from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Thursday, 3 March 2011

rainforests and fishing lines (the practice of writing)

For many years now I have been interested in the potential of writing not only in relation to creative expression but as a part of wholeness, by which I mean its potential for uncovering what's below the surface; for self-awareness; for catharsis; for healing; for this whole thing of self-realisation and the evolution of consciousness.

Since late 2007 I've written a quarterly column for MsLexia, the women's writing journal. However, it's under new editorship (actually the founder has returned) and being completely redesigned, and at the moment my column has stopped, though I am sure I shall continue to write for the magazine, as I have since its early days in one form or another.

There's a great deal more to say (as you can no doubt imagine) in relation to my opening paragraph, above, but for now, since the electricity board is going to switch us off in a minute to work on our line, I shall post below the first of my columns for MsLexia, and will be following it with others. You'll see that incorporated into it are suggestions for your own practice, if you would like to follow them. By the way, items that I copy and paste don't fit the blogger 'house-style', so I guess they'll appear in a different font etc.

rainforests and fishing lines

In this first column, I want to write about not writing. I don’t mean as in avoidance (‘I must just clean the oven first’), but not-writing as in finding ways to slip in to, and maybe even dwell in, that space where words might arise, but haven’t yet.
I guess I’m talking about a kind of inner wilderness, or rainforest.  It’s the fertile ground where anything is possible; from which we might gather a feather, a fragment of bone, the ghost of a story, the hoofbeat of a phrase. ‘The untamed has no words’, says poet Tomas Tranströmer; ‘The unwritten pages spread out on every side!’
Writers need to cultivate tolerance for entering and staying in these wordless places for as long as it takes. Perhaps you don’t yet know where to start. Perhaps you’re facing the blank page with nothing to say. Perhaps you start out and find yourself in the same old tidy suburban garden, metaphorically speaking, over and over – nothing eye-catching, nothing new.

So let go. The wilderness place is not an absence. It’s actually the place where everything starts, and new ideas germinate or incubate. This ripening process in the creative cycle is crucial, and cannot be rushed. Timing and trust are important. Learning to be still, to be with the idea of inaction, so foreign to the Western mind, is what allows us to cross the threshold.
‘Like a long-legged fly upon the stream/His mind moves upon silence’, says W B Yeats of Michelangelo. This is a great metaphor for the creative process: gliding on the water, finding ways to keep a thoroughfare across the threshold between the conscious mind and the ocean of the unconscious is essential. This allows a flow and exchange to happen, and eventually you’ll feel the tug on the line that signals a fish; and as you haul it up you’ll probably find fish after fish, one below the other.
Later, we’ll explore reeling in the words. This time, I’d like to suggest a very simple practice for when the words aren’t there.
First, don’t try. Close your notebook/computer and turn your attention to the physical world (some of the best physics discoveries have come when the mind is allowed to freewheel in this way, too!):
·       Take a walk: consciously really immerse yourself in your environment, with all your senses, as if for the first time.
·       Ask questions: what might this be? What’s that like? (Don’t write.)
·       Before bed, play music (dance!), light a candle, take a bath. Stay ‘present’.
·       In bed: with coloured pencils, tumble memories, feelings, images, impressions from the day – quick sketches, not words – into a notebook; tuck it under your pillow. Yes, really!
·       Then tug up the line as soon as you wake: open the notebook and write, immediately, without thinking.

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