Four ink pens had already run dry.
It was Day 8 of a 27-day writing challenge.
In her morning prompt, my writing teacher shares that wild writing is 95% tenacity.
Feeling a bit intimidated by the 15 long minutes of silent writing that is soon to follow her opening, I feel a spark of hope.
I know I have tenacity.
I can always open screw-top jars. Barefoot walking can be easily tolerated even in the soft sole return from winter socks. I hike in the rain. I somehow love my lazy neighbors who don’t separate their trash from recyclables and have an equally lazy dog that yip-yips at the window each time I come up the stairs. Pure tenacity. I am telling you.
Yet, is tenacity enough? Really.
Brené Brown, in her research, talks about the overwhelming number of adults that have creativity scars from childhood. These scars arise in specific incidents when children are “told or shown that they weren’t good writers, artists, musicians, dancers, or something creative.”
I grew up as a “covered in mud or paint” kind of child. My parents enjoyed my dirty knees and not only encouraged, but also practiced their crafts right alongside us. Gardening. Watercolor. Motorcycle design. Yet, at some point, I choose to abandon much of the creative life within my heart for the cookie-cutter world.
Coming home to my creative wilderness feels terrifying as much as it also ignites great pleasure and sustained joy.
I find it takes daily practice and patience to convince creativity that I’m serious about moving in together. About creativity and I becoming an “us” again.
A Creative Lenten Practice: 40 Days of Creative Wilderness
My year of retirement began in January of 2017 when I cut off A LOT of my hair, closed up my time at my place of employment, and decided to hike 350-miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.
I knew my life wanted to change but was restless and unsure how to support such a birthing. Letting my hair go and surrendering to the identity hair can hold us to as women, was a beginning.
It was not easy, but the risk and death it called in felt right. I called my mother before the braid was cut off. I prayed before the braid was cut off. And I let it go.
I started asking myself, what will bring me move alive?
For Lent last year, I decided to do a poetry challenge. I read two poems a day for 40 days…but kept up the practice long after. For the first time, I relished the words of celebrated local poets William Stafford and Ursula Le Guin. I soaked in Jane Hirschfield’s masterful craft and found a fellow journeyer in land and love with David Whyte. I attended poetry classes, literary readings, and started making friends engaged in the creative writing world.
As Lent came near this year, I pondered where my creative edge wanted to take me. I wanted to work with my voice, rather than soak in the creations of others. Something about the raw loss and perspective and incredible adventure of 2017 opened my voice in a way I had not yet explored.
It is amazing to me how I am naturally attracted to the very things that terrify me.
Can you relate?
The first 1/2 of Lent I painted. 30 minutes a day. I listened to podcasts, TED talks, Oprah, and books on CD. I swayed to Joshua Bell’s Romance of the Violin and felt yet another perfect definition of love in the music. Brené Brown calls music a thin place. And so it is for me.
Here is a gathering of my creations these days. **Do note how my painting shirt is one of my favorite creations. The storyteller of the creative journey with no destination itself.
I somehow gained courage these first 15ish days. Courage to begin a 27-day wild writing challenge with Laurie Wagner’s 27 Powers the remaining days.
I love writing. Always have. Sometimes, on days that are full of the first warm breeze of summer or when I feel hope in every cell of my being, I venture to call myself a writer and even a poet. Writing also scares the heck out of me.
How I can pray, meditate, watch seasons change day-after-day, and celebrate living within a mystery as a center point of my daily spiritual life yet still feel shocked at how much “unplanned material” comes from my writing? I just don’t know. But, the shock (and great awe, too) remains.
So my update is this: Writing is now my favorite daily practice for embracing uncertainty.
For any of you who also struggle with controlling life and what we want to happen (even when murmuring to your self “I surrender, I surrender”), this is a big deal. Embracing uncertainty is always about growing trust. Trust in ourselves, our stories, our worthiness, and the connection and infinite possibility that are inherent in our very being. Of course, I am all about this on the outside, but inside, there are still some little child parts of me not so excited about trusting others. Wild Writing alchemically brings those scared little-Leahs close to my present-adult self. We build trust. Hold hands. And take that into the world…or so I am finding.
I made it through the practice and the holy disruption of Lent. I did it!
The final/27th day of the Wild Writing* practice, Laurie invited us to send her our work for that day. The jump off line was “Here is what I want to tell you about writing…”
I wanted to share part of Laurie’s response to me. Not just because it pulls out some of my favorite lines and makes me look good, but because it describes the feeling tone of this type of writing practice. Her words say it beautifully.
Holy shit Leah, so many great lines and images!(excerpts from my larger piece)
This is Writing. She is like this. Unassuming. A landscape of unstoried truths that find their way into our hero’s hearts. We gush for this medicine. Thirsty children at the water fountain that spouts up into the sky before coming back down to open lips. Ready. But writing needs none of the glory. Just the pen and the page each and every day. Rain or shine. Heaven or the layered cakes of hell.
If she spills that expensive red wine on your carpet, you’ll realize you’ve always wanted to dye the carpet burgundy red.
Just to name a few. This piece was so beautiful. Print it up, put it up. It’s no small thing, a reminder that you were there. That for 27 days you let yourself off the hook. You gave up trying, you gave up looking for a better word, a better writer, and just trusted what was coming.
I know it’s hard to trust this, hard to believe that this stuff – this odd, colorful, sometimes freaky stuff – is the path toward even more beauty and freedom. Part of what we accept if we take this path is that we’re not always going to like what we write. We might even call it bad writing, but that doesn’t stop us. We keep going because bad writing, boring writing, got nothing to say writing, is part of all writing. If we have a fantasy that real writers always show up shiny, we’re sunk. It’s like I say in the practice, “learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable.”
I love this intention. Learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Yes!
*Wild Writing is a term I initially know from Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind and Writing Down the Bones. These beautiful books outline a process for helping the inner critic to stay out of the way. In essence, this happens from keeping the pen moving. For those of you familiar with The Artist’s Way, the process also differs from the Morning Pages practice. Laurie Wagner’s teachings are similar to Natalie Goldberg’s framework with some great prompts for getting pulled into yourself.
It hit me this morning in my meditation that the first flush of Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hikers have already set off from Campo at the Southern California terminus headed for the Canadian Border. Wild.
I continue to feel myself arriving home– the ways we come home within ourselves– claiming and living the changes that were ignited on those solo 350-miles.
I wish I could tell you more of the form that is emerging for me…but stay with me in the uncertainty. I continue to tend my Coaching business. I am loving the Learners (my name for clients) I am working with. This practice has been such a gift to me. Each day I listen to the rhythm of this business’s heartbeat and her desired timing and scale and possibility.
The past few months, I’ve also felt my hunger and desire to grow my financial buffer, so I am widening my lense, researching, asking lots of questions, and seeing what appears on the horizon.
In the meantime, I’m loving springtime at the Albina Cooperative Garden (see our onion rain planting pic below), good time connecting with family and friends, watching my very cute nephew grow (thank you technology!), exploring a new Spiritual-community home at Leaven Community Salt & Light Lutheran Church, nurturing my creative practices and tending to my inspiration as I hear her speak.
And so it is!
May this find you all practicing brave acts of trust. Perhaps you are also diving into your creative edges or finding new/renewed ways to trust life’s great uncertainty?!
I invite any of your own stories to fall into the comments section below.
I’d love to hear from you!
With a creative roar,
Stories move in circles. They don’t move in straight lines. So it helps if you listen in circles. There are stories inside stories and stories between stories, and finding your way through the is as easy and as hard as finding your way home. And part of the finding is getting lost. And when you’re lost, you start to look around and to listen.
–Corey Fischer, Albert Greenberg, and Naomi Newman of A Traveling Jewish Theater, Coming from a Great Distance