I wrote something in my Wild Writing class with Laurie Wagner that I really like. As I shared it, it felt like something I could post here, and Laurie reinforced that by emailing me later to say it was “blog-able.” This particular writing process, wild writing, is completely magic. The way it works is Laurie reads a poem, and then suggests a few lines to use as prompts. We write for about 10-15 minutes — as fast as we can without stopping, no editing, no judgment. Instead of spending my time trying to make the writing perfect, precious, this practice takes me right to the messy truth — beautiful and brutal, tender and terrible. Sometimes stuff comes up that I don’t want to write about, that I’d otherwise avoid, but I write it anyway. Sometimes what I write is dumb or boring, nonsense. Other times I get to a place I never would have found without the permission given by the practice to be wild.
Wild writing is similar to what Natalie Goldberg writes about in Writing Down the Bones. She suggests in her chapter “First Thoughts” that “The basic unit of writing practice is the timed exercise.” Her recommendation for how to approach the practice is a set of six rules:
- Keep your hand moving.
- Don’t cross out.
- Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar.
- Lose control.
- Don’t think. Don’t get logical.
- Go for the jugular.
In her book, she includes a bit more commentary for the rules, but you get the gist. Laurie amped up the magic by adding the poem prompt, and asking that we share what we write, giving no commentary and receiving none. The combination of the three (timed and prompted and shared without commentary) propels my writing in a way that nothing else does. Wild writing lights a fire that burns right through all my crap, my ego, my resistance. And it doesn’t just work in the moment, but spills over into everything else I’m working on. It’s what I was able to recently teach in my Wild Writing, Crazy Wisdom workshop, and it’s why I hope to keep sharing it, keep doing it.
The prompt for this piece was “How to Pray” by Annelyse Gelman. I could have started with “let this be the year of the rough draft” or “it’s not enough that…” but I chose to start with “Bless the…”
Bless the rain, the wet and the mud. Bless the wind that tears through. Bless the sound of the furnace running, working, warming. Bless Ringo happily lying by the vent under the kitchen sink, hogging all the warm air for himself. Bless the last of the tomatoes and the watermelon we bought even though we knew it probably wouldn’t be any good. Bless the butternut squash and the olive oil and the garlic and the oven. Bless the muffins mysteriously so much better this time even though I’ve baked them hundreds of times. Bless the not knowing, the mystery. Bless the longing to know why even when there are never any answers. Bless the confusion tucked right in next to the knowing. Bless my bones. Bless the wind that keeps blowing even after all the leaves are stripped. Bless the plan for lunch. Bless the to-do list. Bless Adele, bless her voice, bless the words, even bless the sadness I feel knowing I can’t do that, can’t make that sound, can’t open up my throat like that. Bless the longing. Bless the disappointment. Bless the recipe we made a special trip to the store for, spent hours on, and that didn’t turn out. Bless its awful taste. Bless the writers who string the words together, make a mess, find a through line, somehow manage to put it all together. Bless the laundry. Bless the bills. Bless the windshield wipers propped by the door week after week waiting for someone to put them on the car. Bless the men who fixed our car. Bless the car. Bless the road. Bless the precious lives speeding along those roads. Bless the ones who don’t make it home. Bless the ones waiting, wondering where they are, whey they are late. Bless the work. Bless the brain and the energy. Bless the machines and the electricity. Bless the bread and the butter. Bless the toaster and the fire. Bless the mystery of the wind, the not knowing why or where it comes from. Bless the remaining two minutes. Bless the sound of a key in the door and the sound of their feet running down the hallway, the sound of a head banging into the door. Bless the wanting to be let in. Bless the closed door.
Bless this day of rest, and bless you, kind and gentle reader.