Turning Points at Write for Growth

It so often happens: A Write for Growth topic I thought would be quite straightforward is more complicated than expected. 

As we gathered at Gladstone’s Library earlier in July to explore our theme of Turning Points, we started by looking at Robert Frost’s deceptively simple poem, ‘The Road Not Taken.’

The reader can easily be soothed into a false sense of security by the regular rhythm and rhyme as the speaker faces the choice of taking one of ‘Two roads,’ that ‘diverged in a yellow wood,’

and eventually ‘took the one less traveled by.’ 

This has popularly been read as a call to strike out on an individualistic path in life, but the choice is not as unambiguous as it first appears. The two paths do not look significantly different. At one point we are told that ‘the passing there/Had worn them really about the same.’  We are left to wonder whether the sigh that the speaker makes in the wake of their choice will be one of regret or relief.

A turning point it seems, is not always a clear black or white choice. Frost himself described his poem as having a playful element. He recalled country walks with his English poet friend, Edward Thomas, where Thomas struggled to choose between alternative paths ahead – and apparently often expressed regret at not taking the other one. 

Shifts of direction within the writing of a poem itself help sustain its momentum. Frost’s final turning point is the speaker’s enigmatic observation that their choice of path ‘has made all the difference.’ 

We began to reflect on turning points that had marked our own shifts of direction as we mapped out our life-journeys. Alongside discerning some personal patterns, we identified some different categories of turning point.

  • Turning points can be a result of definite choices; active decisions made in response to dilemmas faced. 
  • There are turning points over which we have no control, where outer events necessitate an adjustment or change of direction on our part.
  • One participant noted that it was a decision she made on behalf of another family member that led to a turning point in her own life.
  • For some of us, a turning point could also be an internal shift of mind-set – what someone described as a personal epiphany. 
  • We may be conscious of particular turning points at the time; others we may only recognise in retrospect.

Writing about turning points helped us explore the interplay between the outer events and individual decisions that formed our own life’s momentum.

You may like to follow this up in your own writing: List up to twelve personal turning points. These might be over your life as a whole, or you might prefer to track a particular period or aspect of your life, such as a career or the different locations where you have lived.

List these turning points as they occur to you, writing freely and without analysing them.

Afterwards, re-read and reflect on what you have written. You might want to re-order your list, perhaps according to chronology or category.

Write a few sentences on what you notice. What seems most significant to you about these turning points? You could also choose one that particularly interests you to explore in more depth. Write about what led up to it, what the shift was like and what was different afterwards. You could start the piece with ‘It was a time when..’

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  • About Julia

    Julia

    From writing stories for my younger brother, to penning poems for the School Magazine and filling a growing pile of personal journals, the written word has always been part of my life’s journey.

    I started out as an English Teacher and subsequently retrained as a Counsellor. I have counselled in a GP Surgery and worked with various Employee Assistance Schemes and Charitable Trusts alongside seeing private clients.

    Although I have done some freelance journalism and written four non-fiction books, creative writing has become my main focus in recent years.

    My poems have appeared online on sites including Amaryllis, Silver Birch Press, Clear Poetry, Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis, Riggwelter and Ink,Sweat and Tears. I have been published in Curlew and Bucks Mill Magazine, and anthologised in Our Hearts Still Sing. My first poetry collection, Chester City Walls, came out in 2015.

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