For 15 minutes we write as fast as we can, pen never leaving the page. By writing so quickly we are able to push past our inner critic and our ego and all the ways we stay trapped in looking good. This gives us a chance to move into a less self conscious, loose groove where, if we’re lucky, we may stumble into the fertile imagination that lingers within us, conjuring up stories and memories that are waiting to be written.
At the start of each wild writing session, Laurie provides a prompt. Of course it is understood the writing can go anywhere, that we let go and allow it to move, but the prompt is a place to start, to come back to if we get stuck — in the same way our breath can give a focus when we meditate. In one particular session, Laurie shared a poem by Robert Bly, Things to Think.
Think in ways you’ve never thought before.
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you’ve ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.
Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he’s carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you’ve never seen.
When someone knocks on the door, think that he’s about
To give you something large: tell you you’re forgiven,
Or that it’s not necessary to work all the time, or that it’s
Been decided that if you lie down no one will die.
The specific lines Laurie offered as a place to start, to return to, were “Think in ways you’ve never thought before,” and “if you lie down no one will die.” I was surprised by what I wrote, and at the same time it made complete sense to me, I knew it was the truth — which is the magic of this practice.
This is it, isn’t it? At the heart of all the words and ripped paper and paint and roasted eggplant, there is this — if you lie down no one will die. Maybe sometimes what I’m really afraid of is that if I lie down, everyone will be okay, everyone will keep going, and when I die, no one will notice. I will lie down, I will die, and the world will keep on going. I’ll decompose there on the ground, with the sand and dead leaves, the bugs will devour what doesn’t rot away, I’ll turn to dust, and no one will see it, no one will remember.
So that’s it, isn’t it? The real worry, the true fear, the “creamy center” — I’m afraid of being lost, lying down and dying and having no witness, no one left weeping for me, nothing I ever did or said or made or felt remembered by a single person, the paper I wrote the words on shredded, torn and glue-sticked to someone else’s art, the painting I did with my bare hands handed off to someone else to cover in their own color. I will have lived, struggled and tried so hard and it won’t matter.
And yet, there is a part of me that doesn’t care, thinks maybe that is better, to not matter, to go without hurting anyone, to not leave anything behind that doesn’t get used up in someone else’s effort to make some kind of meaning out of something that can never make sense for any of us — 1000’s of us, years and years, painting in blood on cave walls, creating monuments that aren’t even understood by those who come after, speaking in languages no one will understand once we go quiet.
So it’s okay to let it all go then, the pursuit, the passion, because if you lie down, no one will die, and everyone will die.
Think in ways you’ve never thought before — if it doesn’t matter, you can lean in to the letting go, you can reach for the paint that makes you happy, no judgement, stone stupid, and it doesn’t matter. If a wave knocks you down, you ride it, get up and walk into the next. You notice what you are doing when you are happy and you lean in, and in two minutes, hand your painting to the person next to you, let go and go deeper.