Professor Belli | Spring 2022 | City Tech | ENG 3402: Topics in Literature

Class Discussion #8: Self-Help as / through Writing

All semester we’ve devoted time and space to reflective writing. For the past few classes, we’ve intentionally written pre- and post-meditation, as we way of deepening our self-awareness of the present moment.

It is often through the process of writing that we come to know more about ourselves, what we value, what we need, what are desires are, where we want to go, how we get there.

In additional to self-knowledge and self-exploration, writing also creates new paths forward — it helps us tell stories, it takes us on journeys — often unexpected (sometimes it even becomes the journey itself). It helps us to dig deeper and to reveal what is not always on the surface — shows us that there is often more than meets the eye. Writing is a way of reflecting, assessing, processing, caring, grieving, healing, creating, empowering, expanding.

Freewriting, reflective writing, expressive writing — these are not only staples of good writing pedagogy; they are not only conduit for self-awareness, self-care, and self-help; they are also a critical components of the self-help genre. From the workbooks that offer reflective writing prompts, to the positive psychology exercises that promote gratitude reflection, to the post-meditation prompts that explore certain concepts and feelings … writing is integral to the self-help genre.

Let’s continue to make space, intentionally, for this type of reflective writing. For this Class Discussion, please share your reflections on self-help as through / writing.

If you feel comfortable, you can also share your freewriting from today’s class with the group. Make connections to the work you’ve done this semester, what you’ve learned about the self-help genre, and also to the self-help texts we’ve read.


  1. Olga Santos

    At the beginning of the self-help genre, I thought it would be focused more on the spiritual aspect and the enforcement of positivity. I thought it was something that requires a lot of work. The reason is that the impression of self-help I had was the feeling of being ‘ spiritually connected’ and a lot of meditation involved.
    However, over the course of the class, my mindset toward self-help has changed to a positive sense. I learned that self-help books are not all the same, some focus on one certain aspect. Rather there are multiple interpretations of self-help; some will follow the more common assumptions of self-help, while there are others who focus more on a real sense with proven facts. For instance, Such as the secret that directs you to believe in one thing as absolute while the 7 highly effective habits discuss more on the journey a person will experience success and failure to build a form of self-help. Even in our recent reading with Tolle, who expresses the importance of being in control over one’s emotions as there can be severe consequences if left unattended.
    In addition, the writing portion when meditating I find useful in terms of assessing how my mind was before and after. For instance in the beginning I would write about numerous things that were running in my thoughts. I was easily able to assess what I was feeling and why it made me feel that way. Meanwhile, after the meditation I found myself feeling relaxed almost like a clean slate. I would end up writing about the contrast between the feelings I felt before vs. now. As well as how beneficial it was to have a moment.

  2. Kelani

    At the beginning of this course, I honestly did not understand what self-help was. When we read “The Secret”, I was interested in the book but at the same time, the idea of just thinking about what you want into existence seemed a bit naive and unrealistic. I felt like it was true in a sense but I did not believe that it would work for me. I feel that a more simple form of self-help is more effective for my life for example the breathing exercises and the free writing prompts. I feel like the free writing assignments have been helpful because writing is always a good outlet. I enjoy meditation as well because it is relaxing and it is something that anyone can do easily.

  3. Kashfi Siddique

    At the beginning of this course, I frankly thought that self-help means when you help yourself. After I read “Secret” and other books, it makes me understand the true meaning and true aspect of self-help. I learned that self-help is the use of one’s own efforts and resources to achieve things without relying on others and then applying what you’ve learned to your life in order to create lasting positive change. Even though, this topic will bring positive change and meditation.

  4. Hanna Taveras

    Before this course I thought this was going to be a regular English class where we focus on different elements and components as we go through the semester. Little did I know I was going to be wrong. When I saw the course name it did intrigue me and I felt as if it was going to be a different class that I was going to enjoy and learn and I was right. Since the beginning of the semester my knowledge and mindset has changed with self help and I am so appreciative for that. In this course we do put in the work but it is also a class where we can relate and apply the knowledge from these books to our personal life. I also enjoy how different books in which different opinions of self help are portrayed as a class we get to see the different aspects and perspectives from these self help journals/ experts. In the beginning of the meditation I expressed myself and was somewhat stressed due to all the work I need to get done. After the meditation I got to be more at ease and got to release that stress that I needed

  5. Julie Lynch

    When I first wanted to take the course, I was skeptical that I would not like the class because it would be more problematic for me to do the work. In my mind, I thought we were going to learn different ways to structure our elements and read articles and watch videos to learn about different genres and characteristics. However, I was way off when I started the first day of the course when I read the syllabus. When I read the title “Self-Help Literature: Topics in Literature.” It caught my eye when I knew it would be different from my other English courses. It shows me that I can learn various aspects of being able to write clearly to express myself and get more information about what I will be learning through the Spring semester. At the beginning of the self-help genre, I thought it would be focused more on the spiritual aspect. I did not know anything about self-help or what it could mean. But I thought it meant to require a lot of work. So, the meaning of my understanding of self-help is having “self-improvement.”
    Moreover, throughout the class, my mindset has changed toward self-help being able to have a positive sense of learning what I didn’t know so that I can have an open mind on when I’m able to use this type of structure in the future. I learned that not all self-help books that I have read are not the same. Some focus on different features of our life on how we use them. Instead, there are multiple interpretations of self-help as we learn them in class.

  6. Sofia Meghla

    At the beginning of the class, I thought ENG 3402 seems like a high leveled course and I know surely it is. But I thought that there will be tons of articles which we will have to read. I thought there will be tons of essays we have to write. And I had zero knowledge about self help. I started to learn a lot of things in this class. And all of my predictions were wrong. This class helps not only for studies but also increase our general knowledge of self help which can calm both physical and mental health. When we started to do meditation in class, in the beginning Prof. Belli used to give us directions to breathe in and out. And I felt there was a change everytime I had the mediation in class. It refreshes our mind and helps us focus more on anywhere we need. Now we’re about to do our meditation project. I think in this way, we will be able to deal with our mental health.

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