In front of the John Lennon Wall in Prague.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

100 Days

On August 24th, I wrote about my experiences at the AROHO Writer's Retreat in my post "Open the Door."  In part I wrote:  I want to stay on my writing path, just as I stayed true to the trail up to Chimney Rock.  I opened that door at the AROHO retreat, and so far have been walking my writing path during this first week back at teaching.  And I'm determined to keep going.

Well, here I am on Day 100 of my new writing practice.  In the last 100 days I have gotten up a half hour early to write. When I realized this, I was reminded of how elementary teachers celebrate the 100th day of school with their students by computing all sorts of statistics about school, so here is my list:

  • I have gotten up for every morning for 100 days.
  • I have written for 50 hours in those mornings (and sometimes more on the weekends).
  • I have drunk 100 cups of tea from my thermos.
  • I have filled 3 1/2 notebooks (and just started a new one).
  • I have written 10 poems.
  • I have written 1 essay.
  • I have written 2 short memoir pieces.
  • I have read 4 books of poetry by fellow AROHO writers Diane Gilliam, Ruth Thompson, Barbara Rockman and Leslie Ullman.
  • I have written an estimated 200 words per page (since I am one of those neat freaks who fill the entire surface of every page with writing, I was able to extrapolate this amount by counting the words on a random number of pages).
When I first went to the AROHO retreat in 2011, I bought a stone with an eclipse symbol carved into it:  a moon and sun joined together.  I read that this is a symbol of merging opposites, representing unity and compromise instead of conflict.  I envisioned that stone as a symbol of how I want to join my two sides:  writer and teacher. 

I talked to my new AROHO friend, Tania Pryputniewicz about my dilemma in the Albuquerque Airport.  I made a pact with her that I would write every afternoon after returning from school.  Did I keep it up? Nope.  I found my mind too filled with all the noise of the day to keep myself writing.

Then this year, at the Albuquerque Airport once again, I made another pact with Barbara Yoder. This time I vowed that I would get up early every day.  I had been resisting this idea for years, but had finally faced the fact that early morning was the only time I could reliably call all my own.  Did I think I would be able to do it?  I admit I was skeptical. I still doubted myself.  But here I am 100 days later...

Now that I've finally given myself the gift of time, I feel I've  joined those two sides of myself.  Although there are many times of conflict when the stresses of teaching keep my from writing as much as I wish, I now know I can always find that morning time to sit quietly with the my notebook. 

So on this day before Thanksgiving, I can only say thank you to all the wonderful women writers of AROHO who have helped me find my way.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

I finally turned left!

A few weeks ago my sister-in-law Barb came to visit.  She was excited to be the first one in our family to see the new house and to explore our new community.  Luckily there was fine fall weather during her visit, so we were able to take daily walks through the neighborhood. On the last walk, she joked, "Next time I'm here, let's turn left." 

That was when I realized that every time I go for a walk, when I get to the end of the drive leading to the sidewalk, I do indeed turn right.  Even though I have only lived in this house for six months, I'm already in a rut!

Lately I've been trying to shake things up in my creative life. Having made a resolution to get up a half hour earlier every day to write, I have gotten up every single morning since then. I can proudly say it has been 90 days as of today.  I also decided to take a poetry workshop that not only focused on writing, but also memorizing a poem each week.  I thought trying to use my brain differently could help me shake loose even more creativity.

So last weekend, when I took a walk during which I planned to practice memorizing a poem, I thought of Barb's words.  I turned left.  Pacing down the street, I recited Emily Dickinson's poem "Because I could not stop for death..." over and over to myself.  Perhaps it was the new direction or the strangely beautiful words of Dickinson's poem, or a combination of both, but I did seem to see the trees and houses around me differently.  I noticed the details of leave patterns and the sidewalk heaved from tree roots with more clarity.  And I even got an idea for a new poem of my own.

This reminded me of how important mental disequilibrium can be for the creative process. By shaking things up for our brains, we can uncover ideas and images we might never have found otherwise.  What wonderful gifts those become.  If we never break loose from what is comfortable or routine, that gift of creation might be lost to us forever. I'm determined to catch as many of those moments as possible. 

Even though I know all this, sometimes it is too easy to forget.  So, thanks to Barb's wise words, I've added a new resolution to keep turning left, in whatever ways I can. 

What are some ways you have "turned left" in your life? How are you shaking up your life to let your creativity flow?  


Friday, November 1, 2013

Another publication

My poem "Pilgrim," which I wrote after my trip walking a very small part of the pilgrim trail to Santiago Compostela has just been published in RiverLit Journal.  If you'd like to read my work and that of other talented writers, check out this beautiful journal.