You want to cultivate the rare and delicate state of mind that allows you to write consciously, but without planning ahead.

guillemots sea

One of the reasons I haven’t been blogging much is that I’m doing a 12 week online creative writing intensive. It’s this. It’s good, and it’s causing me to form words in ways I never have, to tentatively explore whether fiction is something I have in me. I used to think so — when I was a teenager, I sat typing in my room for hours, crafting pages of novels that never really became anything. I wrote a romance novel that I never quite finished in my 20s. I wrote one carefully crafted, completed short story when I was about 30, and then never wrote another word of fiction, until about four months ago.

I’m learning to write differently, and I like what’s being unleashed, and none of it is blogworthy. Except that I’m really noticing something about the space that Sarah encourages us to go into as writers goes far beyond writing — it’s about being present, intentional, unplanned, and open to drift that makes new connections.

We just did an exercise where Sarah read a long list of words out loud, and we were supposed to associate an “irrational” word with each one. (E.g., she would say “carrot” and the first association that wasn’t as direct as “orange” or “crunchy” that came to mind would go down as the pair to “carrot.” Mine was “diamond”). Then we were supposed to write something that not just included both words, but used ONE WORD TO EXPLAIN THE OTHER.

Tricky. One of my pairs was “knot” and “trowel.” The wacky little burst I came up with: “She had a knot in her neck, from gardening, and from worrying about… everything. Under the surface of her skin, loud and sharp, digging away at her sense of calm the same way a trowel digs at the dirt, roots for just the right space to plant.”

Hardly poetry, but really fostering a kind of elasticity of mind. The same kind of elasticity I’m trying to cultivate in my general way of being.


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