I felt like we were in a clearing
ready to mount the horses
– from “The Valley of the Amazons” by Eloise Klein Healy
It’s been two days of my new 5am writing practice, and I feel awesome . . . and also very tired. But my mind is sharper, my brain slipping and sliding words through synapses with a rapidity that I haven’t felt since graduate school when I woke at 4am to write before I went to my paying job.
I had forgotten what it was to live into my true self. . . all wordy and serifed. It feels good to remember.
I find that my writing practice is a lifetime of remembering – something akin to the remembering of Jung’s theories or the myths of Joseph Campbell. A return to something that I know to be the truest – a return, for me, to story.
The plots and twists of story, the way they wrap around my heart with a tug like the one I give to tomato twine, gentle, girding, that began in church – in the stories of the Bible my parents gave me, the one with the very Anglo Jesus painted on the front. The stories that filled my mind with the truth that lives are bigger than we usually know – they can split up seas and calm the storms beneath their calloused feet.
That world – the stories of Scripture – opened me to others – the book on ESP that my parents had on the bottom shelf of the bookcase in the living room. The “Drama in Real Life” tales of Reader’s Digest.” The myths my friend Mary Ella would spin on the concrete porch of the church manse when we played princesses and hid under the sappy arms of the massive evergreen outside the sanctuary. The branches a sanctuary or a prison for our not-so-helpless maiden selves.
So today, as I find myself opening to the words again, as I feel my mind and chest spread wide like the arms of that tree, I am grateful for all the ways story has led me and will lead me still. To the others and to myself.
Here are the five best things I know to do to be open to story:
1. Write every day. Something, anything. I blog 7 days a week in some form either here or at God’s Whisper Farm’s website. I do it to build my platform, yes, but I also do it because that means every day I get some words down.
2. Let your mind wander. I am finding that I’m standing and staring into space more, letting my brain skip through the scenes before me and the memories within me. It takes practice to do this and not feel guilty. But it’s a practice worth cultivating.
3. Read stories and notice how they affect you. It’s easy to just read and let things slip into and then out of us. But if we read with a mind to ourselves, we’ll find ourselves changed. For example, I’m reading a fun murder mystery called Knit One, Kill Two by Maggie Sefton, and while I’m enjoying the “unraveling” of the mystery, I find myself most drawn to the community of women there. Apparently, I’m craving that in my own life – a lesson from story.
4. Be aware. This morning, as I was scanning a copy of a forthcoming magazine in which I have an article, I felt something flitter in the back of my mind, a story idea. So I jotted it down so I can query the editor later today. Paying attention to those ideas is a great way to find new journeys with words.
5. Slow down. Writing, wandering, reading, paying attention – all of these are tasks that require time, slow time, unencumbered time where we aren’t pulled back to things we feel we should do. This life requires a slowness that our culture does not cultivate or even respect. But if we want to write good, honest things, we have to slow down. I really believe that.
So will you slow down with me? Will you take more time to wander and let your words trail around the page? Maybe together, we can get further on our wanderings.