a lot of overlap. Analogous to the students who who seek a Fellow’s help for their writing, patients seek a Doctor’s help for their ailments and problems. However, without the Doctor’s or Therapist’s ability to lead and guide the patients through a treatment plan, the patients would be underserved–as would the student encountering a Fellow who couldn’t guide her through the writing process. 

To be completely honest, I didn’t recognize that I had either the traits of empathy or leadership when I applied to the Writing Fellows Program. In fact, it was my Freshman Seminar professor–who happened to be the same professor for a dance literature class i was taking that semester–who inspired and encouraged me to apply in the first place. Maybe it was she who got a first glimpse of these qualities embedded in me, which I discovered for myself during the summer while shadowing a Doctor in the hospital–and again when I had my very first Writing Fellow meeting.

I guess this was the somewhat backward route to discovering “things” about myself, but it just strengthens the saying “Whatever happens, happens for the good.” The Writing Fellow training course changed my perception about what writing is, how interactive it can be, and just by interacting with others, how it can enhance my own approach to writing. While writing my thesis on dance/movement therapy, I had a chance to explore what the student experiences all over again, as there was an attached Fellow as part of this course. This “backward” route is what enables me to tie that running thread through the three very different realms that make up a huge part of my life, and allows me to say, “I am.”


Dear Midterms, get at me.

For some, the word “midterm” connotes a wide range of negative emotions. Some people cringe merely when they hear the word, while others “freak out” and have panic attacks as the day of the midterm creeps closer. And unfortunately,  the worst is usually not over all that quickly.  Many students have two or three all clamped together, either in the same day or same week–I think we’ve even come to refer to it as Midterm Week.

This Midterm Week does have an end to it, and after it has soon become history, everything seems to be manageable. Well, at least for a while–until Round 2 I guess.

So while you’re enjoying a bit of regularity until Round 2, I want you to try this:

Close your eyes.

Take a deep breath.

And Smile.

No, you will not magically remember all the formulas you need for the Chem exam without opening your notes once, and no you will not have 5 pages of your Anthro take-home midterm magically written on your laptop without any of your physical input–though that would be kinda cool–but, you will own the midterm without cringing, without freaking out, or having panic attacks. Then you can say, “Dear Midterms, get at me.”

From Clueless to Already Enlightened

September 5, 2012:

It’s day 2 of the fall 2012 semester, and I’m introducing myself to my classmates in my Hindi class… you know, the usual: my class year, major, interests, extra-curricular activities—including of course, that I am a writing fellow. I merely finish saying the word fellow, thinking to myself, I’ll probably have to speak for another minute or two explaining what a writing fellow is. But this is not so. Here are two freshman girls who cannot contain their excitement. They exclaim—taking turns in expressing their enthusiasm—“You’re a writing fellow?! I’m sooo excited to come to you! I heard it’s really hard to get an appointment though!”

I guess I was a bit clueless when I was a freshman; it took two whole weeks after classes started for me to get to know the Writing Center to understand the role of a writing fellow. Times have changed. Thank you social media!

Can Dancing Help Your Writing?

My dance teacher avidly believes that dancing improves one’s Math skills. To some extent, I completely agree. A dancer must be able to count beats of any form: whole, half, one-eighth, one-sixteenth, and sometimes, even smaller than that. A dancer must also readily be able to divide a 64-count phrase into four equal phrases, sixteen counts per phrase–remember the multiplication table you learned in third grade?

Yet, over the sixteen years of my dance training, I’ve found that dancing has actually helped my writing. It was hard to convince people that dancing is like a push button; when pressed, it activates something in the brain that allows for spontaneity and creative thinking. When I write, I find myself going into that push-button dance mode, hoping that a cascade of thoughts and words flow through my head, just as a series of steps and phrases encompass my body when I dance. It works.

And just recently, I ran into an article that proves why it works. In the middle of the article, author Richard Powers introduces an aphorism.

“The more stepping stones there are across the creek,
the easier it is to cross in your own style.

The focus of that aphorism was creative thinking, to find as many alternative paths as possible to a creative solution.  But as we age, parallel processing becomes more critical.  Now it’s no longer a matter of style, it’s a matter of survival — getting across the creek at all.  Randomly dying brain cells are like stepping stones being removed one by one.  Those who had only one well-worn path of stones are completely blocked when some are removed.  But those who spent their lives trying different mental routes each time, creating a myriad of possible paths, still have several paths left.

The Albert Einstein College of Medicine study shows that we need to keep as many of those paths active as we can, while also generating new paths, to maintain the complexity of our neuronal synapses.”

The study was of course, primarily for preventing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, yet the activation of the creative process is very much applicable to our everyday writing processes. Writing is a world of its own, and there are endless ways to approach writing; I wanted to share my approach–through the dance push-button mode. As Richard Powers concludes, “Don’t wait,” start dancing now!

For the complete article: http://socialdance.stanford.edu/syllabi/smarter.htm