When you’re in motion,
the form will emerge.
~ Michael Hyatt
When I started writing, meaning as a person who showed up regularly & wrote, later called herself a writer, I had no intentions for either discipline or identity. I met the person who led a writing group at a time I realized I’d lost my Voice. A voice I used as an activist on a large university campus, securing a Women’s Center. A voice of a woman who turned in scholarly papers tweaked to personal relevance that professors called platonic ideals. Who was the central liaison between levels of managers & artists & clients in a large corporation. Who, tho shy, expressed herself easily in forums and groups.
The exchange of a defective art print changed my life. I’d bought two small reproductions of strong archetypal, mythical images infused with a connection to the divine mystery painted by a local artist. One arrived as a poorly reproduced color copy, not rich like its giclee companion.
The woman who exchanged the print and I chatted ten minutes in the foyer of her home. I didn’t notice her biz cards on a table until leaving. She led writing circles. No experience necessary.
Each week for 2 hours we wrote to prompts, read our rough work aloud. Responded to the work. And for a year, I left the group mute. Every six weeks deciding I’d quit rather than renew. Each time stayed at the the leader’s encouragement. Until I finally asked the right question that put me on solid ground writing: What do I need to do to engage them?
Here’s the thing. Tho getting no response from the group bothered me, I had no expectations when I wrote. I went to the page curious. I loved the process. I did think when I first started it’d be thoughtful essays. (fifteen years would pass before that happened) But I followed the pen. Eventually through my complex muck of ideas and personal experience, a story with a ‘she’ showed up. A fictional ‘she’ with no name, and a story I didn’t know.
And they continued in a stream after that. Scenes with fictional she’s and he’s that didn’t stop with The End, but with a clear ‘to be continued.’ Each pregnant with possibilities. Curiosity the only thing needed to know.
Curiosity with no expectations led to my novel, too. My first writing retreat was a week long. I wondered (worried) what I’d do each afternoon the others wrote. And every day a short story emerged. Not paragraphs, but pages. I didn’t realize the others thought me brilliant. I thought this is how all writers worked. Once home, I was curious about the little boy in the first story at that first retreat. What would happen if I followed him. Could I write a long story? When I passed 30,000 words, I thought ‘I’m writing a novella, can I do it?!’ At 50,000 words, I knew it was a novel. A novel! And at that moment I thought the book complete, I heard a message it was not and followed more. That book attracted an experienced lit agent within 3 weeks.
Fiction was my joy. I started a second book. When life threw huge fire balls at me – difficult, complicated transitions, house on fire, husband run down by a car – I wrote. And the periods life consumed me for months and I didn’t write, I knew I would one day. Because I knew I was a writer.
But something changed when I could finally settle into writing consistently once more. Fiction was not on the table. Poetic Facebook stanzas and a blog became my practice. Personal stories within essays. What didn’t change is it’s still a process following curiosity without expectation.
Just to show how true this is. . .I’d considered a blog for years. Had the page professionally designed three times. The morning I sat down to do it, I didn’t have a clue what my blog would be. I was driven my intentions beyond the page, but my only intention for the page was to start.
I decided a quote a good beginning. I chose the one above. Thinking it appropriate for both me and the blog. I chose a picture that represented what sustained my soul – Dawn. Shore birds. I edited & expanded a Facebook stanza about a question someone asked. The blog was short, and true. Since the site was redesigned you can’t see the numbers, anymore, but that post got 42 Facebook shares.
I believe the quote – when you’re in motion, the form will emerge – is another way of saying follow with curiosity, without expectations.
Try this yourself. I promise you’ll drop deeper, and may feel freer:
- Put away the computer, if that’s how you typically write. Must be pen (or pencil) to paper.
- Put away your intentions and expectations.
- Pull out a prompt.
- Set a timer. 3 min. is good to start.
- Keep the pen moving, even if what you write are the words ‘blah blah blah, I don’t know. . .’
- Do not edit, or try to figure it out as you write.
Is that sunrise or sunset in the picture above? Are you sure?
Postscript: I’m at it once more. This time journeying back to fiction. Because I miss it, and it’s fun, and it steps me into new places. I’m traveling the way I started. Writing to prompts in a group. It’s not easy. I’m out of practice. I’m forced to let go, not compare my writing to others’, not berate myself when what I write is not fiction. It’s hard not to want this to be something more, better, different, faster, because I’m a writer!
Yesterday a ‘she’ showed up. The scenes appear linked to a novel I edited to essential nubs, but haven’t gone back into. I feel a new story with these characters I love. That they’re changed, like me. When names appear, I know I’m in.
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