This month: Exploring Like Weasels
This week at The Cabin's FREE Monthly Drop-In Writing Workshop, we located our urgencies, listened to our bodies, noticed our surroundings, and used our writing, reading, discussion and actions to come up with instructions on how to live.
I’d like us to start today by writing, in list form, in free form, however works best for you, about what you’re urgent for. Warming up the mind/heart/body/spirit in this way, writing without stopping, and without a lot of talk or explanation, about what, right now, you’re urgent for, you’re lunging after, what gets you up in the morning, what is driving you right now. Essentially, what is your lifeblood made up of right now, how is it filling you and what is it charging you after?
What are you urgent for?
What are you lunging after?
What gets you up in the morning?
What drives you toward action right now?
Write for five minutes, keep your hand moving, don’t think, don’t edit, lose control.
How did that go? Let’s keep those urgencies and articulations swimming through our consciousness as we read Annie Dillard’s "Living Like Weasels". Any one read this before? See if you can read it with new eyes, a fresh mind. Pay attention to what you notice, what words or phrases stand out, what questions it brings up in you.
Full text of Annie Dillard's essay "Living Like Weasels" HERE.
What do you notice? What words and phrases stand out?
What questions does this piece bring up in you?
What does it make you see? Hear? Feel? Smell? Taste?
Where does it take you in your body?
What is it saying for you? What is urgent here?
Let’s get out of our cognitive/language brains a bit. I’d like you to explore, using your senses, as a weasel might explore. First, close your eyes. Deep breath in, out. In, out. Listen to your body, check into what it’s telling you.
After you open your eyes, now, in this room you're in, outside this room, outside this building – take 10, 15 minutes allowing yourself to wander, in a specific way. Be and observe. Notice your surroundings with animal fervency. As though your life depends on it, capture everything you can see, hear, feel, taste, smell. There is no hurry. I’ll call you back when it’s time. Go after what calls you, what compels you, what drives you, take everything in.
Now write down everything you noticed. Leave nothing out. Every detail. When you come upon a particularly juicy detail, go into deep specificity using all the senses.
Write for 10 minutes. Go.
Now, using everything we’ve written, read, discussed and observed today, write starting with the title: Instructions on How to Live.
This can take any form – poem, story, nonfiction, song, dramatic writing, text/image. In honor of national poetry month, maybe you want to take that form. In honor of cultivating creativity, you might choose to write something outside your comfort zone discipline.
Pull from the writing you did on what is urgent for you right now. Use your sensory observation writing. Take inspiration from Annie Dillard. Be wild. Break boundaries. Push past your comfort zone. Write your lifeblood on a page.
Go for about 15 minutes.
Find an outlet to share anything you’ve written today.
Or even how the experience went for you.
Consider when you look back over your writing from today, what do you hear in this? What is meaningful? What resonates?
Thank you for taking time out of your day to write with me.
My gratitude goes to all of you. Happy Friday!
Matter of Fact. Statements out of Questions.
Regardless of what you’re feeling right now, writing and sharing a piece using both the heavy and light parts of us can be a healing, energizing and connecting experience.
This past Tuesday at The Cabin, we read and discussed:
Between Solitude and Loneliness by Donald Hall
What do you notice here? What stands out?
What are the light parts? The dark parts?
What images, details and moments strike you?
Notice how much of Hall’s life this piece takes up, of several people’s lives.
Notice these strings of very short sentences.
Almost as though these statements are answering a series of questions.
Can you think of any questions that might prompt some of these statements?
We worked through a short meditation sequence:
Often in these workshops, we might reflect on a space that is part of our lives.
Or we might focus on one particular moment.
Today I’d like us to focus on time, funneling out a much larger portion of our lives.
Perhaps even our whole lives. Perhaps even parts of our lives we haven’t lived.
For that, I think it will help us greatly to get into an open minded/
hearted headspace. All of us are bringing our whole days into this room.
Perhaps something outside this space is eating our attention even still.
Let’s aim to let go of that. Closing eyes. Focusing on breath.
Breathing in. Breathing out.
We practiced just this for a few minutes, before stepping into some visualization:
Then we can start to cast backward:
From this moment, go back in time. From when you came into the room. To your drive here. To your afternoon. The work you did today. This morning. This past week. Let details rise up. This past month. Do images call out? This winter. This past year. This past five years. This decade behind you. The last fifteen years. Twenty. Go back to your college days, if you haven’t already. Your high school days. Allow little details and moments to stir out of that big chunk of time. Spin back into adolescence. Into childhood. Summer vacations. Family trips. Days before school. Days when time was immense. Before you were born…
Pause. Let all that sink in. Take a big deep breath, and fall it away.
Now that we’ve cleared our heads and time traveled, let’s start to take down our lives.
I’m going to ask a series of questions that could be related to the present, past or future. After I ask these questions, I’ll give us a bit of time (1 minute each question) to write what we have to say. If you don’t know how to answer, do the best you can.
Try and write the whole time, and attend to every question.
Write without judgment or editing, be truthful and even lose control.
Try and use specific sensory details, open up and surprise yourself.
Remember Hall’s short sentences. Embrace those.
At your age, what are you?
What are your days like?
What is this moment like?
What does solitude feel like?
What was childhood like for you?
What was early adulthood like for you?
What was your first big love?
What does anger look like?
What does loneliness taste like?
What was your most true love?
What does pleasure smell like?
What are you grieving right now?
What do you long for?
What memories are arising for you right now?
What are you dreaming of?
What are you fighting for?
What does silence sound like?
What haven’t you had a chance to write about now, that you need to write about?
(We wrote 5 minutes on this)
After all that writing, we got up, stretched and sat back down to reform our work.
Now, take a look at all this material. Consider, what could this become?
A love poem? A cry for democracy? An essay looking back? A story looking forward?
You decide. Start to form what that could be.
Underline what stands out, rewrite those sections on fresh paper, combine sentences, mix and match, begin a new piece from one sentence you wrote earlier...
So many options.
We shared and discussed a handful of pieces, and then ended for the day.
Thank you for taking time out of your day to write with me.
My gratitude goes to all of you.
The FREE Drop-In Writing Workshops happen the first Tuesdays of every month at The Cabin from 6:30-8pm, and leadership currently alternates between the fabulous poet Danny Stewart and me.
PS: I'll have to miss this blog posting next week, because I'll be in Creede, Colorado at the National Winter Playwrights Retreat, developing my new children's play, Rajpurr: Tale of a Tiger. Have a fabulous two weeks until I get back in the groove!
Process notes on a work in progress. This page serves to invite you into the way I work, with intermittent posts to show you the hows and whys on the whats I make, as well as prompts and ideas I bring to certain workshops. There will also be some raw, rough content found in notebooks written years ago, previously posted on: