Tag Archives: writing practice

the radical act of putting our oxygen mask on first

In my community, a lot of folks are talking about radical self care – not just self care, but radical self care. But what makes taking a vacation or a bubble bath or watching Pretty in Pink or your favorite guilty pleasure movies with a pint of chocolate Coconut Dream and a package of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies radical?

I think you have an idea why. I think your deep heart knows. Your deep heart isn’t the questioning your real need for a break. It’s the other voices questioning you– the inner critic, the internalized perpetrator, your inner radical activist wanting to know how you can possibly justify an hour for a walk around the lake at the heart of your town or – holy shit – several days’ vacation when the revolution is nowhere near at hand and people are starving and beaten and suffering while you decide you’re just gonna take a little down time. Really? Who do you think you are? ask all the voices in unison.

Writing has been the place where I learned the power of a regular self care practice. I’ve had few other consistent self-care practices, save going for long walks. Writing has been my meditation, my grounding, my chance to be more fully in my skin for at least 15-30 minutes a day. On the days I don’t write, I am a less pleasant version of myself: cranky, crotchety, crabby – still disassembled. The days I write I find I breathe more easily. I feel more human. And still I’ve had stretches of days or weeks during which I told myself I didn’t have time to write – the voices of self-denial and abnegation are strong; they’re embedded in our very flesh.

We are not supposed to take care of ourselves. We know we’re not worth taking care of: those meant to care for and protect us didn’t, so who are we to do otherwise?

We live in a culture that trains us in dissatisfaction with our bodies and lives. We live in a culture that routinely disregards the lives and needs of those who have less power, and so we are left to struggle and battle for better living conditions for all. If we are activists, we inhabit a culture of overwork, in which direct and secondary trauma impacts everyone around us. We see our comrades doing too much for too little (if any) pay. We see frontline activists, direct action workers, burn out; we see long-timers harden into a professionalized cynical mindset that helps protect them from the pain and stress they see every day. It’s awful, but it’s par for the course. This is what you sign on for if you want to change anything in society. Right?

We are asked, during our job interviews for these jobs, how we take care of ourselves; we understand that we have to have an answer to this question. We also understand that our self care is never supposed to take priority over the work. The work.

I don’t believe this anymore. I used to, but after hitting a massive burnout in 2008 and then continuing to overwork myself for 2-3 more years, I have finally opened my eyes to the idea that there might be other, maybe even more effective, ways of engaging in a longterm and sustainable relationship with trauma and social change work.

Our self care is radical because we have been trained from birth to look to others’ needs first. Our self care is radical because it sustains us for the journey, it keeps us in the game, it makes our work more effective, it opens our hearts, it brings self-love back to the table as a necessary goal and practice.

We have to ask what kind of world we’re working for. Don’t we want — for all people — lives that have more life in them?

I know, you say. I’ll get there. I just have to finish this grant, do my shift at the co-op, organize tonight’s transformative justice roundtable, answer these 27 emails and cover the hotline…

Then I’ll take care of myself.

There’s no good time. There’s always going to be more work for we who are activists or other sorts of creative beings engaged in work that doesn’t get done. To do lists are only marginally useful when they include items like “upend patriarchy,” “write healing book,” “undo white supremacy,” “end sexual abuse.” I don’t know about you but I’ve had to do lists like that. The work seems endless – we’re a part of an enormous transformation. For us to be able to show up consistently and reliably in this work that we love, for the people and communities and world we believe in, we have to take care of our hearts and bodies and souls/ This is how we sustain ourselves in the world.

This decision, to sustain ourselves, is radical – especially for those of us whom society deems not at all worth saving. Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Self-care is radical when it directly contradicts the messages living in us, telling us we deserve to die.

Self care is uncomfortable for many of us: we fear judgment from our friends and communities, our comrades, our families, those around us who are not taking care of themselves. Of course it’s uncomfortable at first — and maybe for awhile: it’s discomfiting to act in direct opposition to the voices of those who say we don’t deserve to live, much less have joy, comfort, ease, pleasure and celebration in our lives.

Radical self care looks like acting with intention, looks like small daily or regular centering practices, looks like creative intervention in a way of life designed to sap all of your energy into the daily grind and away from love, intimacy, and cultural change.

Radical self care looks like leaving work on time instead of staying an extra two or three unpaid hours to finish “just one more thing.” It looks like learning to listen to your body.

Radical self care looks like saying Yes when someone I trust asks to give me a massage, rather than reflexively saying no out of some guilt that I hadn’t asked them first and wasn’t already giving them a massage. It means understanding what being an introvert means. It means listening to my energy patterns, my hungers, my curiosities.

Radical self care means being easy with myself, and it means pushing sometimes, too. It means releasing myself from the pressure to be like everyone else – either in mainstream culture or in my various alternative subcultures.

Radical self care means knowing that what works for me today might not work tomorrow – and what I think today is ridiculous, indulgent, woo-woo or way too Berkeley (body work? Ecstatic dance? Writing retreats? Somatic energy healing?) may very well be just the thing that works best for me tomorrow – so if I can ease off on my judgment of others, I’m likely to move more smoothly through my own healing process.

Radical self care means opening space in my life – means holding open room to move around. Down time. Breathing room. Means making sure that all these muscles I’m building and stretching have time to recuperate and strengthen – the resting is as important a part of the exercise as the contracting, after all.

What else is radical self care? Consent. Sobriety. Quitting the day job. Therapy. Going back to school. Quitting school. Media breaks. A movie marathon. Masturbation. A month of celibacy. A sex party. Tending a garden. Adopting a cat. Planning a vacation. Finding a different job. Leaving activist work. Returning to activist work. A cup of tea. Meditation. Making yourself a delicious lunch. Grieving. Watching movies that make you laugh and cry. What’s your list?

I think one of the reasons we call our self care radical is that we want to assert its importance. No, really, this matters: it’s radical. Things that are edgy, dangerous, and transformative are radical. Radical is about roots, is about shifting the core of a thing: of ourselves.

So, sleep is radical for those of us raised on exhaustion. A long talk with our best friend is radical for those of us isolated away from community. Deep, prolonged belly laughter is radical for those of us fed despair. These are transformative practices. Radical acts.

For me, it meant writing every day (and then reaching beyond a writing practice into other healing modalities, once I found the limits of what writing could do for me). Writing practice has helped me discover when I needed a break, has also helped me understand what I might need to do to take care of myself or make a change in my life. The writing itself, of course, is also a healing and self care practice. When I take the time to go back through the notebooks, to meet myself and my mind, as Natalie Goldberg encourages, I am confronted with clear information about where I’m out of balance. What am I complaining about regularly? What am I refusing to write? Where am I putting most of my energy? Is there a part of my body bothering me? Do I need a massage or a steam or a run or a hot bat or a nap or a swim or a movie or some play time? Am I in procrastination or avoidance mode and do I need to take some action? Am I lonely or people-overloaded? When I take the time to be in reflection (itself a practice of radical self care), then I can respond to what my body and life are asking for. In the end, this is about crafting a life that is sustainable and consistently nourishing me so that I can engage in work that nourishes others, so that I can be of use in the ways I am meant to be of use.

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What self care practices feel radical to you right now? What do you do to take care of yourself today that a younger self would not have been able to imagine? How would you like to be able to care for yourself? Can you give those ideas and imaginings 10-15 minutes on the page today? Follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thank you for your generosity and spaciousness with yourself, the way you model powerful self care practices for others. Thank you for your writing today, and thank you for your words.

begin again (again)

This is where we begin: at the open notebook, at the blank page. It’s morning again, and we are starting over, again. Even if we are in the middle of a longer work, even if we have characters who whisper to us in our dreams, still: every morning is a beginning again. Every morning we are afraid we might not be able to do it, or we are afraid that nothing will come. Every time we are confronted with that space of blankness that opens out behind our fingers, behind our eyes, behind the parts of our physical selves that do the writing, the places from which the writing emerges into and through us. I have written about this before, and I suspect I will return to it again, too.

This is where we begin: at the self that’s still healing, at the self that still aches for acceptance, at the parts of our own story still being written. What am I trying to say? I sit down at the notebook and want to make sense of a story that is still finding its way into words. This is a morning write. Deliver the words into the air of the page, deliver the words into the fear and the sadness anyway. Watch the sky shift from its nighttime blackness into shallow early morning shadow, and follow those shadows into the words you need to write.

This is where we begin: at the mourning places, with the voices in us that are still keening, with the small death songs that our hands have never been able to sing. We write them down. We write down what we could not mourn when we were younger: lost friendships, stolen dogs, missteps, old wantings, family that could have been but was not allowed to be.

This is where we begin: in the deep joy, in the play, in the silliness, in the wordwonder that struck us when we first began to move pencil across blue-lined pages. We begin again in that first delight in the fact we can shape out of only words a thing that didn’t exist before, an experience, an understanding, a conveyance from ourselves and into another (or more fully into ourselves). We begin in wonder, in longing, and with hope.

There is always a beginning. This is what I’m holding this week. I have been doing this workshop-facilitation work for ten years, this writing work for about twenty, and I still feel like a beginner. I want answers and clarity, and the one thing (possibly the only) I’m sure about is this: we have to begin again. We have to pick up the pen, again. We have to open the notebook to a blank page or the next empty line, take a deep breath, and begin to write. We have to step into the mystery that is this process, the alchemy of want and haunting, language and upbringing, creative mastery and deep curiosity, healing and play.

I will spend a lifetime seeking the language for what it is that happens when we who have survived a traumatic experience sit ourselves down in a writing place and begin to let our words flow, openly, authentically, and without censorship — when we write whatever wants to be written, however it wants to be written. I don’t have the words yet, not just the right ones, and so I keep writing. I step in again, I remove my armor again, I meet the confusion and fear again, I let the words come, again. I trust that whatever words will come will be the right ones. I take deep breaths around the desire to control the flow: I wanted to write it this way, but the words are pulling me over here. Ok, then follow the words over there. There is a logical sense to this practice, this process, and its a logic born of the underground, the current and network of interconnected pathways and experience that shapes our entire lives. It’s a logic we can’t put our fingers on. It’s a logic we can’t see or explicate, a logic that tethers itself to a something beyond.

In trusting that the words will come, we are trusting ourselves, and we are trusting something other: whatever it is that delivers us the words. I don’t have a language for that other; let’s stay with mystery, or the well of creativity, or human resilience — regardless, whenever we sit down to write our stories or our poems or our journal entries or our fiction, we invite ourselves into or alongside that other. We knock on the door and we hope again that we will be admitted. Sitting down is the knocking. Lifting the pen is the knocking. Writing even though we don’t know what we’re going to say, or how we’re going to say it, is the knocking. This is how we gain admittance into that place of other, that deepness in ourselves: we begin again today.

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What is it in you that is longing, again, to find some space on the page? What would celebrate having ten minutes to play in the words with you today? Offer that time today: ten minutes, open notebook, pen, go. Begin with the phrase, “Begin again” or “We (She/He/They/You) can begin again.” If you get stuck, write it again. Begin again, again today.

Remember that the early-bird rates for the fall in-person writing groups ends this Saturday. Register this week to join us for Write Whole (open to all trauma survivors) or Reclaiming Our Erotic Story at the discounted rate.

Thank you for the ways you enter into the joy and play and unknown of this practice. Thank you for your writing today, and thank you for your words.


write why it matters

I have my angel islands on today, my candle drifted, my morning tea. The long boat of the night is gone and we drift into this day, we peek or float or flail. We whisper or whimper.

I sit down at the page and know that I’m out-gunned, that I will never get it all down. I will always be chasing something I can never catch. I have to pick up the pen anyway. That’s the day’s first triumph. I will never capture every thought and image, I will never pierce every hole inside, I will never get it all out there. There’s just no way. We have too many stories.

What does it matter whether you write something today that didn’t exist in the world before, if that writing never sees anything but the inside of your notebook? What does it matter if you sit yourself down in front of the page every day, a resolute starfish obeying the tides? What does it matter if you wipe the sleep from your eyes fifteen minutes earlier than usual so that you know you’ll have those few moments when you feel the most whole, the most uncontained, the most possible?

Does it matter if the process shifts something inside you, defeats the anxieties, quiets the spinning places, opens the eyes of curiosity? Does it matter if it’s a place of meditation and play and sorrow and confusion and joy?

Give yourself ten minutes and write why it matters that every day you do it anyway: pick up this implement of humanity and try again.

why write every day?

Good (grey) Tuesday morning to you! How is your heart this morning? Are you being easy with you?

 This morning I am thinking about the exhortation to write every day: Do you have a daily writing practice? What does that look like? What would it look like if you had your way?

 Long before I read The Artist’s Way, I was getting up early in the morning to write, for an hour or more. Mostly nothing has come of this writing, by which I mean that most of it hasn’t been published. Instead, this writing has been for me. There were years when I woke regularly between 4 and 4:30 am – this never got easy. Initially, I had to trick myself to get out of bed, using my caffeine addiction. Even though I knew how much better I felt when I was able to get up and have time in the dark with my notebook and words, the only thing that would make me actually get out from under the covers in those early morning years was setting up my coffee pot to start brewing at 4 or thereabouts – my alarm would go off and I would smell the coffee (that’s right); it was the fact that I didn’t want the coffee to burn that got me up. I dragged myself out of bed to pour the coffee into a carafe – and by then I was up, so I also made myself a cup, laced liberally with sugar, lit my morning candle, and sat down at the kitchen table where I’d left my journal the night before.

Daily writing has been the way that I found myself. I used the page as the place where I did what Brian Andreas describes in the story “Open Heart”:

He told me that once
he forgot himself & his
heart opened up like a
door with a loose latch
& everything fell out &

he tried for days to put
it all back in the proper
order, but finally he
gave up & left it there
in a pile & loved
everything equally.

I called these writing writes my core dumps – I wrote in order to get it all out in front of me: worries and frustrations, trauma memory and work struggles, trouble or longing in my relationships. This was where I could be all of myself: petty, whining, disappointed, hurt, brilliant, furious, desiring, turned on, curious, frustrated, catty, joyful, wondering. While much of my daily writing has not emerged from the notebooks, I often write first drafts of essays or erotic stories, longhand, during daily writing sessions. After getting the core dump out of the way, I found I had energy to get imaginative, and would work on poems or stories.

I like it to be dark when I’m into the morning writing – I like to feel cradled and held, I like to feel as though there’s nothing else I should be doing. So often I have felt like I’m stealing my writing time: from partners, from my job, from chores that need attending to. This thing that I do in the dark (thanks to June Jordan) with my pen and candle, it doesn’t make any money. It’s time just for me and for the words. I used the pages to try and make sense of myself – verbatim.

I learned to record my first thoughts, sentences that made no logical sense or lines that I didn’t believe when I wrote them – words that were surprising or confusing, words I liked the sound or feel of – just write it, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t move out of this place of deep connectedness with who I really am (which wasn’t pretty after all, but was, in fact, quite a mess). I kept going. Sometimes when I wrote exactly what came to me to write, I got to be surprised by what my subconscious offered – images or metaphors that made me make sense, or words that complicated some part of my life I had thought was together and fixed.

Writing myself whole has meant writing myself loose: messy, poetic, contradictory, confused, questioning.

When I talk about daily writing, I say simply that it saved me. Writing has been the place I trusted the most, and most consistently. And I have been fortunate to live with significant others who treated my writing with respect, who did not read journal, who treated them as if they were as private and inviolate as the inside of my own beating heart. I have rarely shared with anyone what I write in these notebooks – the morning writing was a place for me to work things out, my companion, my best friend’s ear, a steady companion who did not judge or criticize or interrupt or tell me what to do. I have needed this kind of sacred and protected, nonjudgmental space – meaning I have needed to learn how to treat my whole self as sacred, to release myself from judgment.

You’ve learned all the recommendations. Write every day. Nulla dies sine linea: no day without lines. Julia Cameron says three unbroken pages every morning. Anne Lamott says to try and sit down at about the same time every day, in order to train your creative unconscious to kick in for you. Natalie Goldberg says, “My goal is to write every day. I say it is my ideal. I am careful not to pass judgment or create anxiety if I do not do it. No one lives up to his ideal.” There are other productive and producing writers who don’t write every day, and who say that the pressure to do so hasn’t served them.

You find what works for you for awhile, and do that. And then what works for your writing will change.

I don’t allow too many days without writing – when I do, I begin to lose track of parts of myself. I begin to believe too much in my surfaces, my public performances, my personae. Writing practice brings me back into the mess of my human realness: I don’t have all the answers, I am still complicated and ridiculous and loving, I am not as shiny as (I think) my packaging appears, thank goodness.

Even after all these years of daily practice, I still struggle to give myself what I need: those earliest morning hours devoted to the skin between dreamtime and waking life. Every morning I get to decide to show up for my creative and healing self all over again.

What works for your writing practice? Do you write every day? Do you want to? What would that mean for your writing and yourself?

steal your writing time

Good morning good morning good morning — the summer morning outside my window is grey and sounds like the whistle of a train passing through Jack London Square. What is rising for you this morning? What is falling away?

I am entering into a couple-day writing retreat: two days focused on a couple of book projects, two days of stealing away from my regular life, two days in which I give myself permission not to feel guilty if I spend time writing rather than doing other work. This is a stay-at-home writing retreat, and will be interrupted by a trip to the vet and a few other tasks (mostly involving prep for writing groups); still, my primary focus for these next two days will be on moving these books forward.

How often do you give yourself permission for a day to focus on writing? How often do you give yourself permission for thirty minutes, or ten? How often do you feel as though you are stealing time from something, or someone, else in order to write?

How often do you actually sit down in front of the page and just let the words flow? I’m not talking about an email or an essay for school or a grant proposal — I’m talking about playing on the page, responding to prompts shared here on this blog or elsewhere, writing down that poem you began to dream during the commute home or the exchange you witnessed between that old man and young checker at the grocery store or the memory you had of your mother the summer you were six and she took the day off from work just so that the two of you could spend a day at the pool, or was it the beach? How often do you think, I should write that down, and don’t?

How often does it happen that then, when you’ve finally decided to take those ten minutes to get your body in front of the page, you find you have nothing to say, nothing to write — all those great things you wanted to write about when you were in the shower or busy working on a spreadsheet or talking with your bestie on the phone just disappeared! It’s just you and your pen and the blank page and the emptiness in your head. Do you think to yourself, Who am I kidding? What makes me think I’m a writer? Why did I ever tell anyone that I want to write? Look at me — I can’t even move my pen.

Does that emptiness make you want to quit trying? How frustrated does this cycle of guilt and larceny make you feel?

I have a challenge for you today, you who wish to write, you who have words dancing under your skin and a lifetime of terror and disappointment and fear keeping the words from pushing out, stained and broken and imperfect, onto the page: I want you to take ten minutes today. Ten. That’s all. Ten minutes for this writing thing you love.

I want you to change one thing about your daily routine just so that you have those ten minutes. Turn of the tv a little bit early. Get to the gym a little bit late. Take your notebook and pen into the bathroom and lock the door. Get sneaky if you have to, to get these ten minutes where you will not be interrupted by family or friends. Tell yourself that you’ll get a reward after if you write for just ten minutes (and then make good on that reward!) — a half hour of silly television or reading the magazine that came in the mail today or hanging out doing a project with your kids or a dish of ice cream or some pieces of really good dark chocolate or … you know what would make the best reward for you. Of course, even better is the reward your creative genius receives: she gets to see that you will give her some time, that you are wiling to carve out ten minutes to listen to her rambling, generous voice.

Open the notebook and begin writing from the phrase, “This is what she stole…” or “This is what he stole…” (or “we stole” or “you stole” or “they stole…”). Complete that sentence with a single item or a list, and if you don’t know what to write next, start again. “They stole diapers and they stole time. We stole glossy, foil-wrapped Cadbury eggs from the convenience store up the road at Eastertime. He stole…”

Ten minutes. Set a timer. Stop when the time is up, period. If you’re really into the writing, break off in the middle of the sentence, and begin again when you steal another ten minutes tomorrow.

Keep on stealing these ten minute snatches. Do this day after day. Take twenty minutes some days. Take an hour. Take a weekend. Grab it. Demand that time for this thing that you love. One day you will find that making time for your writing doesn’t feel like theft, it feels like life-giving and promise. One day, you will find that taking time from writing is what feels more like theft.

taking breaks and being selfish

Good morning this beautiful morning — how is the sun singing to you this morning? How are you letting yourself into the sky’s day?

I am back to this blog writing after a bit of a vacation — I’m sorry for the long absence. I went back east for about a week, and got to nestle and swim in the New England summer. During vacation I read a lot, swam in the Pacific, visited with friends and family, sunbathed, walked in the rain — I wrote, too, though not on the computer.

I don’t like to spend much time on the computer while I’m on vacation; I take myself offline, and though I keep my phone close at hand so I can take pictures, I avoid email and my social networking apps. Being away from the (perceived) demands of social media allows me to take a real break, to slow down, to pay a different kind of attention. I feel less scattered when I’m offline — though it can take a day or so for the quality of my awareness to recalibrate from easily distractable and multi-task-oriented toward something more focused and yet with a wider peripheral vision. I begin to walk more slowly. I turn away from the screens, letting my eyes open back to the real world that surrounds me.

I tend to feel guilty for taking these sorts of media-input breaks, like I’m in avoidance mode. This is an old feeling, and comes from the years in college when I would, in fact, avoid the phone and email so that I could tell my stepfather that I honestly hadn’t been aware of his many and varied attempts to contact me. I would turn the phone’s ringer off and turn down the volume on the answering machine. This was before voice mail, though — I wasn’t able to avoid hearing the cassette tape whir into motion once the recorded greeting started to play, and I couldn’t turn down the tape as it recorded his message to me, sometimes sweet and wheedling, sometimes threatening and angry. So I’d leave the apartment, wandering the streets of my small college town for hours, holing up in cafes where I wrote and wrote and wrote, always aware of what I was doing: avoiding the phone, not being where my abuser wanted me to be.

In her book World Enough and Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down, Christian McEwen writes: “The practicing artist is, by definition, someone who is able to build a life around his or her own creative work. Inevitably, such a person will have considered his or her attitude to time. What matters is not how much they actually have, but how best to inhabit it and make it spacious: how to allow room in which attention can take root.”

By necessity, during those years, I learned the power of making time for my generative, creative life — even all these years later, though, the powerful and useful practice of taking space from communicative devices can be, for me, tinged with guilt and shame: I internalized the sense that I’m running away from something or someone, that when I make space for my creative self, I am taking something from someone else.

You don’t have to have an abuser telling you that you’re selfish for not being at their beck and call to have this particular lesson take hold: we get this message from our work, our families, our communities — that we are selfish if we say we need time for our art, particularly when the time we need looks to someone outside our own head like time being wasted on a walk in the woods or reading poetry or daydreaming or otherwise creating the sort of open, woolgathering headspace and heartspace necessary for generating creative work.

How do we unlearn this message, that time not spent doing work that benefits someone else is time wasted? Or that time spent in our creative process is time spent selfishly? Or that being selfish with our time is always a bad thing?

How do you challenge that idea?

After all these years, I still have to breathe deep into the anxiety that when I get done with my writing time, I’m going to have to deal with someone’s fury. I don’t — if someone is going to be angry with me for taking the time I need to write, I gently encourage them not to be in my life anymore. Sometimes I succumb to the fear of selfishness: I stop taking the time I need to write, in favor of spending time with other people. After several days of this, I hit overload. Every. Single. Time. I become cranky, achy, short-tempered, and less able to concentrate on anything or anyone. I end up needing lots of time to myself in order to come back into balance.

It’s kind of like the way I still sometimes binge, when I’m feeling really bad about myself, which then reminds me that my body doesn’t respond well to that kind of overstuffing — that that coping mechanism doesn’t serve me anymore, and I deserve to take care of my body in other ways.

I have to learn and relearn these lessons: when I allow myself the practices that I need in order to be in balance — which includes both “free” time (which is the playtime that my psyche needs in order to keep the words flowing) and writing time — then I am better able to engage in my relationships.  Not everyone works this way, but I do.

What do you need in order to fully inhabit your creative self? Can you write about those conditions and desires for ten minutes or so today? Notice how your body feels when you write about what helps our writing to flow… and follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thank you for going as slow as you need to go. Thank you for your words, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

taking care of all of our creative self

It’s a bird party outside my window this morning. The house finches have taken over the live oak and are demanding to be heard, demanding to be taken seriously. The are tangling with their small constituencies, assuring themselves of their song. They flit back and forth between bird feeder and branch, establishing intimacies and hierarchies, listening to belly and instinct. They bring some bright into the grey out there.

Good Friday morning to you. How has this week been treating you?

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If you’re in the Bay Area, don’t forget to come over to Berkeley tomorrow and join AWA West and PSR as we celebrate the launch of Pat Schneider‘s new book, How The Light Gets In: Writing As A Spiritual Practice. The event is free, and meets at the PSR campus at 1798 Scenic Ave. in Berkeley. The afternoon writing groups are full (though you can probably get your name on a waiting list if you hurry), but you can certainly join us for the reception and reading tomorrow evening. Pat will read from the book, and then she’ll have a conversation with Cary Tennis about Amherst Writers and Artists, writing practice, and so much more. Writing Ourselves Whole will have a table at the event — come on over and say hi if you’re able to make it! There are a few more copies of the Fierce Hunger chapbook left and I’ll have those available for sale, as well as information about the Summer workshop schedule. I hope to see you!

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This morning I got back into my notebook for the first time in about a week. I’d been feeling especially gross, all the inside voices telling me that it didn’t matter if I wrote, that my work doesn’t mean anything, that my time would be better spent with a bowl of chocolate frosting and some terrible television. Do you get the inside voices taking up all the space between your ears and around your heart? How do you take care of yourself  when they get especially loud and demanding? Continue reading

keeping the promises we make to ourselves

good morning this morning. I have the candles lit in the dark inside office space, because I’m up later than I wanted to be and I miss the nighttime writing. How to shift myself back to those early morning hours while also having to be up past 9pm several nights of the week for workshops? Next week is a break week — no workshops while I finish preparing for the spring session — so I could sleep earlier and get up earlier, too. Let’s try it.

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Look out: freewrite is about to ensue. Where can I go with this in twenty minutes? What I miss are the early morning brainstorm writings, when you don’t know what you’re doing there and wonder what possible difference it could make to anyone for you to be making this effort — but you’re making it anyway. Last night I talked with my sweetheart about integrity — I recently read about a definition of integrity which referenced the fact that it grew out of words that mean ‘wholeness.’ She had heard someone define integrity as meaning keeping the promises that we make to ourselves.

If that’s the case, then I’ve been out of my integrity for a long time — or have I? Continue reading

the poetry of the soul’s home

(here I am listening to some of the brilliant writing shared on Sunday)

Good morning on a Tuesday. This morning is bright sun, warming my chilly apartment, is homemade oat & oat flour Irish soda bread, is a happy puppy settled into a sunspot, is the steam from the green and mint tea flourishing into the sunlit space before me. This morning is Cheb i Sabbah radio on Pandora, is time for morning pages at sunrise, is settling back into home after three days in Atlanta. This morning is Rumi and Minnie Bruce Pratt — this is a morning for poems.

What is this morning for you, so far?

I want to tell you about Atlanta, about the home-ness of it for me, and about a quiet Sunday morning in one of the last feminist bookstores in the country, and inviting a group of Atlanta writers to ease–through their writing–into their bodies. Continue reading

an externalized memory

stencil graffiti of a garden archGood morning from the house of crunch and panic. What’s the name of your house today? I’ve got the candles going, the tea all asteep, and got myself up early enough to actually do my morning pages. The pen on the page, the hand moving, the thoughts mustering themselves into order enough that they can fall into sentences or phrases or just semblances of particular letters: that all helps.

I’m in my small writing room that is filled nearly to the gills with old writing notebooks. Where does this want to go today? There are notebooks here from 1992 and 1993 — next year will be the actual twenty-year anniversary of my last assault, the anniversary of my decision to break contact with my stepfather. Continue reading