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 >
The mainstream culture tends to emphasize logic, science and reason as the soundest base on which to build our lives. That may be true if you are constructing a machine, but start applying it to the subjective reality of human life and it can easily infect our creative possibilities. New things come into being when we are able to look beyond our logical expectations — to place our trust in the illogical world of dreams and imagination. JG Ballard put it this way: “I believe in the power of the imagination to remake the world, to release the truth within us, to hold back the night, to transcend death, to charm motorways, to ingratiate ourselves with birds, to enlist the confidences of madmen.”
We can forget that a series of events is just that — the story is the meaning that we make out of those events. When we do that unconsciously, the stories created from public and private difficulties can create fear and despair. But if we take conscious charge of our stories and reflect on them in accordance with our deepest values, then out of the same series of events, we can make a story that conquers fear and despair and opens our hearts wider. This is the power of writing about our lives and about all the things in the world that trouble us.
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. “There is a great danger for the writer,” wrote Anais Nin, “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 [the writing]. 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.”
Something magic happens when we decide to write and commit to that process over time: We begin to pay attention, to notice connections and details we would ordinarily overlook. The world begins to show its symbolic nature and gets generous, sending us metaphors and clues, as though we have entered a treasure hunt for truth. As truths are revealed, we naturally feel an urge to share our discoveries and to communicate them as accurately as possible. As Anne Lamott put it, writing at its most basic level is simply about “learning to pay attention and to communicate what is going on.”
In his seminal work, Becoming a Person, psychologist Carl Rogers wrote:”What is most personal is most general…. The very feeling which seemed to me as most private, most personal and hence most incomprehensible by others, has turned out to be an expression for which there is a resonance in many other people.” You might take this as encouragement in your writing to draw deeply on your personal experience — close to the bone – and find kinship where you thought there was only separation.