Reflections From The Writing Workshop.
Updated: Oct 9, 2018
a View to a Voice
I was just a little surprised as we got off the elevator. Turning the corner into such a beautiful atmosphere, didn't make it seem like we were walking into a waiting room. I was intrigued by the natural lighting emanating through a window from a third story view, until I realized how creepy it was to be overlooking a cemetery. This would be my perch during the long uncertain wait for my friend to get out of surgery.
I find it an unromantic interruption to my quaint setting to see a tractor growl across the lawn of headstones and flowers. A giraffe head could have to floated pass my elevated window and it would have seemed just as out of place in this Southern California concrete jungle medical facility. It is in this space, with this view, where I plop myself down to process this past weekend’s writing workshop.
Rae Lynne Johnson at Some Place Amazing, taught us to find and create for ourselves a writing spot.
Her encouragement was for us to find a place where we could creatively flow. A strategic part of her workshop was to make it more of a retreat atmosphere. Everything had an added touch of simple elegance. Extra thought was placed into the details of the retreat, so the writers could relax into not expending energy on any details other than writing. It was easier to focus on writing when we were not distracted with grumbling needs, like the needs of the groveling lawn mower still grooming the over grown grass of the creepy cemetery. One of the exercises she had us write was to describe a setting as a character.
It dawns on me that this view has a personality that is setting me up to write.
If I am honest though, I feel like the unexpected beauty in this no fun but familiar situation is disarming my discernment. This view is drawing out of me an erie and elevated perspective. I start wrestling with some introspection that makes me plunge deeper than what I am at first comfortable with.
Do I leap from such a high point of beauty in my spirit into the depths of those graves dug before me below? Why here? Why now? How do I scribe what this is all making me feel? Hospitals try to keep people alive. In this place, I find myself analyzing how I've spent my life so far. From this enlightened spot where I can view death buried and decaying beneath me, I can feel time chasing me down. My friend is having an out patient procedure, but will he come out ok?
Still distracted by some of the stimulus in the room, I struggle to sink into my writing spot, so I zip over to Twitter. I tell myself that perhaps if I star here, I can find some words to uncork my inner flow.
I cross my arms in rebellious resistance to relinquish this pattern as an actual psychological pattern. Wait a minute. I've been in this place before. Perhaps other waiting rooms have not had such pleasant lighting and not such a pretty view. The cemetery is serene on the surface, but haunting when I think about the history lying deeper underground. Perhaps the reasons for waiting have been different, but there is something I cannot deny, when faced with waiting for a loved one who is dealing with life's health issues, I tend to need a place to process everything going on deeper inside of me. The emotional stuff that living, loving and a life well spent are made of comes flowing from me like a broken bag of waters. I have no say as to the timing in which the dam decides on it’s own volition to break. Perhaps a writing spot is a state of mind rather than a physical location?
Perhaps a writing spot is a state of mind rather than a physical location.
How come all of a sudden that irritating haunting decides that now is a good time to sing to me? You know, that situation where the perfect line from a song that you haven’t heard in years decides to score itself right into your personal and private circumstantial consciousness.
Can you name that tune? Can you sing the next line? Yeah, me neither...Jars of Clay perhaps? Nope. Wrong Band.
Only remembering certain parts of the lyrics that keep playing in my inner ear, I realize I am literally wrestling with writing what is alive in me while glancing upon what is dead in the ground. The random flowers brought by loved ones still living are like the incomplete lyrics whispering clues in my mind. Mood and emotions mash together a playlist of songs that seem to be helping my inner voice wiggle their way out towards being written down.
Rae Lynne also encouraged us to write about what we know. Another lyric mashes into my mental mix, “Well I've been there myself...” I hum, trying to see if I can figure out the rest and if it fits into the emotions I am analyzing as I try to write out my thoughts. Well yes, actually, I have been here as an advocate, as a coach for babies being born, as a minister for emergencies, as a ride for outpatient procedures, as a legal executor for all things pertaining to all spectrums of life and death in a hospital. Still humming, yes, the other lyrics work,
It’s no coincidence that cemeteries are strategically placed near hospitals. Talk about covering the gamut of life issues between “He makes me lie down in green pastures”, “Like a Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” and oh, by the way, “Who ya gonna Call?” Freddy Krueger or Poltergeist.
That mash of chorus and title are repeatedly still echoing in my half conscious tapping and fiddling , ”Life Is Worth Fighting For.” ~Church Of Rhythm
A view spot from on high is like the lofty vantage point from which an eagle scopes out it's lunch. When all is calculated, it brings the eagle the confidence needed to dive to focal point and grapple it out on the ground for the kill. This same courage is infused in a writer when they retreat to a setting that helps them focus and scribe out their true voice from the inner depths of their guts.
I decide to read over some of the quotes I jotted down during the writing retreat. They are inspiring and helpful but don't quite come in waves like the music I keep hearing inside my thoughts. These are the words that wash over me while I wait listening, hoping that I can tap into a rhythm of writing.
“Not sanitized. Give enough truth; truth that is not always beautiful. Truth will set you free.”
“Recognize the power we have in describing.”
“Control the emotion.”
“Embrace who you are.” ~Rae Lynne Johnson
“A Tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.” ~Brandon Johnson quoting Mark Twain
“Never believe the lie, that it’s all already been written.” ~Amy Polus
As I bump through my retreat binder of lessons and notes, I come across the first writing prompt that we did. Interestingly, Rae Lynne had us write from viewing this painting.
To which the following sputtered out of me...
Alone but not alone.
Fall. Fire fall freely.
Ignite a death that births the promise of a new life.
Sprinkled. Shaken. Sturdy and true.
All these leaves that won’t leave me.
Chilled in Winter’s cold, where a fire ignites a hunger burning beyond what is seen.
The ebb and flow of a lifelong dance that you and I are willing to sign our names to.
Rae Lynne’s response to what I wrote was, “I think you’ve found your voice.”
The pattern of where my mind tends plops down to process is typically a quaint place with view. Picturing my desk with it's view in my studio, defends this reasoning. This time, it felt as though my writing spot setting stalked me and pounced on me with arrest and metaphorical symbolism. I find myself reflecting on wisdom gleaned from the workshop as I learn how writing can help me wiggle therapeutically through the conscious effort of surviving real life lessons. I seem to be comforted when I have the vantage point of an elevated perspective. Such a view affords me the freedom to feel brave and safe. The writer in me gets unlocked. I find my voice and let my heart spill out and sing.
Perhaps we need to have a strategic view in order to unlock and free our voice?
“Explode the moment. Make me experience it too.”
~Rae Lynne Johnson~
While instructing us on story structure, RaeLynne said that crafting the end doesn’t mean you just stop writing or type ‘the end.’ Make sure you leave your reader with insight that is reverberating.
My view, my voice and my writing halts when the endoscopy nurse calls to inform me that my friend’s colonoscopy was successful. The procedure is finished. He is in recovery, ready to be discharged and driven home.
Thank you for taking thiscoffee breakwith me.
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