Category Archives: Wild Writing

Day of Rest

While at 27 Powers this past week, I was lucky enough to get to sit in on one of Laurie’s Wild Writing classes. How the class works is Laurie gives a prompt, reads a poem and then gives a line or two to spark the writing, which is 15 minutes of never letting your pen leave the page, seeing where it might take you, and she offers three rounds of the practice per class session. On this day of rest, I’d like to share a bit of what I wrote.

At the start of the second session Laurie read us Maya Stein’s poem, this is how you do it, and gave us the lines “this is how you do it” and “you were trying to save the world, that’s all.” I wrote,

This is how you do it, tender imperfection and fierce compassion and the dirty dishes and the bills and the way he looks at you and the burs and slivers and stickers that need to be carefully removed, the broken bits to be swept up and tossed or glued together depending on how precious the piece or how much it feels on this particular day like you need it, even if it is only a shadow of whole.

This is how you do it, you get on the plane, rent the car, show up in space, come in from Colorado or Monday or a dream, you show up, you are present, and when it’s over, you go back home. You kiss the boy, then the other boy, you leave the bag packed in the corner, eat dinner, go to bed, get back to work the next morning, digging in the bag for what you need right now, but still not unpacking.

This is how you do it, you get back to practice — you pull a card, write the words, sit and follow your breath, walk the dog, move your body into the poses. You show up, return, let go and come back, again and again.

This is how you do it, you write the content, edit the pieces, code and publish, answer the questions, troubleshoot the issues, get paid.

This is how you do it, even though you know the deal, impermanence, death is real, you’ve lived with it, been there, let it in, let it go, even thought it’s like stripping naked and handing them the sharpest knife, this is how you do it, allow it all in, to touch you, beautiful and brutal, tender and terrible, the mess, the dirt, the stink, the blood, the light, the laughter, you let it warm you, burn you, destroy you.

This is how you do it, bird by bird, every day, every moment, showing up for when it’s brilliant, for when it’s sharp, for when it’s the same old shit again, you show up, you stay with it, even when it makes you want to poke your eye out with a pencil, to run away screaming, to smash something, anything, to be anywhere but here, you show up, you stay, you keep coming back, letting go. You are trying to save the world, that’s all, and this is how you do it.

27powerslightIn the last round, Laurie read Maya Stein’s poem trash mandala, and the prompts were, “let your pain become a trash mandala” and “what’s torn away can steer you.” This round, we were running short on time, so we only wrote for 10 minutes. I wrote,

Let your pain become a trash mandala. So, unlike some who build a shrine, a dwelling, or worse yet a home or a fortress from what’s been lost, what hurts, who move in and live there, nail “no trespassing” signs to a fence made from bones and knives and broken liquor bottles — not like that, not that way, but rather pick up the pieces, what’s torn, the bits of what is lost, what is left, what you’ve found, and arrange it, shape it into something that heals, the kind of thing that wouldn’t have been possible without the broken bits, the left behind, the lost. Make what only you are able to see, looking in the cracked mirror of your grief.

Let your grieving meet the shoreline, walk into the water and let the waves knock you down, then get back up. If you keep practicing, it will get easier, you’ll get stronger. Pick the pieces the waves offer you, what calls to you, sparkles when the light touches it, pick them up and put them in your pocket, keep walking, keep collecting.

What’s torn away can steer you. Your life, all the struggles, what you see as obstacles, this is the path, this is the stuff to work with, this is your material, this is the trash, the treasure.

Let your pain become a trash mandala. Maya will make a bike, you could string together a trash ukelele, someone else might grind it all up and make paint, or medicine. See what you see, offer it and let it go — don’t move in and live there.

I hope you go to Maya Stein’s website and read more of her poetry, kind and gentle reader. She’s amazing.

Something Good

it looks like it’s waving at us, doesn’t it? or offering a hug.

1. An Intentional Life by Leo Babauta on Zen Habits.

Many of us go through our days awake, but following patterns we’ve developed over the years. We are going through the motions, doing things at home, online, at work without much forethought.

Contrast this with the idea of an Intentional Life: everything you do is done with consciousness, fulfilling one of your core values (compassion, for example). Everything is done with a conscious intent.

2. This quote: At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. ~Albert Schweitzer

3. This quote: As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John F. Kennedy

4. Anaïs Nin on Life, Hand-Lettered by Artist Lisa Congdon on Brain Pickings. When I was in my 20s, I read all of Anaïs Nin’s diaries. She was brilliant and strange, and I loved every word. These illustrated quotes are fabulous.

5. 40 Ways to Feel More Alive on Tiny Buddha.

6. Music is My Church by Sarah McLachlan on Huffington Post. Amen.

7. Six Simple Ways to Reduce Your Stress Levels, from Dumb Little Man: Tips for Life. Oh boy, did I ever need this advice this week.

8. You Are Beautiful Project. Sometimes, something simple can be powerful.

9. Community, A Structure of Belonging from Patti Digh on 37 Days.It is such a sign of hope in a world of pain that we take care of each other, still.” There is still time to give to the John F. Ptak Relief Fund. It always feels good to help someone who needs it, but when they are so grateful and full of love, it feels even better.

10. The next round of Telling True Stories starts on September 10th. I loved Laurie Wagner’s 5-week Writing ECourse, (see my open love letter to her and the class), loved, loved, loved Laurie’s wild, open-hearted, brave teaching, and if you are a writer looking to be inspired, to get wild, I think you will too.

11. Aimee Mann’s New Video. Aimee Mann’s music is brilliant, but a close second to that talent is her sense of humor–both of which are clear in this new video.

Wishcasting Wednesday

What do you wish to experience?

Swimming. I can’t. Well, I sort of can–I can keep myself from drowning for about three minutes, but it’s not pretty, and that’s what’s stopped me from learning, from relaxing into what I might already know–fear, of drowning, of dying, of being out of control and uncool. But, I wish to know what it feels like to glide through the water, to feel safe and confident there. And Jamie Ridler told me I have mermaid hair, so I think it’s required of me to know how to swim.

Performing, singing and playing my ukelele. I wish to take lessons for both and someday get on stage to sing and play my little heart out (but not all by myself, maybe as part of a band?).

I wish to experience being in a flash mob.

I wish to experience holding my published book in my hands. I’ve held it (them?) in my heart and my head and my notebooks and computer files for so long, I wish to manifest its full form, to share it. I wish to know what that feels like, being able to claim that I am a writer, an “author” in a way I’m not able to yet.

Spending a whole summer in Amsterdam. I still can’t really explain it, but I love this place, and I think spending the summer in a house boat or apartment in the center of town, walking or taking the train, shopping in the outdoor markets, visiting museums and writing in cafes, would be amazing.

Spending two months traveling around all of Europe.

Spending time in Japan. I’ve never been, but I love everything about it, the aesthetic, the mood. I’d find shrines and meditate, I’d take an Ikebana class from a master, I’d see the cherry blossoms and the maple trees and the cranes, I’d eat the food, see the people (trying not to stare or be rude), and I’d take a million pictures.

I wish to experience speaking another language fluently.

Leading a retreat. The more I think about it, dream and plan, the more of them I visit as an attendee or even do on my own, the more I wish to offer this to others, to give them the gift of being able to sink into practice, to soften and relax and open in a supportive and inspiring environment.

Teaching an ecourse. Another thing I am thinking of, dreaming and planning.

Teaching yoga and meditation. Along with writing, these two practices have benefited me so much that I want to be able to share them, to have the knowledge, skill and training necessary to do so effectively, ethically, and safely.

Finding my “thing,” my unique offering, and being a creative entrepreneur, being able to quit my paid work if I’d like.

Being able to make, sew, build, craft whatever I can imagine, and selling it in my etsy shop.

Making art and taking a workshop with Patti Digh.

Doing yoga and going on a retreat with Jennifer Louden.

Painting and yoga with Flora Bowley.

In person Wild Writing with Laurie Wagner.

Finding and making magic with Andrea Scher.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail (at least some of it) with Eric.

Having an urban farm. I wish to get my hands dirty, to tend the earth, to provide, feeding not just us, but having enough to share, and keeping animals and insects too, chickens and rabbits and bees and ladybugs. I would love to have a cow, but I wouldn’t be able to eat it.

I wish to experience healing, whatever form that might take.

I wish to experience complete self-love, acceptance, worthiness.

I wish to experience wholeness and wellness.

I wish to experience my life, all of the beauty and brutality it has to offer, the whole thing, all of it, and to know at the end that I made a difference, that I showed up with an open heart and was loved, that I mattered and was able to ease suffering in the world.

An open love letter to Laurie Wagner and Telling True Stories

Certain people that you encounter in your life will change you, alter the way you experience the world in significant and long lasting ways. The impact of their light, their nakedness, their wild love continues to ripple and shiver and quake all corners of your life, sending out aftershocks that continue long after your focused time together, making things forever different, illuminated. Laurie Wagner is one of those people.

image from Laurie’s website

I first heard of Laurie Wagner in the same way I heard about every other good and precious thing I’ve discovered in the past year, on Andrea Scher’s Superhero Journal, this post to be exact. Rachel Cole was also talking about her, how Laurie is an amazing teacher and writing mentor. That was all the proof, the second opinion, the encouragement and nudge I needed (I’m no dummy), so I signed up for Laurie’s Telling True Stories ecourse, the very first run of it.

Holy wow.

Holy crap.

The structure of the class is simple enough: “a 5-week writing course with 3 weekly lessons, writing assignments, and deadlines. Writers will share their work with the community, giving and getting feedback.” Laurie also set up a private Facebook group for those of us who wanted to play. As in every other ecourse I’ve taken, it’s really up to you how much to participate. Some of us posted something every week and shared feedback and chatted on Facebook, others never said a word–you can do as little or as much as you can, be involved or not, to whatever degree you like.

image from Laurie’s website

Even though this is an online course, Laurie’s energy is radiant, vibrant and raw, lighting up and electrifying the space, however virtual it might be. She is at once your favorite grade school teacher, most popular camp counselor, beloved childhood friend (the one who climbed trees and loved books), best girlfriend, and precious mother. She also is the most skilled and kind doula, every piece I wrote for class felt like I’d given birth to something magic and wild. The class wrung me out, wrecked me, in the best possible way. In a Well-Fed Woman interview with Laurie, Rachel Cole says “I know her teachings and how they can crack you open.”

Yes, crack you open and let the light in.

Laurie says in one of her latest blog posts, “If I’m about anything, it’s authenticity. That’s what I teach, that’s the edge I consistently lean into. It’s what I encourage my students to do – to trust that showing up as their natural, vulnerable, imperfect, Words With Friends playing, gorgeous bed-head, didn’t-have-time-to-brush-their-teeth-selves is all we want. In fact that’s WHAT we want!”

image by andrea scher

I’ve signed up to take Laurie’s “Straw Into Gold” in the fall, but in so many ways, I feel like I’m still in a class with her. Most certainly, her teaching hasn’t stopped. When I sit at my writing desk or stand at my computer, afraid to say what I really want to say, I think of Laurie, her support and her strength, and it gives me the encouragement I need to get real, be messy, tell the truth. Just this week, she posted “10 Tips for Telling the Truth” and #1 was “Ask yourself what you’re afraid to write about. Bingo. Write this.” See, still teaching me.

What my writing needs, adores, desires: space and time, gentleness, kindness, nature, joy, my Pentel Clarius medium point black ink pen, my blog, my copies of Writing Down the Bones and Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott’s Facebook status updates, my dogs, my yoga and meditation practices, quotes from Pema Chödrön, dharma talks by Susan Piver, Mary Oliver poems, friendship, a camera, music, long walks, enough sleep, and now, the beacon of Laurie Wagner’s wild love, her insistence that I show up as I am and speak my truth.

If you are someone considering taking Laurie’s upcoming Telling True Stories, let me tell you, first hand: take this course, do not hesitate, run don’t walk, just do it–you will not regret it. Rachel Cole said it perfectly, about how Laurie and her teachings can “crack you open.” And yet, you will feel utterly safe and protected reaching down into the darkest, most raw place and be willing to roar like a lion about what you find there, will discover a wild power that you didn’t even know was there. Life altering…no kidding.