A friend called yesterday and asked if I’d meet her for a late lunch and a writing session. Last I heard, she was taking a personal essay class, and I was eager to hear how it turned out. Fascinating — it resulted in a complete block and NO writing for 2 months!
We ate our lunch, drank our lattes (mine, plain; hers, pumpkin spice), and talked. When we were finished and had opened our notebooks, another old friend wandered in and we both slammed shut our notebooks and said, “Yay!” (Again, fascinating.) Lucky for us, and our writing practice, he was meeting someone else, so after a little more chit chat, after he had wandered off, I said, “Okay, let’s write.”
I shared two of my strategies for breaking through blocks: 1) writing questions (particularly of the block itself, but any questions will do, just write a long list of them and see where they take you); and 2) holding a dialogue with the block — imagining it as a person and interviewing it.
We picked up our pens and we started writing. We wrote for 15 minutes, (And she filled three notebook pages.) Then we read some excerpts aloud. We talked some more. We ended with a my friend writing out a contract:
“I, _______________________, will write for 20 minutes every day for 2 weeks.” She signed it, dated it, and I signed as her witness. We’ll meet again in 2 weeks.
If you’re not writing at all, then 20 minutes is a start. The muse can be elusive. She’s easily frightened away. She can stay away for 2 months! Or 2 years! But if you keep showing up, even in small chunks of time, giving up one TV show, or one bout with Spider Solitaire, or one phone call with someone you probably didn’t want to kill time with anyway, the muse will show up, too. The muse may surprise you, and get you writing way more than 20 minutes. You won’t know until you try.
Encouraged by my friend Janet (see her unfortunately neglected but still stellar blog, Deep Grace of Theory), I have been reading Cherishment: A Psychology of the Heart, by Elisabeth Young-Bruehl and Faith Bethelard. After four hours this morning on my own manuscript (and about the same amount of time each morning this week–a record run of uninterrupted days for me), I came across this passage:
“The book made demands. It was a very greedy, eager baby, wanting our time and attention and thought, preoccupying us, getting into everything.” (26)
Heather Sellers, in her book, Chapter after Chapter, makes a similar observation. You have to reach this point with your book if you are ever going to finish it. You can’t put it down and go into another room and not return. You can’t leave the house or go on vacation and not take it with you. It’s your baby. You have to carry it with you. Young-Breuhl and Bethelard would say, You have to cherish it. Don’t say “no.” At least, don’t say no too many times. Think of it as a young, needy baby. Say yes to it.
At the Chuckanut Sandstone Reading last week, our moderator, Betty Scott, shared this quotation, along with her thoughts about the usefulness of poetry. I wanted to share this extremely useful quote with you. It’s from Marilyn Sewell and Claiming the Spirit Within, an anthology of spiritual poetry :
“To claim a self is to claim the holiness within. Such claiming has nothing to do with striving, with competing, with winning. It has nothing to do with egotism or self-aggrandizement. Rather, it has to do with recognizing and owning one’s power, and using that power well in the world.” (51)
What if we all spent time today recognizing and owning our power, and using that power well in the world?
I’ve posted this quote before. One of my Creative Nonfiction students used it in a paper.
My to-do list has — for about three weeks — had at the top of it, “Upload pictures from Leavenworth trip.” My husband’s two brothers and his three cousins, plus assorted spouses, met in Leavenworth toward the end of September, stayed at a lodge and cooked amazing food. I felt very lucky to be included. I think it was Judy who gave me an assignment to write about them.
For now, this blog post will have to do. And here’s a quote that I think will help to hold my place:
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” – Anaïs Nin, from a diary entry in The Diary of Anaïs Nin
Wednesday, Oct. 9, at 7 p.m. I’ll be reading poems at Chuckanut Sandstone Writer’s Theater. Visit their blog to learn more.
Chuckanut Sandstone Writers Theater ~ Open Mic ~ monthly
Everyone is welcome to read original writings. ~ Open mic (All styles and topics are welcome.) Bellingham, WA at the Firehouse Cafe, 14th and Harris (Bellingham, near Fairhaven)~ Open mic (All styles and topics are welcome.) Every second Wednesday.
Featured poet: Bethany Reid will read for the first 30 minutes. New book: Sparrow