Monthly Archives: January 2012

the thing about the body

Poster of a drawing of a young woman smiling with the words, arms wrapped around her body -- it's the only one you've got -- next to her. The words "love your body" have been ripped off of the posterOh, good morning, good morning, out there. Is it quiet where you are? In my head, here, there’s some cacophony — but outside it’s still quiet — no birdsong, no owls.

Last night, at Write Whole, we had this prompt: First, make a list of parts of the body. Got that? Now fit those words into this phrase: “The thing about ___ is…”

You’ll end up with several prompts, depending on how many items were on your list: The thing about hands is…, the thing about backs is…, the thing about shoulders is… You might even chose (as many of us did) to use, The thing about bodies is…

Change these in any way that’s interesting for you (The thing about my shoulders is… or the thing about her hands … or the thing about his back isn’t…)

Notice which of these fragments is calling for completion, and let that be your starting place this morning. We took twenty minutes. You take the time you’d like.

Here’s my response to this prompt:

The thing about the body is that it hold so much sorrow and joy, it carries weight greater than the sum of its parts, greater than the scale can register. It — she, we — this body is laden with history that no one can see scratched across its surface except me. there re the phrases and fragments that lie at the underside of my feet, in my kneecap, in the ball that’s captured within my shoulderblade.

The thing about the body is its noises and its silences, its poetic licenses, its hand held devices. the thing about the body is it knows. Where can I go from here? This body is carrying too much forever right now, too much implosion, tells me when to stop and go and I am learning to pay attention — not just to twinges and pains but to the deep unspeakable Yes-es that live in muscles that want to stretch, slip against time, relinquish into a new kind of knowing.

The thing about this body is that its beloved. It’s finally beloved, under its own eyes — if I wanted to stop objectifying I could say in my own eyes. I look in the mirror and think how glad I am of these strong thighs, hard-walking feet, calves that push me up hills, belly I can cup just in the palms of my two hands, a back that can bear both joy and burden. I have been thinking, now and again for several years, in these sparks and flashes of joy and pleasure-taking–really, feels like cracks in the asphalt armor of self shame and mass misappropriation of the labor my own eyes are meant to do — what was I saying? I mean, when I consider my own skin and bone, when I have this deep joy about, god, just look, this good and troubled body. In those moments, there isn’t forefronted the horrors that stretchmark their silent scars across thighs or breasts, there’s just this profound appreciation for a body gone golden and furred and hard and soft with work and tears and laughter,  I have this exquisite ache of longing — already — for what will be lost when I die, how I will, it must be that I will miss this good body, these hands that have held shame and cupped loves and dug into earth all across this wide country, these legs that give me hills, that translate  longing or sorrow or rage to motion and just let me go, this belly that has been squeezed and unfavored and adorned that now rests pretty and soft just over my lap and gets (even maybe though it’s just for this moment) to be beloved.

What does it mean to come to the place where the site of the crime can be beloved, I mean when the tar-slicked terrain can be reclaimed, where I hold and understand, yes, his mouth has rested here, here, and there–but not today. Today I know those stories exist,but they are an undershadow, an inside ring, an old cascading. What does it mean when I decide the castigated, too-wide smile gets to be just and exactly right for those too-full cheeks? What does it mean to hold (to have held), in one hand, his penetrations, and, in the other, hold the glory these very fingers can bring forth from that same curve and flush of my skin? This is a hard-working body, a privileged body, a harmed body, a beloved body. What does it mean when all these are true, exactly at the same moment, and I can just meet this scattershot heartbeat with joy?

Thanks for your you-ness today, the ways you are tender and gentle with the bodies that surround you, including your own. Thank you for your creative energies today. Thank you for your words.

absolutely first

black graffiti (on a faded brick wall) of a paper airplane in flightIt’s all fog outside my windows this morning, and foghorns, and one owl. The air is greened and thick, and the puppy can’t wait to get out into it.

What’s it like where you are? How are you welcoming this Friday into you?

Here’s an offering for today, from Eric Maisel’s Coaching the Artist Within (pp xviii-xix):

At six the next morning I’m at my computer writing. I write every morning, seven days a week, for at least an hour and on good days for three or four: I try to sell the idea of regularity and routine to my clients, the idea that some significant percentage of the disappointment they feel about not creating will evaporate like sun-kissed mist if only they will commit to getting to their creative work first thing every morning. Creating should come first, absolutely first, before their yoga, before their mental chatter begins, before they start dressing for work or hauling the kids off to school. If they could only bring their “new-morning” mind to their creative work, they would work like angels. This is one of my coaching mantras.

How can you put your creativity, your creative self, absolutely first in your day? That’s a prompt-thought for today, whether you write in response or just let the question float through you.

Thanks for your eyes today, all the beauty that you see and offer, and for the hope and revolutionary need that brings you back to the page, the pen, the colors, your creative work. Thanks for your creations. Thanks for your words.

unpetalling — and erotic writing workshops coming up

graffiti of a rose, with a heart at the center, black paint on concretegood morning good morning. I haven’t offered a tea report for awhile here — this morning’s tea is wulong with mint and nettle, and some crushed anise and cardamon seed. Thanks to my sister and her sweetheart for the wulong — I’ve been doing a bit more caffeine lately, drinking more black and a lot more green tea. This morning my heart is pounding, but I don’t think that’s the aftermath of alchemical buzz. It’s something different.

What do you do on the mornings you can’t remember your dreams, but you know you had them? Meditation would be ideal, I think, wouldn’t it?

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A quick reminder about what’s coming up (apparently it’s all erotic all the time around here, at least according to this update):

Tonight! 1/25 — the Erotic Reading Circle! Join Carol Queen and me for the first Reading Circle of 2012. Bring stories/writing to share, or just be a part of the circle of listeners. 7:30pm, Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission St, San Francisco. $5 (suggested donation, no one turned away)

Saturday, 1/28 — Perverts Put Out! I get to perform along with a whole list of amazingness: Sherilyn Connelly, Daphne Gottleib, Philip Huang, Juba Kalamka, Kirk Read, Thomas Roche, and horehound stillpoint. Jan 28, 7:30 pm, Center for Sex and Culture, $10-15. Come on out and warm up your January.

Saturday, 2/4 — Declaring Our Erotic! Join us for the first meeting of our new monthly writing retreats. Each month, come together with a fun, powerful, and supportive group of writers to dive into some sexy and surprising new writing! We will work with a theme every month (February’s is New Beginnings), and you will be invited to write into the ideas that theme inspires in you, or you are welcome to use the workshop retreat time to do whatever writing is most pressing for you. Connect with fierce writing community and offer yourself into your own erotic voice. Spaces are still open!

1/30-2/29 — I’m also leading an online erotic writing intensive with the Transformative Language Arts Network, Claiming Our Erotic Story. Discover the liberatory uses of erotic writing as you try your hand at some explicit erotic writing, and, in so doing, get more comfortable exploring and talking about sexual desires, explore the varied and complex aspects of sexuality and desire, and celebrate the fullness of our erotic expression! Register with the TLAN — I’m looking forward to writing with you!

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That’s right, now I remember: I dreamed I was with a group of writers (maybe for a workshop) at a bookstore, and I pulled a book off the shelf and said, oh, look, they have my book! It was a book about writing, with exercises, etc. And then I looked again at the cover and it wasn’t mine. In fact, I didn’t have a book. This was someone else’s book that I often mistook for one I had written, or felt that I could/should have written.

Some needling for me in that remembering — yowza.

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A poem prompt today. (Thanks to my friend E., who introduced me to the book of poems called Risk Everything, where this was inside). Let yourself read the poem a time or two, and notice what lines call to your writing self, what associations or images arise in you as you read. Give yourself 10 minutes, and just write.

I Unpetalled You
Juan Ramon Jimenez,
translated Stephen Mitchell

I unpetalled you, like a rose,
to see your soul,
and I didn’t see it.
But everything around
— horizons of land and of seas –,
everything, out to the infinite,
was filled with a fragrance,
enormous and alive.

Thank you for all the ways you unpetal, the ways you risk, the ways you offer your brilliance and fragrance to the world. Thank you for your words.

dreamtime

scrapbooked graffiti -- a newspaper butterfly with the words 'don't pretend' up over the right wingGood (& wet) morning to you out there — how is this Saturday morning (is it still morning where you are?) rising in you?

I’m preparing for today’s Writing the Flood workshop, and getting some writing together to send out to the folks in the Dive Deep workshop. Suddenly, there’s a lot of writing-related work happening in my life, and I’m so grateful for that.

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Here’s a prompt and a write for this morning — the prompt comes from the second Dive Deep meeting, last Thursday evening. We spent most of that meeting discussing one another’s writing, but we write together every time, even if it’s just a short one, like this here.

The prompt was, “this is what the dreamtime looks like.” We took 7 minutes — give yourself 10 or 15, if you’ve got it, and follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

This was my response on Thursday, a stream of consciousness:

This is what the dreamtime looks like: this long lanky backwoods, this soft deciduousness, this capital market statuary, this beekeeping, this ephemera, those dancing feet, the hands on fire holding a bewildered heart, that long sip of soup, this fading you. The dreamtime went black but still she brings her roses to its feet, still she knelt down with offerings, her body bare or barren, brute force peeling the skin of her knees. This is what prayer feels like when its heavy, the push of an exhalation through chewed and swollen lips, yellowed skin far from the sun. This is her offering to what the dreamtime doesn’t give her, this lack of answers: a bat cave laden and latex but hollow, and she walks away from too many toys and the promise of a fast ride and another broken hero. She jumps on the back of a lace-heavy ghost, she kicks at shins, she wails for the priest’s attention but all the monikers have turned their backs, spelunking among stalactites and sulfur breezes. Her knees are raw, not bleeding, just colorful, and she knots them heavy with sediment and shallow pearlescence. She is still waiting for the blue dreams, the hopeful sleep, the wrap-around dances of drummer’s bones, she is knelt at the mouth of everything and all she is waiting for is to be swallowed.

Thanks for the way you let your words come, even when they are confusing and messy, even when the sense hasn’t formed around them yet. Thanks for your creation, your faith in what you make.

protest sopa & pipa

Writing Ourselves Whole is participating, today, in the online protest against the internet censorship bills SOPA (pdf) and PIPA (pdf). While I haven’t blacked out the whole site, I’ve blacked out the banner above — sort of like a black armband.

Check out sopastrike.com or blacklists.eff.org to find out more about the strike, how these bills would damage the free internet as we know it today, and how you can help. Here’s a video (put together by the group Fight for the Future) that describes more about the damage these bills would do.

The prompt for today is to write or call your congressfolks if you disagree with these bills and don’t want to see them pass. http://sopastrike.com/strike has language to begin with, if you’re not sure what you should say —

Your words are necessary, and a free internet helps them get to the people who need to see them.

give from the overflow

graffiti human math equationGood morning good morning, and happy Wednesday to you. How is your 2012 moving in you so far?

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Write Whole starts next week — I know I’ve asked that folks be signed up by Jan 9th, but if you’ve been holding off and have just now decided that you really want to join us, please let me know. We still have a couple of spaces left, and it’d be great to write with you!

Also! I get to read at the first-of-2012 Perverts Put Out on Jan 28, 7:30 pm, Center for Sex and Culture. This is always an exceptional show, and every time I get to participate I’m honored. There’s going to be some excellent and wicked smart dirtiness; just look at this amazing line up: Sherilyn Connelly, Daphne Gottleib, Philip Huang, Juba Kalamka, Kirk Read, Thomas Roche, and horehound stillpoint (and me!). Come on down and join us!

This is a good time to remind you, too, that the first of the year Declaring Our Erotic Saturday workshop series begins next month, on February 5th. Our theme is New Beginnings. It would be great to have you there.

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Yesterday was a self care / mental health day. Do you take those? I spent the better part of the day in San Francisco, first for analysis, but then I walked some, went over to the Mission and spent time writing at Muddy’s and then hit Community Thrift (which I used to call the best bookstore in the city, but that’s shifted since all the colleges in the Mission closed). It felt good, necessary, not to be on any schedule, to get to wander.

This is a quiet-on-line time for me right now, because I’m doing a bunch of difficult inner work. That work takes energy, just as any creative or excavation process does. So it’s important to stop and take breaks, take care of self, do the things that fill me back up. You know, don’t you, from your own experience, how difficult and self-indulgent that can be? And still so necessary. Even after just that one day of quiet, that one day away from the computer, away from email, in the evening, I felt how my energy had increased.

I thought about something I’d read on Monday, about how we have to fill ourselves up and then give/serve from our overflow. How many of us give when there’s nothing left of us, when we are drained and exhausted, when we are overloaded and overwhelmed?

Give from the overflow — I (again) let myself learn what that feels like. I have to keep teaching myself, keep letting myself learn this lesson.

You may (continue to) see fewer blog posts here — I think I should come up with a regular weekly posting schedule, at least twice a week I’d like to be in touch with you here, and writing for this space. But I’ve made some commitments to my manuscript/project group for daily page/word count goals for the novel, and I’ll need to work on that, I mean spend this precious morning writing time there.

Ideally, I’d have time every morning for an hour of notebook writing, a couple hours of novel work, an hour for the blog — all before the sun comes up. Tell me when I’d have to go to bed to get up in time to be able to accomplish that. Right now I’m making choices, which is a thing we so often have to do as creative folks: what do I most want to give to my art/creative self right now? What, if anything, will have to give in order to accomplish that? Am I ready to let that thing go?

This morning, I spent time on morning pages/journaling, but haven’t done my novel writing because I wanted to connect with you here. I’m going to go soon and do that page for the novel, because I didn’t yesterday, and I need to get caught up.

Have you thought about your creative/artistic goals for 2012? Are you getting down into the nitty gritty about how to let them emerge? What decisions are you making today in service of your deep and gorgeous creative self, in service of the art that we need in the world that only you can create?

I think I’ve written before about the sticky note that I have on the monitor of my desk at work. It’s a purple note, and in blue pen I’ve written, “one thing everyday” with a heart drawn below the words. That means, even if you have to be at the day job, Jen, you can still do something in service of your art, your heart-work. Maybe that means taking a walk at lunchtime to commune with the sea lions and bat rays and herons. Maybe that means sending an email I’d been putting off. Maybe that means taking my break and doing some writing. (I also have a note on my computer that reminds me to “be willing to be uncomfortable,” that helps me send the put-off email or make the postponed phone call, for instance. Deep breath, feel the fear, do it anyway. I have to be that inside coach — a good persona to develop!)

One thing. Every day. And often that one thing leads to desire/energy to do another one thing. Do the math — it adds up to a creative life, doesn’t it?

We can bring our creativity all over with us, to the day jobs that keep food on our tables, to the activism that save our hearts and connect us with others, to the service and recovery work we do, to our every minute. And that one thing everyday can also mean one act of self care everyday. Just one. Something tiny, I have to begin there. What works for you?

Thanks for your energy and your quiet, your dedication, your necessary words.

reading list

graffiti of a cat, tall and long, tail waved up over her headGood Wednesday morning to you — what is the quiet like where you are? Peaceful? Noisy? I woke up hearing the garbage truck go by down a ways in my neighborhood, and thought to myself, “The garbage truck doesn’t come at 4am — dang it.” My 4am alarm was going off, but I couldn’t hear it. I’m having a very hard time moving back into my early morning writing schedule, especially after those ten days on the road. But, here I am at the desk, and it feels good that I get to be here for at least an hour or so before the first day-job work day of the new year begins.

My desk is covered with books and papers at the moment, as I gather materials for the workshops beginning soon. Thank goodness the keyboard is beneath the desk — I might run out of room for it otherwise.

On Monday, New Year’s Day, I went out to the cafe at Book Passage — I picked up a coy of Poets & Writers Magazine, which I often don’t like to read because I feel so frustrated and self-shaming — look at all these people living their writing dreams, and here I am not doing the work I love, I think to myself — a clear sign that I need to spend more time actually writing — yikes!

However, I’m glad I snagged the Jan/Feb ’12 issue, because there’s a whole special section in this issue about inspiration — including an article about attention, about how our attention is fragmented by internet tools and social medial, and ways to think about and honor our need (if we have it), as writers, for long stretches of uninterrupted creative-work time. I felt so much permission in this piece, and also want to share it with the folks who come to the manuscript/project-workshop, as we think about crafting space in our lives for our writing projects.

I also found several new (to me) books, in the Book Passage’s used book section: FruitFlesh (great for prompt ideas and inspiration), Writing the Mind Alive (about the Proprioceptive Writing Method), and John Gardner’s On Becoming a Novelist. I feel like I’m building my own syllabus, as I work to craft possibility for this new workshop.

I’d like to add a reading list to the website — annotated, where possible. Do you have favorite books about writing, or books/media that inspire you as a writer? Will you leave a comment with a bit of information about this book, and let me know if it’s ok if I share your suggestion (along with your first name) on the site?

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A prompt for today? Was there a book or person or experience that made you want to become a writer? Do you remember how old you were when you had that meeting of possibility? Can you give ten minutes today to that resource, that ‘muse,’ that legacy?

Thanks for the history that led you exactly here today, to exactly where you are. Thanks for the flame in you. Thanks for your words.

diving deep & resolving

starburst graffiti from berkeleyGood morning, my friends — and welcome to 2012! How are you meeting this new year so far?

I have been on some journeys, and am moving into another one with the beginning of this year. Sophie, the Mr., and I all took off on a road trip out to Colorado for the holiday. It’s been two full weeks away from the regular routine, mostly away from the Internet, and during that time, quite a bit has been shaken up.

I’m not sure what I want to say today — there’s so much, and I haven’t been doing enough writing.

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I want to let you know that I’m going to be changing the look of the writing ourselves whole website here soon — I’m going to move the blog to its own separate page, instead of having it on the front page of the site. I want to make the site easier to navigate, and introduce myself and writing ourselves whole more formally to folks who are visiting the site for the first time; so, there’ll be a static page that gives a brief introduction to writing ourselves whole, and will offer links to workshop pages. If you have any input or suggestions, feel welcome to let me know!

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I’m excited about the new workshop that’s beginning this month. Our manuscript/project-focused group, Dive Deep, begins this coming Sunday! I’ve been gathering materials, handouts, articles — we’re going to be working hard together to vision not only our writing projects (book, collection, story, blogging practice, novel, memoir, or…) but also our writing lives. How do we make time and space for our creative practices? How can we support one another in making changes in our lives to open more time for dreaming, wool-gathering, idea formation, deep artistic work?

It’s going to be fun. There’ll be homework, drawings, calendar pages scrawled out on big hang-on-the-wall oversized post-its. I can’t wait.

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The dark time of the year, when the sun is down for more time than it’s out during the day here in our western hemisphere, is certainly a time of diving deep for me. Is it for you? I tend to get reflective, nesty — I want to settle in with a book, make plans, consider possibilities for my creative life.

I’ve started some new programs, and also have my resolutions, of course:

– write every day (that’s on my list every year)

– go dancing at least once a month

– move in more fun ways (might include an exercise class)

– spend more time with my sister

– call more friends and have more friend dates

– read a book a week (it’s easy for me to be in the middle of several books at a time, and thereby drag them all out)

– take a pottery class (part of my goal to heal and recover my full engagement with my hands)

– watch less tv (let’s make this more concrete: watch an hour of tv a day, and no tv if I’ve just watched a movie; watch no more than four movies a week. (I would like to say three, or even two, but that feels unnecessarily harsh, given my current practices))

– publish at least one book

There are more, resolutions that have to do with healing work and recovering trust in myself and my own instincts, listening to and honoring my intuition,  rebuilding what has become quite a fragment relationship with my inside self, looking for a teacher, finding serenity. These are private resolutions. It’s ok to have public and private resolutions, like public and private names.

I love the process of resolution-making: it feels kind of like morning on the first day of school (which I think I always liked) — so much possibility, all these new people around who could become excellent friends, and that person up at the front of the room who was so clear and kind and smart. In making these resolutions, and considering possible paths for their implementation (or just opening space in myself for their manifestation), I get to be both the kid at school and the teacher, both bubbly-bellied excited and deep-breath planner. This is good.

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Have you thought about or written already your resolutions or ideas for the new year? Here are a couple of prompt ideas:

– First, to write out your dreams and visions for your writing or creative life in this new year. Get as detailed as you want to be, about writing space or goals for your work or where you’ll get published or where you’ll go on retreat or anything.

– Second, if you’re working with a project, have you written about your character’s/characters’ resolutions? That could give you some powerful insight about them.

Take the time you want — at least ten minutes, though. Follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thanks for being here, in all that being and here can mean. Thanks for your consistent patience and gentleness with yourself and your creative work. Thanks every day for your words.

Ready to write? Writing Ourselves Whole offers expanded classes and locations in 2012

Please pass the word! Winter ’12 workshops begin next weekend! xo, Jen

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 20, 2011
Writing Ourselves Whole 1645 Mar West Street, #5 Tiburon, CA 94920
Jen Cross 415-608-3398 Jennifer@writingourselveswhole.org

Ready to write? Writing Ourselves Whole offers expanded classes and locations in 2012.

In January 2012, Jen Cross and Writing Ourselves Whole will offer several exciting new writing workshops, with expanded opportunities for writers of all experience levels and all genres. All workshops use the Amherst Writers and Artists Method, which provides a safe, non-judgemental environment for writing community.

Offerings will include:

  • Write Whole: Survivors Write is open to all women survivors of sexual trauma and will meet in San Francisco 8 Monday evenings, beginning January 16.
  • Declaring Our Erotic is open to all writers and will meet in San Francisco every first Saturday of the month, 10-5, beginning February 4.
  • Writing the Flood is open to all writers and will meet in San Francisco every third Saturday of the month, 1-4:30, beginning January 21.
  • Dive Deep is a manuscript-focused group open to all writers who are working on longer projects and meets in San Francisco, three times a month, beginning January 8.
  • Bayview Writers: a Marin-based writing workshop with Tuesday morning women’s group and Wednesday evening group open to all. We will offer special, five-week introductory sessions of these workshops beginning January 31 and February 1.

“When we write our stories, we lay claim to them,” says Jen Cross. “We gain a greater sense of control over our experience because we have to put it into some kind of order to get it down on the page. We make sense of the story – in some ways, we create that sense as we’re writing it.”

A recent workshop participant said: “Jen Cross’s approach offers a safe but challenging space for maximizing creativity. I’ve been able to break through my writing blocks and am moving toward publication, all with her continued support.”

Jen Cross is a widely-published freelance writer, facilitator and performer. She holds an MA in Transformative Language Arts from Goddard College, and is a certified facilitator of the Amherst Writers & Artists method. Jen has lead writing workshops in the Bay Area and beyond since 2002.

Since 2002, Writing Ourselves Whole has sought to change our communities through writing. We hold the belief that to express our own story changes the world.
Please contact Jen Cross for more information at writingourselveswhole.org

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