The past two weeks, I have been reading articles on holistic approaches to psychology, martial arts, lifestyle, and medicine. So of course I decided to explore what people said about holistic writing on blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the web in general.
I found near silence.
So I decided to tackle the idea myself.
Holistic comes from the noun holism,which is most commonly used in three ways. Below are three holistic approaches to writing based on these definitions.
- Unity. In one use of holism, the parts can only be understood as they contribute to the whole. If you wish to use this approach, then look at your target section as a whole unit instead of as a lot of pieces because those pieces interact to form the whole piece.
Example 1: A scene often includes dialogue or monologue PLUS action PLUS description. You can certainly look at each element individually but to gauge the effectiveness of the scene, you probably should look at how these elements interact to form the whole. In this approach,we do not just look at the dialogue, action, description, etc, in isolation but in terms of how it/they contribute to the entire section. And we look at the section (be it a beat, scene, or chapter) not in isolation but in terms of how it contributes to a greater unit (the beat to the scene, the scene to the chapter, the chapter to the book, the book to the series).
- Synergy. In a similar yet distinct usage of holism, the whole is more than the sum of the parts. To clarify, in the first definition, the pieces interact to make a whole unit. In this second definition, the parts synergize to form a whole that is greater than the parts.
Example 2: This holistic approach requires getting into your “reader mind”. A reader does not analyze each part of a beat, scene, or chapter. the reader absorbs the entire experience presented by a blending of all the writer’s techniques. Ask an uncritical reader and s/he hopefully say “awesome”, “couldn’t put it own to sleep”, “totally engrossing”. What writing technique causes this? No single technique but the synergy created by every tool in your arsenal.
- Integrity. In this third use of holism, I use “integrity” not in the moral sense but in the structural sense — specifically the broader structure of our lives.
Example 3: While some people try to live their lives in compartments, a more integrated life-style can greatly benefit your writing. First of all, by not compartmentalizing (“this is office time, this is family time, and this is writing time”), your writer mind will be more alert. You will have an easier time drawing on experiences that occur outside your “research and writing time”.
Example 4: Healthy life-style practices definitely affect your ability to function as a writer (especially in terms of creativity, productivity, and stamina). Making priorities of physical, mental, and spiritual health — integrating healthy practices into your lifestyle — is an important part of taking care of yourself as a writer.
There you have it. Three different paths to holistic writing! I enjoyed writing this post and hope you find it helpful.
Has this post prompted any ideas of your own? We’d love to hear about your ideas and experiences in the comments section!
Have a question or topic you’d like to see addressed? Drop me a line!