EVERY WEEK, I send out a writing tip and three soul-inviting prompts as inspiration for you to freewrite, either alone with your timer or in a gathering of writer friends. The resulting deep play opens up whole new landscapes of creative possibility for our writing and our lives. If you are new to this kind of writing practice, have a look at the freewriting principles. And to take your writing to the next level, check out the mentoring sessions I offer, which are helpful whether you are working on a book or just beginning to find your voice. more >
“If I love a book, it first strikes my heart. The mind comes in later, as I start to articulate why it is I like it,” says Azar Nafisi. “Both experiences are joyous, but you need that initial emotional link. It’s why I don’t like theories that espouse interrogation as our primary method of engaging with books. It’s as though Alice — instead of just running after the white rabbit and jumping into the hole — would first say, Why is this rabbit white? Why is it running so fast? Should I be following it? That way, she would never get to Wonderland.” Likewise, engaging the judging, questioning mind while attempting to write something that comes from a deeper place than intellect will keep you from creating the wonderland you are meant to create. Try letting go of all that and just jump into the rabbit hole.
Each of us occupies a singular place in the human story. We are the only ones in the history of the universe living at this time and place with these quirks and this personal history, body and temperament. That means we have a perspective that no one else has, and with that, a piece of the wisdom pie. What does that mean for our writing? Good to listen to author Neil Gaiman on this one: “Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that – but you are the only you.”
This 4-day retreat in a mountain eco-resort will jump start or deepen your writing practice. In an atmosphere of warmth and non-judgement, free of critical evaluation, we will invite each other to be daring and self-revealing, loosening the grip of our critical minds so that expression can flow freely. Whether you’re a seasoned writer working on a book or just want to use writing as a personal process of self-discovery, this immersion into writing as deep play will open up a whole new landscape of possibilities for your writing and your life. Click here for details.
Freewriting for your eyes only and keeping those writings hidden can be an important step toward developing the courage to speak dangerous things in public. It is the job of the writer to articulate what others are only vaguely thinking or feeling; to talk openly about those things others fear to say. As Anais Nin put it: “There is a great danger for the writer, perhaps the greatest one of all: his consciousness of the multiple taboos society has imposed on literature, and his inner censor.… It is surprising how well one writes if one thinks no one will read it. This honesty, this absence of posturing, is a most fecund source of material. The writer’s task is to overthrow the taboos rather than accept them.”
“FOR ME, POETRY IS deep soul-talk, a transformative energy, one of the most powerful means to enlarge one’s presence in the world,” says Luis Rodriguez, the current poet-laureate of Los Angeles. Luis ought to know: writing poetry launched him into a life that he couldn’t have dreamed of when he was a teenage gang member looking for meaning and belonging. He began by writing about his own life and found in doing this truths and insights that eventually made him a leader — first in his own community, then in wider and wider circles — which led to last year’s bid for Governor of California on the Green Party ticket. To follow Luis’s inspiration, try listening to EB White — “Advice to young writers who want to get ahead without annoying delays: don’t write about Man, write about a man. [or a woman].”
JOIN ME for this immersion into the powerful process of Writing from the Soul. This 4-day retreat in a mountain eco-resort will jump start or deepen your writing practice. Sometimes we will gather around a table in a rustic lodge — other times, alongside a river or in a candle-lit mountain cave — to do timed writings from evocative prompts and read our work aloud. In an atmosphere of warmth and non-judgement, free of critical evaluation, we will invite each other to be daring and self-revealing, loosening the grip of our critical minds so that expression can flow freely. Whether you’re a seasoned writer working on a book or just want to use writing as a personal process of self-discovery, this immersion into writing as deep play will open up a whole new landscape of possibilities for your writing and your life. $300 including meals and accommodations (3 nights). Interested? Contact me for details.
There is a part of all of us that is untamed by life — sovereign as a lion. To contact this part of us in our writing produces power and originality, insight and depth. But how do we contact it? We can take a clue from Parker Palmer, who wrote, “The soul is like a wild animal – tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient, and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is to go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek.”
Like life, freewriting can seem chaotic and overabundant, but go through a pile of them, underline the gems, and you will find recurring themes, notions and obsessions. These are the subject areas that have energy for you. You don’t have to justify them — just follow them without thinking too much about it. Get the intellect involved and you’ll soon be overwhelmed by all the worthy possibilities, both in your freewrites and in your life. In his book Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon said it well: “In this age of information abundance and overload, those who get ahead will be the folks who figure out what to leave out so they can concentrate on what’s really important to them. Nothing is more paralyzing than the idea of limitless possibilities.”
“I realized how far I was from believing in God, in human beings, or in anything at all. I doubted art. What was it for? If it was to entertain people who were afraid of waking up, I was not interested in it. If it was a means of succeeding economically, I was not interested. If it was an activity taken on by my ego to exalt itself, I was not interested. If I had to be the jester for those in power, those who poison the planet and leave millions of people starving, I was not interested. What then was the purpose of art? After a crisis so profound that it led me to think of suicide, I arrived at the conclusion that the purpose of art was to heal.” –Alejandro Jodorowsky, film director, in Parabola Magazine
Many of us feel powerless to recreate the world in alignment with what we most value, but our ability to dream up this new world is the first step in its creation. “By means of a story we’re able to imagine quite vividly a world unlike the one we live in now,” says writer Haruki Murakami. “In the face of the dark, violent and cynical reality in which we live, this might seem at times like a powerless and fleeting hope. But the power that each individual has to imagine is found precisely in this: in the quiet yet sustained effort to keep on singing, to keep on telling stories, without losing heart.” By doing as Murakami advises, we are seeding a new world in the hearts not just of ourselves, but of all who read our work.
What truly moves us will likely move others, if we are willing to take the trouble to articulate it clearly — to tell the story in a way that evokes a felt sense. This means digging under our impulse toward anger or bitterness or judgment or argument to our core vulnerabilities and values, then finding where they reside in our heart. Writing from this place is far more likely to be insightful and healing for ourselves and others than staying with surface story, emotion or opinion.“What cannot be said will be wept,” wrote Sappho, so we might as well write it thoroughly and save ourselves the excess grief that comes from bearing an unexamined story.
Werner Herzog reports that the screenplays for his artful films come to him “very much alive, like dreams, without explanation. I never think about what it all means. I think only about telling a story, and however illogical the images, I let them invade me. An idea comes to me, and then, over a period of time – perhaps while driving or walking – this blurred vision becomes clearer in my mind, pulling itself into focus…. When I write, I sit in front of the computer and pound the keys. I start at the beginning and write fast, leaving out anything that isn’t necessary, aiming at all times for the hard core of the narrative. I can’t write without that urgency. Something is wrong if it takes more than five days to finish a screenplay. A story created this way will always be full of life.”