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.

Writing from the Daily Mundane (part two)

floral1

Perhaps you’ve read or studied the teachings of The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.  He addresses how to be present in each and every moment–a path towards spiritual enlightenment.  I, for one, have noticed how difficult it is to be fully present.  And, I have also found that when I’m in a creative space, whether it’s cooking, writing, poetry (reading or writing it) and painting, I am immersed and therefore fully present. When I’m fully present, there is no sense of time.

WRITING PROMPT:

I offer an awareness practice to you.  I call this one PRESENCE OR DIVISION.

Think about one repetitive task that you did this week.  Write it down.  Describe the task in detail.  (Was it doing the laundry?)  Were you able to be present with it?  Were there the distractions of a busy family as you performed the task?  Were you able to have a meditative moment?  Was there a quieting within as you performed this task or was there a feeling of fragmentation?  No judgment, only noticing and writing about what you noticed.  Take whatever amount of time you need to write about this.   Ask yourself, “Did I feel presence or division of attention while doing this task?”  Notice and write about the task and how present or distracted that you were.

WRITING TIP:
Five minutes of presence with a task goes a long way towards calming the mind, focusing one’s attention, refreshing the spirit so that inspiration can enter.

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For me, the repetitive task was skimming the thyme leaves off the stems to dry them for later use in winter soups and stews…there was no one else here.  There was neither television nor other background noise.  The house was completely quiet.  I scraped the leaves off the stem between my thumb and forefinger, repetitively for over half an hour.  I appreciated the fragrance of thyme.  I contemplated the flavor that this spice lends to food. I loved the idea that I had harvested this herb from my own garden plot (and that I had beat the predicted frost).  And then, I was just quiet and present with this pleasant and calming task.  It is my experience that sometimes, in moments like this, I am recharging, integrating and tapping into wisdom.  

The Girl I was…

“The Girl I was once knew it all
the rising tides and nation’s fall
how to achieve peace on earth
the value of a woman’s worth…”  
And then I forgot.

Afraid to Lose You
Long lonely nights waiting for you to come home
from a night out.
Listening for the sound of your truck
in the driveway.
Worrying that you drank too much–again.
Praying you would make it home
safely.
Unable to express my anger
because
if I curse you,
tell you how your behavior
is hurting our family,
I might lose you.

I was under a spell cast by the society I grew up in.  It said that a woman’s highest role was to be a good wife–satisfy her mate, care for his needs, make him happy, help him to achieve his goals in life.  I would find my fulfillment in that.  Structured within this belief system was the notion that my own self-actualization was not a valid desire.

WRITING PROMPT
Have you ever had a sense of being under a spell?
If so, what helps you to awaken?
Write for ten minutes without censoring  yourself.
This way of writing has been termed “free-writing”.

Following is my paraphrase of an old myth involving King Arthur, Sir Gawain & Dame Ragnelle:

King Arthur is given a life-threatening challenge by the mystical knight, Sir Gromer Somer Joure–“FIND OUT WHAT WOMEN MOST DESIRE AND RETURN HERE IN ONE YEAR WITH THE ANSWER” OR ELSE!  King Arthur enlists the help of his nephew and trusted knight, Sir Gawain.  Separately, they roam the countryside seeking the true answer.  As the year is nearly up, they compare their notes and realize that they are no closer to an answer.  The despairing King rides off into the forest seeking inspiration of some sort.  This is precisely when the unattractive old crone, the Dame Ragnelle, appears to the King and offers him a solution.  In exchange for the true answer, she asks for the hand of Sir Gawain in marriage.  Sir Gawain accepts the proposal to save his uncle’s life. As it turns out, the Dame Ragnelle has been under a spell herself.  When Sir Gawain respectfully and tenderly takes her to the marriage bed, she transforms into her true and beautiful self.  Another enchantment broken by the power of love.  With all of this, can you guess what answer Dame Ragnelle gave to the King?

WRITING PROMPT
What would your answer to this question be?  Free-write for ten minutes.

(Dame Ragnelle’s answer
is forthcoming in the next blog.)

 

For now, here are a few WRITING TIPS for  you.

To begin this journey, you will need a journal or writing pad, a comfortable-to-grip pen,
clothing that does not bind, a good chair and sufficient lighting.  Decide what else you need to create your space for writing.  Could it be a favorite lamp, a flower in a vase, a candle, a centering stone, a feather, a seashell or a card from an inspirational deck?  It would be helpful if you had a timer for timed writings.

Writing Saved My Life

I began writing about my personal journey as a woman–daughter, wife and mother–when I was 27-years old.  At that time, I fell into a deep depression.  Prior to that, I hadn’t experienced the seeming slum of depression.  The landscape was foreign and frightening. I had one confidante, my younger sister, though she was busy with her own burgeoning family life.

My husband, five-year-old daughter and I moved from San Francisco to a suburb–away from what was familiar.  My marriage-constrained husband virtually abandoned us there, working long shifts in the city and after work, playing handball and drinking with his buddies.  The relationship was seriously fractured.  The journal page became my salvation.

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The intention of this blog is to encourage your writing process through sharing my own and other’s poetry and prose.   Having given creative writing workshops on women’s themes for over ten years, I offer you writing tips and prompts.  I have credited writing for saving my life.  And with that, I feel I owe writing a debt of gratitude. Therefore, it is my desire to promote writing (and creativity) as a “wake-up” tool.  With any inward pursuit, it is wise to go only as far as is comfortable.  And, do seek professional support if that feels necessary.

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WRITING PROMPT
For me, this depression was a wake up call and a turning point.  I invite you to reflect on and write about a turning point in your own life.  Set a time limit for yourself.  When you finish writing, read it aloud at least two times.  Ask yourself, “Is there more that wants to be said?”  If so, write some more.
I find it is a good practice to read what you write aloud, to yourself.  And take a moment to let your words sink in.  This is your writer’s voice.  It has value.

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Have a beautiful day.