shaping a writing home

mural: fish and faces and movement and kitties and eyes and eyes and eyesgood morning good morning– it’s early, the tea is cooling, the sun is pearling the morning clouds, the candles flicker over everything.

How does your morning lift you so far?

I’m in the quiet writing room where I can’t see out any windows, where I don’t look out into the quiet uncommutered street, where I am only focused on the screen, on the notebook, on the words.

Above me, on the built in shelves, are the sticky notes I brought back with me from Hedgebrook (such as this one from Christian McEwen’s World Enough and Time: “Fall if you must fall / The one you will become will catch you”), a short string of Tibetan prayer flags (which can’t strictly pray, since there’s no breeze in this room — maybe sharp exhalations of frustration, though, would flutter them, would offer movement enough), the poems (Wild Geese, yes, of course, and Roberta Werdinger’s fabulous “Poem,” which opens Give me your blood your bone / your sockets your breath¬†and closes with the lines Open my body leave in a mark / Open me river me do what you will.), and image of Artemis the moon dancer that I received from a friend many years ago back when I lived in Maine.

Up above that on the next shelf up is a short row of cloth-covered notebooks, the ones from junior high and high school, those first words. At least three of those notebooks were gifts from my sister, who offered me places for my real words even when both of us knew perfectly well that I couldn’t speak any true words at all — those notebooks were places of potential, and I learned to write poems that screamed truth without saying anything incriminating. How’s that for internalized cognitive dissonance (wait — can cognitive dissonance ever be externalized?), learning to function as a budding artist within the shifting dogmatic confines of a totalitarian system.

Above that begin the books — the row of anthologies and magazines where my writing has appeared, the chapbooks I’ve put together for Body Heat tours: these are the filled-in notebooks, the aftermath and blossoming of those budded poems that appeared in the pink and red and grey soft-bound blank books I received from my sister. (To my left, in large plastic storage boxes, are the years and years of freewriting notebooks, waiting their turn to have their contents harvested and reused, waiting to get to be released into the air again, waiting for me to tire of needing to have my last twenty years of history captured in the page.)

This is just one of my writing spaces. Another is the kitchen table, the wobbly round blonde wood table that used to be in the Writing Ourselves Whole office in the Flood Building. Another is my bed: many pillows all shoved behind me, red alter candle lit and glowing, pen moving fast on the unlined pages of a fat spiral bound sketchbook. Another is a cafe table. Another is the window seat in the far back of an airplane pointed in almost any direction.

Another is with the notebook balanced on my knees, sitting perched in my folding chair, in the middle of a workshop, surrounded by other writers with pens and fingers moving hard and fast all around me.

What does/do your writing space(s) look and feel like? Do you need particular things or structures or context or environment in order to get into the writing, in order to drop down onto the page or into your story? How do you arrange for your writing self to get to access that environment?

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Do you have an ideal writing space? Can you write even when you don’t have all the right elements in place? Give yourself 10 minutes today, and write about where you write best, what your ideal writing office would look like, let yourself all the way into it: drop that visualization down onto the page. Breathe life into it. Follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go —

Thank you for the ways you have tended to your art all these years, even when you haven’t been able to do that work in just the sort of place you’d prefer. Thank you for your drive and persistence, your generosity of spirit, your need to release those words. And, of course, so many thanks for those words.


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