Beethoven, Yo Yo Ma & Me

PW bookYears ago I first encountered Proprioceptive Writing, a process with a daunting label that attracted me because it seems to have originated in Maine and I lived there, still visit often and was curious to know what other writers in my then-home state were up to. For reasons that I have forgotten, I tried it and set it aside.

About a week ago, it rose to mind and I decided to visit it again. As some of you know, I’m a strong advocate of daily journaling. I do Morning Pages, a la Julia Cameron, and I keep a notebook with me at all times, a la Natalie Goldberg. Now I’ve added half an hour each morning for PW. My first attempts were frustrating. I felt fenced in. The process calls for Baroque Music, a lighted candle, no interruptions, not even to sip coffee, and a deep listening to the thoughts that fly through my head at the speed of sparrows before the cat catches them.

Thanks to Apple Music, I found exactly the recommended Beethoven cello concerti by Yo Yo Ma. I bought a candle that will last a long time if I dedicate its flame to that half hour. I found a stash of unlined white paper and a folder, a little stapler. Okay, no problem with the tools. But the process? I resisted and persisted. And this morning, on my fourth Write, I broke through that resistance. I think I’m hooked. Traditional mediation has not worked for me, although I am drawn to whatever reveals the inner workings of my mind and personality.

If you are curious, I suggest you get the book (see above) and jump in. I started the process as soon as I understood the Three Rules and Four Questions and that seems to be a good plan. I’m aware of the values that Linda Metcalf and Tobin Simon espouse as I go along. My copy of the book is underlined, marked and close by. It’s my instructor and my solace when I’m stymied by writing not meant to be shared. The relief I now feel with this process may well be a reaction to having just formatted the ms of a novel about to go out to beta readers, to be critiqued, chewed up, spit out, panned and praised. The PW Writes are all mine and will remain so.


Music to Write By

Last week I mentioned that because of my tinnitus I keep instrumental music playing while I do my morning pages and often while I’m working on a writing project. I formed this habit partly as a defense against noise and partly because I had experimented with a technique called Proprioceptive Writing, a method meant to deepen the act of personal writing using music, candles, and an exploration of what was not said. I liked it, but as with so many things I like, I let it go in favor of an individualized method. Yet the music plays on.

This week I have turned away from the classical radio station I loved for a long time because we just weren’t happy together. They wanted more money and I wanted less talking. So I now depend on two sources of music: my iPhone and a short stack of CDs and a used CD player. The phone is easy, always there and, thanks to Apple Music, offers a huge selection of free music. The CDs are slowly becoming less useful, but I do pull them out when I crave some of my old favorites.

Here’s a partial list of writing music that works for me: Gregorian chant (especially Hildegard Von Bingen’s music), The Best of Yo Yo Ma, Sphere Ensemble’s Divergence, Kitaro, The Sounds of Acadia (music and nature sounds from Acadia National Park where I used to ride my horse), Keith Jarrett (classical), Kalin Yong, Brother Hawk.

Music is miraculous to me. I cannot carry a tune or play an instrument and had I lived in a time or place where the music was what you could make, I’d have been lonely.