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.

****
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

****
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.

****

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.

****

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.

****
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.

****

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.  

Writing from the daily mundane–Part One

floral1

from the Tao of Women, by Pamela K. Metz & Jacqueline L. Tobin

“The muse’s energy is tapped when you stop
and listen to the silence inside.  Creating
sparks of brilliance from barely glowing
embers, she is only a breath away.
Expressions of the self wait to be birthed.
Look to the potter’s hands, the weaver’s eye,
the basket maker’s techniques.
The creative spirit lives on in women’s tasks.”

****
One way that we tap the quiet space inside is through our repetitive tasks.  Though society has devalued women’s work, we no longer need to abide that false notion for what has been termed mundane is often where we find our muse–especially when we are able to be fully present with the task at hand.

WRITING PROMPT:

  1. How do you perceive this quote from The Tao of Women?
  2. Consider ways that you experience creativity (in any form) in your life?
  3. Do you garner gifts from your daily repetitive tasks?  What are a few tasks and what are the gifts in them?

As you go about your day today, witness yourself in your repetitive tasks.

INSPIRATION

 

I’ve heard some say that they receive inspiration while in the shower or on a trail in the forest or beside a lake.  I’ve had a poem write itself when I’m stuck in traffic.  There are innumerable places to find inspiration.  Consider if there is a place or time of day when you typically receive inspiration.

INSPIRATION–Truly, it is everywhere, in any moment if we are RECEPTIVE!  Aren’t we blasted by inspiration of one sort or another daily.  When I look out my bedroom window, I see sky and natural beauty everywhere.  When I’m traveling, I view highways, vehicles, people, bridges, bays, high deserts.  In a cafe, I overhear a line from someone at the adjoining table that I have to write in my notebook. Or an aroma crosses my olfactory awareness and I’m transported back in time to when my mom used to make her famous spaghetti sauce.  Or, as often happens, the words of an old familiar song take me right back to my twenties.  With all the inspiration around us, we could easily go into overwhelm.  For the writer, there is a necessary sorting process to determine what “scents” we want to explore further.  The sorting of dross from gold. That’s where our particular inspiration comes in.  You’ve decided, haven’t you, what you want to write about, where your passions lie?

According to Mr. Webster himself, inspiration is “A divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify her or him to receive and communicate sacred revelation.”

NOW THAT IS A POWERFUL CALLING!

****

It’s a good idea to be a witness to how your unique creative process works and how you respond to inspiration.

WRITING PROMPT:
Think of something you wrote recently.  Then back track…and list the details that lead you to explore this particular topic.

  • What was the topic?
  • Where were you when inspiration hit?
  • What were you doing?
  • Were you in conversation with someone?
  • Did you immediately know that this was a hot topic for you?
  • Did you write it down?
  • Tell someone about it?
  • Put it aside for another time?

This is a way to witness your own process when it comes to how you respond to the muse, to inspiration.

****
Next, consider
“What does it take for you to leap from the point of inspiration to write something on the page?”

Invocation of the MUSE

 

Invocation
by Frank T. Rios

My muse burns
a holy candle
to the nite
as She lies quiet
in the other room
the space
between us
a mystery
like walking
on air
what I know
fits
in my closed hand
the rest
a vision
and my Muse
guiding me

****
We’ve talked about inspiration.  We’ve mentioned “The Muse.”  We’ve looked at how we respond to inspiration (the muse).  When I don’t have to rush out the door in the morning, I return to my bed with a cup of hot yerba mate tea.  I write or draw in my journal.  I contemplate the day before me.  I look out the window & note the blueness of the sky, the shapes of trees, the structures, the sheer beauty.  Sometimes, I let my imagination roam…a good thing for an artist to do–give your imagination room to roam.

****

WRITING PROMPT

I thought it would be interesting to imagine that my muse has a physical form.  I thought it would be insightful to interview my muse.  To ask her or him some questions.  I drafted a list of interview questions (see below).  I invite you to do the same–that is, interview your muse.  You can use my questions and if you have some questions of your own, include them. Give your muse the opportunity to write out the answers to your questions in a stream of consciousness way.  (Oh and remember that the muse is a bit unpredictable and playful.) Enjoy this process.

  • Who are you?  (Calliope, Saraswati, wiser self or?)
  • How do I invoke you? (Through a poem, a prayer, an invitation, getting quiet?)
  • What are some ways that you bring me inspiration?
  • What’s most important for me to be writing about?
  • What do you need or desire from me?

****

You’ve created a list of things that you’d like to write about.  Good for you!  Now what?

Writing Prompt

From your list of inspiring topics, choose one topic that you feel passionate about.  For twenty minutes, write with abandon (no censoring or editing).  Allow your curiosity, passion, natural inclinations to guide your writing.  Set your timer for twenty minutes. On your mark, get set and WRITE!

Read what you wrote aloud and then let it be for now.

Enjoy your day.

peasantfinal

Living a Writer’s Life

You have an idea of something you want to write.  You feel inspired, even passionate.
You begin writing.  You are in the “zone.”  Your writing seems to flow and take on a life of its own.  The words pour out of you onto the page.  At times, it feels like the words are coming from somewhere outside of you.  That they aren’t even your words but are coming from a supra-conscious source.  Sort of spooky when you think about it.  How can you possibly even know some of the things you are writing about?

You have tapped into the greater subconscious.  The famed Swiss psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, termed this phenomena, supra-conscious or the greater unconscious mind or the universal mind.  This mind contains all the wisdom of the human race throughout time.

Your muse has given you the initial inspiration and you have fearlessly followed her lead.  Congratulations. Because you have been the willing scribe, showing up with pen and paper, this is your reward.  To arrive at this flow and ease with your writing takes COMMITMENT, showing up to your personally designed writing practice regularly.

Anyone who has a dedicated pursuit, creative or otherwise, has made a COMMITMENT. For some this is a dreaded word.  For others, it is a way of life and a path to deepening connection to oneself and to one’s writing practice.  Practice leads to improvement and growth in whatever area you seek to excel in.

WRITING PROMPT

Let’s take a brief look at the role that writing has played in  your life so far.  Give yourself a good amount of time with this writing prompt–at least thirty minutes to an hour.  In your journal, write your responses to the following questions:

  1.  Over the course of your life, what types of writing have you done?  This could include letter writing, email writing, journal writing, writing for newspapers or periodicals, poetry, essays, technical writing, fiction, non-fiction, anything.  Texting–does that count?
  2. Do you presently have a writing practice?  If so, do you write daily, weekly, less than weekly?
  3. Have you set aside a specific time of the day to write?  If so, what time of the day   and how long do you typically write?
  4. Do you have a writing goal?  Be specific and detailed in describing this goal.
  5. How do you feel when you hear the word commitment?
  6. Have you or are you prepared to make this commitment to your writing?
  7. Describe what this commitment to your writing would look like.  Give details.  You could begin with a description of your writing space.

Take time to consider each of these questions and any others that might arise during this process.  This is about you, for you and therefore  you get to speak the truth in your journal without consequence.

WRITING TIP

Giving yourself a compassionate and doable writing practice is based upon your other life commitments at this time.  If you have a life outside of writing, a “regular” job, others depending upon you, it isn’t practical to lock yourself away for any great length of time to write.  To be successful, it is important to design your writing practice within the context of your daily life.  A few things that are essential to establishing your writing practice are:

  • A designated writing space
  • A dedicated practice, whether it be daily, three times a week or more…you decide
  • A designated time of day to write
  • A designated length of time to write
  • Informing everyone you live with that this is your time to write and it has to be respected
  • Letting your circle of people outside your home know that you won’t be answering the telephone, checking emails or texting during this time
  • Note:  You have to respect this time to write if you expect others to respect it.

These are some of the steps necessary to begin to live a Writer’s Life.

Shhh…Get Quiet Now

As you open the space for your writing practice, it helps to settle into a quieter place and to leave your day behind.
When I facilitate writing circles, we typically begin with a meditation.  I offer the following meditation to you as a way of grounding, centering and affirming what you are here to do–WRITE.

If you are able to record this, that would be perfect.  If not, read it aloud slowly and allow yourself to receive the benefits.  Afterwards, sit quietly for a few minutes and notice what surfaces for you.

****
Sit comfortably.
Close your eyes or soften your gaze.
Focus on your breath.
The gentle in-breath, the gentle out-breath.
Sense your breath as it enters.
Sense your breath as it exits.
Enter into the expansion of the breath.
Enter into the contraction of the breath.
Nothing forced, easy and natural breathing.
The breath is your guide on a quiet quest for your muse.
The muse is the instigator of your inspiration and creativity.
You’ve encountered her before.
Today, she leads you down a path under the widely branching oak trees.
She seems to be a tease, but she has something to share with you.
She dances forward and back, around you and with you.
She twirls you until you’ve lost your sense of direction.
She giggles and you feel safe enough to laugh with her.
You feel you can trust her.
You know that what she has to share with you will enrich your life
if you fearlessly follow her.
And you do.
Today, her name is Calliope (the muse of heroic and epic poetry, of storytelling and fine speech).
Today her name is Clio (the muse of history and writing, the giver of fame).
Today her name is Erato, the muse of Eros, desire and the poetry of love).*
Today, she offers to be available to you.
Today, she guides your writing.
Sit quietly, engaging your muse.

(PAUSE for a few minutes.)

Thank your muse as you enter into the expansion and contraction of the breath.
Witness your breath as it enters and exits.
The gentle in-breath, the gentle out-breath which gradually returns you to the present time and your space.
Open your eyes when you feel ready.
****

WRITING PROMPT
Take ten minutes to write about where you figuratively went with this meditation.  That is, non-censored, first thought or train of thought writing.  Don’t stall.  If your writing wants to take a detour, trust it, follow it.

Quietly, reread what you wrote.  Then, read it aloud.  Notice how you feel about what you wrote.  OWN YOUR WORDS!

****

*In reference to Angeles Arriens’s book, THE NINE MUSES–A MYTHOLOGICAL PATH TO CREATIVITY

Arrien says that “In Greek mythology, all nine Muses are divine forces in the form of women that guide us in the making and remaking of the human spirit and the world. Each one calls us to a path of creativity and a commitment to live an authentic life.”

WRITING TIP
Free-writing takes courage.  It’s like taking a plunge into a cold spring lake, following a dare or walking the high wire (not quite).  There are no rules to follow except to keep writing and trusting.  The critic–we all have one–gets to go on vacation during free-writes.