Keep life simple. These words echo throughout the recovery community. Paradoxically, when asked to contribute “simply” to a blog my mind went blank: I can address the theory and current research related to “keep life simple” but I have not been able to write a short blog using the advice. How can I possibly write something meaningful and at the same time simple? With this dilemma on my mind, I found myself in Borders, reading the thirtieth edition of “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser (2008). His main tenant is that “Good writing can occur anywhere.” That includes blogs, I am sure. He says, “Millions of email messages every day give people the information they need to do their job, and a badly written message can do a lot of damage. So can a badly written Web site.”
Keep writing simple without incurring damage. Damage is misinformation, or presenting my opinion as if it were a fact. Because of my position as a professional in mental health I have an ethical obligation to assure that others are not mislead about what is my opinion versus what is fact. When I write I use research and theory to meet my ethical obligations.
Keep life simple, isn’t that simple. I watch patients going through family week at Cottonwood Tucson, who describe to their family members what they have learned that helps them to think differently. During their stay at Cottonwood they learn to respond to events in their lives in ways that are empowering. Being overwhelmed becomes information to patients that they need to simplify. They describe goals of allowing themselves to stay present and resist over thinking their experiences. When I first entered my profession I ran to the library each time something new came up. I was sure that there was a written answer about how to handle each situation. I practiced sitting quietly, acknowledged my urge to run to the library, and thought about what I knew and what I needed. Through that reflection answers emerged. It was simple. Old habits die hard, however, and 25 years later I still have times that I run to a library or bookstore, often to stimulate my thinking about what I know and what I need. This time, in front of me was William Zinsser, Yale Professor, classic writing advice for the past 30 years. Zinsser declared that the secret to good writing is simplicity. And writing is hard work. Is the secret to good living simplicity? Does it also follow that good living is hard work? Somehow the primary therapists at Cottonwood are teaching patients ways of keeping life simple. And I’m listening in during Family Weeks, hoping that keeping it simple can get easier.
Vicki Loyer-Carlson, Ph.D., LMFT
Family Program Counselor
Cottonwood de Tucson
4110 W. Sweetwater Drive
Tucson, AZ 85745