Every two to four weeks I sit with Sue Reynolds in her home with a group of other writers to write for an entire day . These days are aptly called “Sanctuary”. I’m reasonable well-disciplined at home, but in this setting I catch fire, so I am admittedly an addict. I sign up for any and all of these days.
The way we often launch ourselves into the day is by doing a kind of core dump. It used to be a point form, what are all the things on your mind, what do you think you want to work on, etc.. But for the past months Sue has us do what is called “Proprioceptic” writing. I won’t go into all the setup, but essentially what we are asked to do is begin writing anything at all, and as soon as a word or phrase shimmies a little, waves its little hand at us to say, I have energy, we are to stop and write the question, “What do I mean by _____? (whatever that word or phrase might be.) And then we write “_______ is when…” or “_______ is the kind of…” and write whatever that thing is for us. And each time we encounter a word or phrase like that, we write the question, answer it and follow it in. While this isn’t the stuff that one is likely to try to publish, for me it is very juicy and since we are not asked to read these pieces there is a deep freedom to go where angels fear to tread. And it has the same effect of clearing the mind’s field of noise in order to drop in to what is calling to be expressed.
Today, I’m going to share some of my writing from this exercise. In part because of a particular reminder that Gywnn Sheltema gave us in her talk at WCSC’s monthly luncheon meeting this past Sunday, wherein she said that not only do we need to take risks, we need to go where the pain and discomfort are, if we are to put out compelling work. We have to reveal what we might rather conceal. Because, quite frankly, if it’s safe, it’s boring. Ain’t it the truth? And yesterday I read Tobin Elliot’s blog and found myself nodding with tears in my eyes. I’d rather read about wounds and tenderness than anything else. Wounds are not only interesting, they are what gives us both our individual character as well as providing the glue that binds us together.
So here we go:
I feel resistant today. What do I mean by resistance? Resistance is that protective piece that says no instead of yes. No, I can’t. No, I won’t. No, it won’t work. I might fail, feel pain; I might be unloved. I will feel too much and therefore be destroyed. This will undo me. I will be revealed as a fraud. How ironic that this happens with or without my resistance. Nothing is safe, not even nothing. No. Thing. Even death is a something and death is happening all around me, and any moment it will happen with me in it. What do I mean by death? The end of embodiment. That’s all we really know. And that those of us left on the ground will miss the smile, the voice, the place we held in the world because of that person’s existence. I was the apple of my father’s eye, for instance. What does that mean? Apple. Eye. Even the phrase is peculiar. What is an apple of an eye? What one desires? Is that so far from the truth? He did let me glimpse his longing for some aspect of my life – the freedom, the independence, the ability to shapeshift. He had his own shapeshifting abilities, that one. What do I mean by shapeshifting? Shapeshifting is when you change depending on circumstance or who is present, or for a specific goal. My shapeshifting tends to be playful, experimental, not exactly deliberate and not always conscious. I jump into the wind and ride the currents, pulling leaves and flowers as I pass to taste and smell new growth. My father’s was deliberate and pointed. But truthfully, I don’t know that. All I know is that I loved him and sometimes the way he looked at me, talked to me, touched me, made me squirm. But I’m a good sport, aren’t I? We don’t make a fuss. We’re the brave one, the happy one. Ensusyastic, that’s me. Always. At least I don’t cry anymore when I write words like that, and not just because I’ve lost the taste for feeling sorry for myself. What else? What do I mean by feeling sorry for myself? Sucking it up and crumbling inside which walls off the love that is reaching out to touch my face…
and so on…
So then, whew… that’s out of the way, AND it’s stirred up some poop, so it has served two purposes. From either perspective, I’m off and running. The day I began with that, I wrote one short story, five pages of memoir and completed the final two pages of my rewrite for the first novel. Oh, and a poem, too. I’d say that proprioceptic writing is a fairly effective tool to get a day’s writing going (even if the word itself is a bit of a mystery).