Monthly Archives: March 2012

what stays (part 2)

purple crocus with a bit of snow (shaped like australia!) at its baseThis morning I woke up at four with the puppy standing up right next to my head — I’d been in the middle of a dream, the only bit of which I can remember now involving times that were divisible– preferably by parts of themselves into other parts, like 2:42 or 3:09– and those times being more comfortable than other times — than prime times, I realized, when I woke up and wrote it down; interesting, no? I wonder if she felt me in REM sleep and wanted me back. Or else she just wanted some attention. This was going to be the first morning in more than two weeks that I woke up to an alarm — and then she thwarted that electronic wakening, thank goodness.

good morning good morning to you — how is this day holding you so far?

I snuggled my hands around the pup for a bit, then got out of bed and went to make my tea. I wrote hard for about an hour, letting words for this new project that I began in earnest back at Hedgebrook push down through the pen and onto the paper.

This is a thing that stays with me from my time on writing retreat — letting the words come when they come, making space and quiet for that practice and flow. Then, also, being easy with the process: I don’t have to force the words to come. There will be more time later for more writing; I don’t have to do it all right this second.

(This, as it turns out, is a metaphor for something else I’m dealing with in my life and body just now, and I recognize it as I type here in my dark office with the candlelight and the tea steam. Oh yes. Just keep breathing. Let it come as it comes, and trust that it will come.)

Another piece that stays for me is this desire for both morning and nighttime writing, and the different work I prefer to do at different times of the day: the mornings, for me, are best for this generative work, letting new material urge out of me. Afternoons I am excellent for editing, getting particular and crafty, making sharp or brutal cuts — midday light is good for seeing more clearly what fits and what doesn’t. In the evening I like to do reflective work, generative again, but with a different tenor from the morning writes; I have more of a synthesizing capacity at this time of the day, which meant, of course, that it was a lovely time for letter-writing. What a powerful thing, to get to meet my writing rhythms in that way.

Much of the work I did on the novel over my time on retreat I did using timed writing practice — I set the timer on my phone (which I kept on airplane mode for most of my time away, using that smart device for timing, for music, for pictures and recordings) for thirty minutes, then dove into whatever scene needed to be written. A couple of times I went through old workshop syllabi, looking for prompts just to get me kickstarted. These helped! The prompts is just a door that we use to pass through into whatever really wants to get written in the moment — it both does and doesn’t matter, I find, what the prompt is, as long as it’s one that I have some emotional engagement/reaction to, as long as it gets my pen moving on the page. I’d write for that half-hour, then take a break when the timer went off; stand up, stretch, heat up lunch or tend the woodstove or go outside for a minute and breathe that ridiculously clear air. Come back to the desk after, reset the timer, grab another prompt, write for another thirty minutes. There were a couple of times, too, when I didn’t break, when I was hard in the words and I just set the timer for another full half-hour and kept going, writing as long as I could, letting the whole scene come on out. Talk about a gift.

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So, a couple of ideas for writing this morning:

- What are your writing rhythms? How does your creative practice move through you over the course of a day?

- Grab an old prompt from here in this blog or your journal or anywhere else — take one you’ve used before and drop into it again. Let yourself be surprised by what emerges when you return to it, let it just be the doorway you pass through into whatever writing you most want or need to do this morning.

Give yourself fifteen minutes, or twenty, if you can. (Or 10 or 45; you know the drill around here.) Follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thanks for your words today; I mean that. Thanks for all that you notice and celebrate around you. Thanks for your generosity, your compassion, your breath.

what stays (part 1)

good morning good morning — I’m back from Hedgebrook, and am slowly moving back into (and transforming some of) the rhythms of my away-from-retreat life.

Happy St. Pat’s day to you, if’n you’re celebrating. Don’t forget your green. Don’t forget, either, that snakes often have good things to teach us; driving them all out of our garden doesn’t always serve us.

(Or, hasn’t always served me; let’s just keep it away from the directive/dictatorial here, shall we? :)

There’s so very much I want to share with you about these last two weeks at the writing retreat; I’ll bring those words here, over the next week or so. Here’s what I want to say now: I met my writing body there on that island in Puget Sound. I got to unpack all the different parts of my writing world and scatter them around a small cabin, look at them all, hold them in my hands, in the light of the fire from a woodstove, in the birdsong, in the green-grey early morning light that is particular to the Pacific Northwest — and gently, organically, find (again, again) how all those pieces, projects, longings, aches and words could fit together inside this life.

I wrote every day, mostly by hand, some into the computer; each morning I tucked myself into the thick green cushion of a small window bench in my cabin, propped my notebook on my knees and wrote myself awake.  I walked or ran every day, too, down to the shore or around the hilly side roads. I walked in the rain, talked to eagles and sheep, talked to the green ponds and crocus and cedar. I held this waking body in my hands and reminded it/us how far we have come, even from the places we thought were our greatest healing.

And I wrote letters, which was one of the greatest gifts of these weeks: the chance to remember how much I adore the epistolary form. Every night after dinner (all of us writing women gathered together for dinner each evening at 5:30, where we could laugh or commiserate (generally both) about the day’s work), I would come back to my cabin, put the tea kettle on, start some music (I spent a lot of time with Lila Downs during these weeks), and sit down at the big writing desk. I’d pull over the notebook I was using for letters (the one that so nicely releases the paper from its perforated seam), put the date at the top right corner of the page, and started with Dear… and then I was off, in intimate and contemplative conversation with my friend. What spaciousness! So different from the sense of pressure I feel when composing an email (even if I can give myself time to reply, still there is the urgency of immediacy that inheres in email). I described that day, taking my time, and then wove in poems or bits from whatever I was reading, maybe responded to question from email or continued a conversation we’d begun in person. Here, then, were all those parts of my writing self getting to interweave, organically, and through the movement of my hand on the page. It felt like a new form of writing practice, and I am hooked again.

And then, the pleasure of getting to fold up, address, stamp each missive. Then the pleasure, each morning, of the long green walk from my cabin down to the mailbox, placing the letter inside it’s wide mouth, closing the lid and putting up the red flag that would alert the mailperson that I had something important to share with someone I love.

This is some of what stays from Hedgebrook. More soon. Thanks for being here, for your everpresent and everflowing words.

headed in

Headed off into the wilds of this writing retreat at Hedgebrook, and will be up there for two weeks.

I will try to update the blog a couple of times from up there — let’s see if that’s possible.

Still grateful for you, though, like always. ♥