“Ink Blot”

One of the many writing groups I attend is a bunch of free-writing fools, as we often call ourselves, though I don’t know that we have ever formally accepted that label. A lot of what we do is happy or not-so happy foolishness, freedom to let the words splatter onto the page and know that the others in the room will accept them unconditionally. Play therapy? Maybe, but once in a while a tiny miracle occurs and we accept that too unconditionally. We meet in Kit Hedman’s art studio a couple of times a month, sometimes we are four, sometimes we are eight in number, although those figures might also refer to our mental ages.

At a session about a month ago, we used some of Kit’s art work as a prompt. He has a framed series of ink blots that lend themselves to interpretation. Whether or not he had intended that, he accepts the urge of writers to recognize the definable out of the ethereal. One in particular impressed me and became in eight minutes the prose poem posted below. Kit asked for a copy and specified that I not revise, but leave it as it emerged full-bodied on the page. So, a little gift. Happy Saturday.


 

INK BLOT

The giant walks and walks. His feet and legs are muddy and with each step he flings his arms and clots of dirt fly and those clots become planets and he admires them, so he walks faster and laughs to see the worlds that fling themselves through space. The giant wishes he could tell someone about this creation but he’s the only one in sight and tears mix in with the young planets that fly off his fingertips. He’s crying and laughing and walking across fields of white space, making his mark. When the planets and moons scatter, he stands still, watching them spread and sees it all and feels that these things need names, so he makes sounds that become language and he tells himself that some day soon he will find another being to talk to, but for now his galaxy will have to do.

Woman’s History Month

“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
The world would split open.”

This quote from Muriel Rukeyser is fitting for Woman’s History Month, and some of us take it as permission to tell the truth about our own lives. Recently I joined a memoir group with the sole intention of gaining insight about who I am. What I write in this group will likely remain unpublished, an exercise that I’m eager to try all the same. Any writing can be good writing, whether useful to others or not. I want to understand my life in the context of the immigrants who spawned me. This family history has led me into the second growth of genealogy and into ramblings on paper about my lack of deep roots. I have little sense of belonging to a place, although New England comes close. So, my working title for the memoir is Woman on the Move. Writers I admire often have a deep sense of place. Mine is superficial.

It should not have surprised anyone that I married into the military with its assumptions about moving where and  when the orders told us to go. But my own restlessness extended beyond that marriage. Colorado is a state of many migrants, immigrants, and transplants. I am an invasive weed that takes shallow root where it lands. I’ve mostly seen my restlessness as a deficit. I lack loyalty and stability. Maybe I can, through the memoir process, begin to see my travels and uprootings as positive.

Get a Group

There are nine writing groups in my life. Each one unique, but three of them are mostly fun. I write a lot about having fun writing, because I believe that finding pleasure in what we do lets us do more of it. The three that I just referred to involve few rules and lots of writing.

In group one, five women gather every two weeks. First we talk and drink coffee. Whatever topic surfaces is good. Then we write for twenty minutes. This is not craft or critique work, but free flowing, whatever comes to the page. Usually, one or two main ideas surface in the conversation and we go with that soft focus, but if something individual needs attention, that’s fine, too. When time’s up we each read whatever we have, not to get help or correct anything, just to share the writing and react to the content. Because we have been together for several years, the level of trust is high and we can share even delicate information without fear of criticism or embarrassment.

Group two is fairly new, but again we meet every two weeks, in an artist’s studio and do three or four eight-minute free writes. This group grew out of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. The prompts come from the group at the moment we start. We abide by the timer and we keep the pen/pencil moving on the page, no time for editing thoughts or language. Often we have trouble reading our own handwriting, but that’s okay because, again, this is not craft but a chance to let our minds off their leashes and put words on paper as they come to us. In neither of these two groups is there any keyboard or screen. We write the way nature intended us to, with our hands. It’s finger painting with language.

Group three is an ongoing, larger, more organized group that meets at Lighthouse Writers’ Workshop in Denver. It’s called Friday 500, given the goal of each writer getting 500 words down in an hour. Because we do not share this work, the goal stays private. But the quiet attention to our work is a joy. There are beverages and cookies and comfortable chairs and tables. Here laptops and tablets and pens are the tools of choice. After an hour of silent, private work we reassemble in a classroom and join in a discussion or writing exercise where we do share as time and purpose allow.

If you are not involved in a writing group, think about creating or joining one. It takes a few tries to find or build one that fits your style and satisfaction, but it’s cheaper than a movie and more creative than television. (Well, for me almost anything is more creative than TV.) It’s free, it’s freeing, it’s social without the need for fancy clothes or equipment. It’s writing. Just do it.

Thanks again, Julia Cameron

Getting back to the blog makes me uneasy. What, after all this time away, do I have to offer? Tea and store-bought macaroons? New words? No, virtual tea’s weak, and the words are never new, just their arrangement. But the way I am as a writer is newish. Here’s what happened.

I read Julia Cameron’s book The Right to Write. And that changed almost everything. For years I’ve done the morning pages as she recommended in The Artist’s Way, but I had gone stale and in the search for a way to regain their power, I kept trying new journals, new pens, old pens, pencils. I was sure that I would find the right tools to please me and let me fall in love again with this early morning affair I have going with language. The fire had died in our romance. Well, Julia taught me a new trick, actually an old trick revamped and a vamp is a good thing in romance, eh? It’s not the tools that make for a good time. It’s the way you use them. I simply switched, at her suggestion, to fullsized pages, and wow! Like a king-sized bed, the page let me relax, unclench my pen and go at it. In ten days I’ve written 61 morning pages, although in truth some of them were afternoon delight.

Not only that, but I have another forty pages of what Julia calls a timeline. And that is pure synchronicity. She says to divide life into five-year chunks and write about whatever comes in each of those segments. About the same time I started this, with no particular reason but the joy of writing, I was granted access to a six-week memoir group that will start this month. And none of this very personal writing feels like wasted time or paper. I’m writing instead of fretting about what to write. The poems still come, I still read stacks of books, and spend time with friends. Life is full and I am grateful. Thanks, Julia.

Sabbatical w/Geese

Driving on Dillon Road yesterday I saw a hundred or more geese gabbling and pecking in a field just beyond the ditch, earthbound, hungry creatures. But against a clear sky one wild goose flew alone, against that empty background its aerodynamic shape elegant, every wing beat graceful, forceful and free. I have no idea why one individual left the flock and headed north, but I envied that bird and it became a symbol for me. Leaving the flock without fear became possible, maybe important, vital.

While I was sick–about half of December 2014–I fussed silently about all the tasks that  faced me once my energy crept back. Mind you, I was drained, so much so that at times I could not focus on a printed page, could not hold a book steady, let alone write. But in that dreary time I decided that I would find a way to simplify my work.

So–my boss is sending me on sabbatical. I am leaving the internet flock of anonymous, virtual birds, and keeping dear, clear, real faces close. If I know you, can see your eyes, shake your hand, hug you, I’m still here. But I didn’t leave my former work to become a social media slave. I left to be a writer. Writers write, and I mean to do that, marketing and PR be damned. How long will I be gone? How high the moon?

I’ll leave this website open and update as needed the publication list and the bookshelf. The links to Accidental Child will work, including a new option in early January for a print version. Maybe I’ll drop by, but mostly I’m flying solo into reality. Bye for now!