Over the recent busy holiday month, I thought all the poetry in me had dried up–just gone. In the night, I lay awake, afraid and searching for a little piece of music. I practiced deep breathing to calm myself, thought of all the things, places, and people who bring me joy, then conjured up memories of darker places, even got up in the night to practice yoga, hoping inversions would loosen words from my head, shake them out as if snow falling in a snow globe. But each morning, I awoke to silence and blank pages.
My experience wasn’t a unique one. I knew all writers have times WHEN IT’S JUST NOT WORKING. But this didn’t make the time easier. I got sad and then angry. I needed a brain switch. First I turned to poetry and some favorites. William Stafford writes in his poem, Run Before Dawn,
Most mornings I get away, slip out
the door before light, set forth on the dim, gray
road, letting my feet find a cadence
that softly carries me on. Nobody
is up–all alone my journey begins.
Huh. So, “Nobody is up”, but me. Just do something about it.
I turned to other writer friends, thinking someone might have gone through this and have a piece of advice. I shared my recent drought with a friend and AWA writing colleague who told me about a five-week online journaling course, New Creative Journaling, created by Anne-Marie Jobin, an art therapist, and why didn’t I try it? I had always resisted journaling courses, particularly online ones, but I figured now was the time to stop resisting and just sign up. So, I did. And unlike some other classes, I actually bought a large blank journal and gathered the suggested materials. Into a large box went wrapping paper, scraps of writing, musical scores, letters, photographs, old calendars, dried flowers from my garden, magazine clippings. I also made a list of my favorite words, gathered some favorite poems, shopping lists. You name it. Suddenly I was having fun. I caught myself talking to myself, as if I had an imaginary friend. And yes, I danced in the kitchen, two fisting a paintbrush and pen.
And then I made time every day to work. Jobin suggests picking a theme for the journal, so I entitled the journal, The Creative Habit. I set no expectations, except to move through the activities, even skipping around if I wanted to. Sometimes I worked to music, sometimes to silence. I took my work to other parts of the house and to the outside. I showed the journal to no one, afraid a word or glance from another would stop my new momentum.
With the journal, I discovered I love practicing collage, drawing outside, using watercolors. And something happened in the process of steady work. Words came back. The dance and choreographer Twyla Tharp writes: “Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is the result of good work habits." I trust this now to be true.
The page I feature here from my journal is from week 4 called the Intuitive collage. Jobin suggests softening your gaze, resisting thinking too much and follow your intuition to pick images related to your theme. And then she suggests writing about it.
Do I Dare?
It’s all in the taking and grasping.
The roundness of the apple looks
like a peach in disguise
The plumed bird almost touches
the hand that grasps
the green wonder box
The rose, pink and wet, sits
next to the scrolled S
The name of the writer
and her place of origin
The shoes move
in a forward direction
as do spires upward
Oh, if it is for the taking,
this creative life, this life
of words and story?
I would answer, Yes. Yes, it is. Thank you, William Stafford, T.S. Eliot, Twyla Tharpe, Lisa, and Anne-Marie.