Remember Your Body (part two)

We call our bodies, vehicles…we drive them here and there and have great expectations of them.  We realize the body has needs and we give it sustenance–a snack on the fly, perhaps?  As writers or artists, we can become so engaged with our craft that we put the body’s tender loving care at the bottom of the list—maybe we’ll get to it–tomorrow.  For instance, that exercise program that you know is going to be good for you that gets postponed until…when?  Or that healthier way of eating to which you want to ascribe–one day…when?

I have driven, pushed and prodded my body.  I plant myself in front of the computer, at my writing desk or art table.  I expect–performance.  When I’m in the creative flow, it’s easy to forget that my body is an animal with actual needs.  Typically, I’m good at feeding myself healthy food.  I walk daily. I’m not so good at regular exercise or showing up for my tai chi class. Stretching, yoga, heart rate exercises, etc. These are areas in which I need to make a conscious effort.

What about you?  Do you have an exercise routine, a good eating regimen, an overall healthy, balanced lifestyle?  This is something a writer needs to organize into his/her daily routine.  It is intricately connected to your balanced writing practice.

Is your body your “horse and hound”?  May Sarton, the poet, wrote about her body in the following poem:

Question

Body my house
my horse my hound
what will I do
when you are fallen
Where will I sleep
How will I ride
What will I hunt
Where can I go
without my mount
all eager and quick
How will I know
in thicket ahead
is danger or treasure
when Body my good
bright dog is dead
How will it be
to lie in the sky
without roof or door
and wind for an eye
With cloud for shift
how will I hide?

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Read this poem aloud at least two times.  What is the author is saying in these few short verses?

Today, there is no writing prompt.  As a writer, contemplate how you care for your body’s daily requirements.  If you don’t have an exercise routine, how might you begin one.  Start off small; check in with your wise body to see which way it would like to move…that way you are more likely to stay with it.

Happy Body Day.

RememberYourBody2

Remember Your Body (part one)

Today, let’s begin with a…

WRITING PROMPT (1):
Sheila Bender, poet and writer, reminds us that “The body is the starting place for what we know.”

How do you interpret this quote (from Sheila Bender’s book, Writing Personal Poetry)? Write for twenty minutes. When you feel satisfied with your first writing, ask yourself “Is there anything else that wants to be said?”  If so, write some more.

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In our times, we hear talk of “cellular memory” or “body memory”.  Some say this is fictitious, an unproved theory.  My body has proven itself to be a wise guide. My body brought the awareness of early trauma to the surface of my psyche before I was cognitively conscious of it.  Then the work of healing began.  In laywoman’s terms, “body memory” acknowledges that the body has stored life experiences in its organs, bones, tissues and cells.  It can also refer to generational trauma that our ancestors carried in their cells which was passed onto us as their children. Without getting scientific (I don’t have that background), I’ve found that my body holds many stories and memories along with the old trauma. Something that many can identify with is when you get goose bumps or when suddenly you have an upset stomach in a tense situation. The body recognizes something and reacts.

In this regard then, the body is a field to be mined, a point of entry for your writing. Over the years, I have mined my body as a means to understand and heal myself and to integrate what has, in some way, been disowned.

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WRITING PROMPT (2):

Try this if you like, choose one part of your body (women sometimes choose their hips)–and give it a voice to tell its story.

Poem by Lucille Clifton entitled Homage to My Hips

“These hips are big hips.

they need space to 

move around in.

They don’t fit into little

petty places. these hips

are free hips.

They don’t like to be held back.

These hips have never been enslaved,

they go where they want to go 

They do what they want to do. 

These hips are mighty hips.

These hips are magic hips. 

I have known them

to put a spell on a man and 

spin him like a top.”

Today, thank your body.

 

Portals

Any writer, poet or artist seeks a portal, an opening, a place to begin.

Some mornings, I randomly pile books on my bed.  And I leaf through them, hoping for something to leap out at me.  When I crafted creative writing workshops, there was a certain magic that happened.  I had an idea that I was exploring and I’d open a book and the exact poem, quote or passage would find me!  That’s the thing, we never know where there might be an opening, a place to begin.  Yesterday, receiving news of a long-time friend’s serious illness, I was reminded that–ah, yes, sorrow and grief are portals.

portal2

Following are a few quotes, stanzas from poems and excerpts from various books:

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“The body is the starting place for what we know,”  from Sheila Bender.

“While I did watch, Brave Horatius did come and stand by my side.  He looked up at me. In his eyes were askings.  I made explainings.  I told him, The sky is filled with clouds, which look like ships”  from Opal Whiteley.

and then:  from Denise Levertov,
“The fire in leaf and grass
so green it seems
each summer the last summer…”

or Allen Ginsberg:
“All afternoon cutting bramble blackberries
off a tottering brown fence…”

and then, Wayne Dodd:
“All day I have been closed up
inside rooms, speaking of trivial matters.
Now at last I have come out
into the night, myself a center
of darkness.”

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The thing is that any of these excerpts, stanzas or quotes could be a portal that leads you or me into whatever we’re going to write about next.  (Noting, also, the privilege that is ours by tuning into these various writers’ voices and getting a sense of who they are and what they value.)

Are you curious?  That is one of a writer’s greatest gifts–curiosity.  You discover a portal, you enter, courageous once again, asking your questions, finding your answers while staying open for the unexpected.  Do you feel, at times, like the solo journeyer, the seeker, out in the universe on this great writer’s quest?

WRITING PROMPT:
Look for portals today.  Carry your pocket notebook or handheld recorder to archive anything that comes to your attention as a possible portal for your writing. Choose from one of these possibilities and write for thirty minutes. OR, borrow one of the excerpts above as your portal to today’s writing.

Are you surprised by where you went in your writing today?

 

Ancestral Archaeology

As a writer witnessing your own family roots, there is always material available to you. Of course, you are treading on sensitive ground when you write about your family, your history.  Personally, it taps into your own unconscious triggers and ties.  If this is something you are writing for publication, then you risk offending a family member.

Honestly, I don’t know how to get around this “Catch-22“.  I need to write about where I’ve come from as part of my healing process, my journey back to myself.  And I’ve done so extensively in my journals and especially through my poetry.  Some of these poems have been published or widely shared. While they are not intended to offend anyone, I cannot predict how a family member is going to react.  My candid writing, could trigger a sibling or other relative.   There are laws in place around libel (written form of defamation of character).  If you are seriously considering publishing anything that could defame another person, it would be wise for you to consult a libel attorney for clarity.  Fine lines here.

Writers sometimes use camouflage (changing names, places, exact circumstances) in order to tell a story.  In the film, Deconstructing Harry, Woody Allen plays a novelist who uses his friends’ lives as fodder for his writing.  He is haunted by his friends’ reactions to this very blatant exposure.

All of that said, when I’m authentic in telling my story, the reader connects seeing that I’ve gone through something similar or at least identifiable to him/her.  I’ve made myself vulnerable to my readers.  Discretion and compassion go a long way in helping you decide upon how you choose to write about your familial connections.

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If you choose not to publish anything about your family, it is still important to do the work of excavating your own past.  Why?  Basically because it is through this excavation process that you will bond with the forces that make for good depth writing.  When writing is honest and evocative to the reader, it is usually because the writer has a personal grasp of human foibles, emotions and psychology.  Your family, your ancestry is your personal learning ground. It is through these ties and connections that you have learned about yourself and become who you are.

Inheritance
I am a child
of every story told
and untold.
Mythic memories
echo through my cells.
Known wisdom
pumps my heart
to nature’s cycles
–breath exchanged with trees.
Flesh–
recycled fragments of ancestors–
Great Grandma Nell, Grandmother Louise.
Bony structure
the skeleton of HIS-story
from which I was
mostly omitted.
Yet,
I endured.
I am daughter of my mother, Severina
who was daughter of her mother, Anna.
Noiseless, voiceless
meek rolls in fleshy woman’s form
whom I looked to
for guidance,
love.
Finding instead,
shame and oppression.
I am a blessed child
able to probe deeper
than their times allowed
tapping into the ancient stories formed
before women fell from grace.

Grandma,Mom, Oliver
Grandma, Mom, Oliver

WRITING PROMPT
How do you approach this Catch-22?  Do you write about your family history with the intention of publication?  Do you write only for yourself in order not to offend family members?  Do you tell a family story while disguising the exact characters & events?  Or, do you choose not to go into this territory? Take some time to consider this for yourself.

WRITING TIP
When diving into family history, set a healthy boundary for yourself.  If you’re too tender don’t go there.  When you decide you’re ready to navigate this territory, have support in place.  Respect where you are at.

Be gentle to yourself today.

 

 

 

It’s Not a Popularity Contest

cairnfinal.jpg

 

Authentic writing, telling the truth (as you see it) and being brave are a few of the requirements of being a writer.  Aside from showing up to the page regularly (daily?), the writer strives to connect with something deep within and then to impart what she or he discovers.

When my parents were in the last few years of their lives, emails flitted back and forth between me and some of my eight siblings.  Having eight siblings means that there are nine different perspectives on how to handle any given situation.  Within such a web of words and voices cramming the ethers, how do you retain and impart your own truth and integrity?  Especially when the topic is one with emotional impact?

I’ve found that doing something that centers me–a walk in nature, yoga, calisthenics, cooking, Tai Chi, whatever–helps to bring balance.  And then I write what feels true in the moment.  And then, I write it again and again until the truth is distilled to something that I truly believe is worth sharing.  I’ve learned not to expect to be understood by everyone.  Ears hear what they hear.  However, as a human, I have a multitude of opportunities to practice expressing myself on and off the page.  Life does seem to present these opportunities for me,  for you, for everyone to practice using our voices.

“And the speaking will get easier and easier.
And you will find you have fallen in love
with your own vision, which you may never have
realized you had.  And you will lose some friends
and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them.
And new ones will find you and cherish you…
And at last  you’ll know with surpassing certainty
that only one thing is more frightening
than speaking your truth.
And that is not.”
–Audre Lorde–

WRITING PROMPT:

Remember a time when you spoke what felt true for you.
How did it feel in your body to speak the truth?
Did you lose friends or lovers?  Write about it.
Conversely, remember a time when you didn’t speak what felt true for you.
How did it feel in your body not to speak the truth?
Did you lose friends or lovers or disappoint yourself?  Write about it.

Do something fun today.

 

Claiming Your Inner Writer and/or Poet

Once you truly own the fact that you are a
writer and wear the moniker proudly,
you have said YES to your writer self.

Several years ago, I moved to Mt. Shasta, CA.
I was establishing myself as a poet and writer
while working at a local herb & health store.
I worked three days a week and then
immersed myself in writing, poetry and nature.

One day, I stood in line at the post office and a co-worker who didn’t really know me inquired “So C.G. what do you do with your time when you’re not working at the store?”
There were several people standing in the line between us.  I replied softly “I’m a writer.”

Then he continued (as if he hadn’t heard me)…”laundry, cooking, gardening…”  I said a little bit louder “I’m a writer,” as he continued listing household chores…”sewing, washing the floors, baking…”

I said with more emphasis “I’m a writer,” and he continued with his monologue as if I wasn’t there…”picking up after people, clipping the rosebushes, vacuuming.”

I’d had enough!  I virtually shouted to the whole post office “I’M A WRITER!”

He stopped, looked at me, somewhat stunned and then said “Ah, what do you write?”

He did me a favor as he made me proclaim myself as a writer to myself and to the world.

now3

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WRITER’S PROMPT
Have you proclaimed yourself as a writer or poet or artist to yourself?  to others?
In writing, describe when you made that decision to proclaim yourself as such.  Own it!

WRITING TIP
Owning our innate calling is powerful and moves us in the direction of what we are here to do.  Things come our way that relate to this calling.

 

Incubation and Looking for a Flow

Incubation:  It means literally to provide body warmth so eggs
can hatch.  For a writer, it means giving yourself the time and
space to grow to your full potential; to build strength, gain your
power and define your voice.

nest

Writers desire to be in the zone where their writing flows; they show up as the willing scribe, following where they are lead.  This is a wonderful state for a creative being.    It’s also a state that we have to, in a sense, earn.  Paying dues is something we hear about in other professions…the ice skating champion who practices endless hours to perfect his/her performance; the marathon runner who runs daily to improve stamina; the painter who paints endless hours to perfect certain techniques, etc.  While an artist or writer may appear to be born to it, they also have to practice their craft in order to capture the flow. And flows can be interrupted by many things.

Daily life has its own responsibilities and responses.  We get diverted.  We also may experience what has been termed writer’s block or dry spells.  I prefer to call these periods either incubation or the fertile void.  Within this pause in your creative expression, something is brewing.  You cannot force it.  You cannot prod, poke or otherwise push it.  The best you can do is wait with it and be attentive.  From this place, when the time is right, something is going to emerge.  Trusting your process isn’t easy at such times.

I’ve found that if you can put your creative energy into some other form, which could be rearranging your living room furniture, or planning a garden bed, even cleaning the house, things begin to move within.  The muse is never really far…she takes an occasional hiatus so that you can process and integrate in preparation for what is next.

WRITING PROMPT

What has been your experience of incubation and/or the fertile void?  Describe it in detail…this odd terrain that we’d rather circumnavigate.  How is it useful to you?

Chronicles of C.G.

In school and ever after, I’ve been a note taker.  It seems that is my way to take in information and let it settle.  By writing it down, it becomes, somehow, my own.

Self-observation enables you to bring validity to what you write about.  You are the supreme noticer of your own life.

Several years ago, a friend wanted to improve her writing.  She took classes with me for one year.  In preparing the weekly lesson for her, I became a greater witness to my own daily experience.  With this self-witnessing, I could effectively guide her into her own process.

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Trust in the Morning

Crafting a writing lesson for my student
on What do poets write about
Up with the dawn and early morning thunder
which in my half-sleep state
I thought were train cars colliding
the train whistle blasting news
of the disaster
–cars derailing, toppling domino-style–
and it was too early for me to get up
and investigate
Reaching over to tap on my lamp
I saw the electricity was out
wandered to the back room
drawing the blinds, a flutter of light
over the horizon
followed by its companion thunder
I stood outside in the middle of the
deck as robust raindrops fell softly–
generously
I brought in wood for the fire
though it wasn’t cold
placed the kettle on the woodstove
ate a banana
logged the calories in my diet record
rekindled the fire–it took me two tries to get it going
I went back to bed with books, pen and paper
to plan her lesson

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WRITING PROMPT

Choose a part of your day and chronicle it.  Write for twenty to thirty minutes.  Write in any form that is comfortable for you–poetry, prose, essay, listing, whatever flows.

Read what you wrote aloud.

Have a lovely day whatever you do today.

bird1a

“This Is I Who…”

Repetition is a writer’s and poet’s deepening tool.  I said, “Repetition is a writer’s and poet’s deepening tool.”  Repetition is a way of giving emphasis and getting someone’s attention.  The repeated line typically begins each new stanza.
The lead line is a driving and deepening force for me as the writer. For the reader, it provides a rhythm and induces a trance-like quality when reading the poem.

I do not know who originated this writing exercise.  I only know that I have borrowed it. I thank the author and if I could give you credit, I certainly would because it is very important to me to give credit where it is due.  This exercise makes good use of repetition.  Here is my version of a poem using repetition; it is neither edited nor crafted yet.  It is actually stream of consciousness about the way I begin a new day.  The one borrowed and repeated line is “This is I who…”  Please note that sometimes the repeated line can be implied and not actually stated.

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This is I who…
lies in bed amidst the tumbled-down covers and forgotten dreams,
cranky like a flower bud pried open too soon.  I who would like to curl backwards into the secure fist of sleep and let the world do what it does…”call me when the war is over”.

This is I who…
says a prayer to my God of choice, not chance “…and let it be a good day.  Let me be respectful of self and other…” as I stretch into my feet, arms raised in a half-hazard salute, twirling my legs over the side of the bed, sitting upright.  Smiling at my reflection in the passing mirror on my way to the bathroom…hair spiky like liberty herself, skin less green.

This is I who…
sock-footed, pads  to the kitchen to brew that first cup of Argentinian Yerba Mate, promise of mental clarity and sustained physical energy.  Returning to bed with the blue and white dragon cup, made in China, set prestigiously on the nightstand.  My latest knitting project pulled onto my lap like a recalcitrant cat…knit and purl, knit and purl, knit and purl to end of row.

who…
slinks into my leotards, flicks on the tv like an automatic friend.  “Bend your elbows, fists clenched, arms pulled back, breathe in.”

I who…
boils water, 1/3 cup of oats with raisins.  Toasts a fistful of almonds, sprinkles wheat germ and nutritional yeast, a splash of soymilk.

This is I who partakes.

This is I who am grateful.

Let the games begin.

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WRITING PROMPT

Try it…write your own poem or prose with the lead line THIS IS I WHO…” or any lead line of your choice.  Enjoy where you go with this.

flower

Deepening

 

What helps us to deepen our writing?  We put something down on paper.  Is it superficial or honest only to a point?  Ask yourself, “Am I holding something back? Have I told the whole truth?”  Even if you are writing fiction, these questions apply…within our created fiction, we strive for plausibility.

One thing you soon discover about writing is that there’s almost always somewhere else to go with a piece.  There is something more to be said.  On the June 29th Blog, Invocation of the Muse, you were invited to write for twenty minutes from your list of inspiring topics.  Now what?

Deepening

WRITING PROMPT:

Review what you wrote.  Find one key sentence in your piece.  Let that sentence take you into a deeper truth or story.  Elaborate.  Remember that effective writing is found in the details.  Let the force of your passion continue to guide your writing.  For now, give yourself permission to belabor a point where you feel called to do so.  Write for another twenty minutes (at least).

Afterwards, read what you wrote aloud and sit for a moment with where your writing has taken you.

WRITING TIP:

Writing is not about controlling the words, it is about freeing them.  It is about freeing your voice to speak what it really wants to say.  PERMISSION.  How does it feel to have permission to speak freely?  Write down your response.  Depending on your life experiences, it could feel anywhere from exhilarating to normal to dangerous.  Every feeling is welcome here.

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Consider how else you might deepen your writing?  Any ideas?  Write them down and try them out.