-Mabel’s Place, Lawrence windows, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
A friend of mine told me she’s been rereading her old writing practice notebooks. She said it took her splat into the face of Monkey Mind; she also discovered a few gems.
Inspired, I started reading over notebooks from an Intensive writing retreat in Taos last year. It’s hard to reread the dribble and drat of writing practice. I’m glad I remembered my wading boots. It was getting pretty thick in there.
I found passions and complaints, all the frustration and fear, the rawness of sitting in silence. There was a whole paragraph on an ant crawling through a patch of light and into a crack in a floor plank. Another two on breathing in and out, the workers talking in the distance, the wind through the small corner window hitting the side of my face.
The same things kept popping up over and over again. But once in a while, there it was – a refreshing moment of clarity.
Natalie Goldberg teaches the practice of rereading in Writing Down the Bones. She devotes a whole chapter to it. She says time should pass, space between writing and rereading. Then there is a meeting of the minds:
The continuation of writing through all your discursive thoughts is the practice. A month later you recognize consciously the good writing when you reread your notebooks. At this point our unconscious and conscious selves meet, recognize each other, and become whole. This is art.
In the pages of that old notebook, I discovered a 10 minute practice from February of 2007, one of the last practices we did as a group in the zendo. The topic was to make a list of what we remembered about the last year of writing in the Intensive.
There was a strong feeling of intimacy, and of something ending. And at the same time, a fresh start.
What I Remember About Writing – 10 min
- Details. Write details. They bring the work alive.
- No sentimentality.
- Stand on the backs of the writers that came before you.
- Read everything by an author.
- Be grateful for writing connections.
- Give back to your community. Don’t just take.
- Have compassion for other writers. Study their lives.
- Study good literature, essays, and word counts.
- Ask questions. Listen for the answers.
- Don’t be afraid to look dumb.
- The more personal it is, the more others can relate to it.
- Love good books. Love other writers. Go where they lived and worked.
- Insights aren’t always followed. Sometimes they go back inside.
- Seeds from a Birch Tree, James Baldwin, John Cheever.
- Sugar Nymphs, Caffe Tazza, Ghost Ranch, the Harwood.
- Suspend judgment.
- Keep writing practice at my back.
- Writers labor over books.
- Do not waste this precious life.
- Study the minds of other writers.
- Practice and sitting teaches how to hold creative energy.
- The energy of resistance turned is awakening.
-list from a writing practice in Taos, February 10th, 2007
Wednesday, July 4th, 2007