Can You Make This Unfamiliar?

I’m teaching my students how to de-familiarize themselves from their own writing in order to find errors.  It’s a strange phenomenon of writing:  when you write a paragraph and then reread it, it’s as if the brain knows how it should read and somehow blinds us to mistakes.

We need to make the text unfamiliar again.

I invite them to read their paragraphs in reverse order; I encourage them to change the font; I have them read words on paper instead of on a screen; I challenge them to give the writing a 48 hour break.  I knew a man in graduate school who placed a ruler under every line of text in order to detach it from its context.  He could find errors every time.

All day, I remember the beauty and power of the unfamiliar.  I remember why I need to detach from the old familiar contexts.  In familiar settings, coping mechanisms, dysfunctional relational patterns, and spiritual blind spots set in.  But remove me from my settings and get me away from the familiar?  Suddenly I have clear focus.  I can see all the junk.  I think this explains the importance of weekend retreats, marriage date nights, travel opportunities, and simple changes in routine.  This explains why I need to get on my knees, away from my life patterns, to listen to God. 

We makes things unfamiliar in order to see again. 

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Journal:  How can we make our lives a little unfamiliar today?

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