Remember when you were five and the best part of school was art time? You had no idea that your smears of red, green, and yellow weren’t art every bit as much as Monet’s water lilies, right? And it was just so much fun. Then some well-meaning people—parents, siblings, teachers, classmates—“educated” you about how to make your painting be art. Right around then, you concluded that it wasn’t fun anymore and was probably pointless since you were not going to be an Artist anyway. Probably, the same thing happened with writing.
Other than a handful of avid readers/writers, do you recall any of your classmates looking forward to English class? Exactly. However, if we’re not writing, we are missing out on magic, especially if we want to know what more life can be. On our path of discovering our truest identity, writing can reveal what we think we know and what we never imagined we knew. It can show us where we are and help us create where we want to be. Writing can be a record of our journey and evidence of our purpose. It can be the asking and the receiving, as well as the enjoyment of all we are creating.
To date, it has been my great honor to write with over 120 weekly writing groups with the women in recovery at Willow Place, Asheville. Every week we gather to play, laugh, create, and explore what more writing can do on this wild ride of coming alive. When a new friend joins us for the first time, I ask the veteran writers to welcome her with their wisdom about our purpose and methods. Their honest generosity always inspires me to look for more on my own path:
Writing, someone says, is where we can meet ourselves on the page, and our Higher Power too. Yeah, says another, and you will be surprised what you find. No judgment, no feedback, and you can never get it wrong, says another. And you don’t have to share, but you should because something cool happens when you do.
We mostly write spontaneously for a short period of time and then share without editing. Sometimes we use other people’s writing as a prompt, or a handful of fall leaves. Sometimes we are playful, addressing our writing to the trees or our younger selves. Sometimes we have a few minutes to write whatever we feel needs to be written. Our method on a given day never matters. What matters is that in there somewhere, the one we have been waiting for is waiting for us. In one magic moment of seeing our honest voice heard by every woman in the room, we become aware. That one inside is seen and connected. She is free.
Every now and then, we review all the ways writing can be helpful to us when we are not writing together, when we’re out there on our own living out recovery. There are many. These are a few that I share:
Ready for some magic? Give yourself a set amount of time alone where you won’t be interrupted, say fifteen minutes to start. Set an alarm so you are not distracted by watching the time, but do not leave your phone on. The general idea here is to ask a question that you care about, and then write down the answer, quickly, without thinking about it at all. For example, you can imagine a conversation between you and your higher self/higher power/Love. You ask and “it” answers.
Get it out. We talk about releasing pain through physical grieving, lamenting, and writing can be an invaluable tool in that process. Like all tools, cathartic writing is easier to use in difficult circumstances if it has been part of our practice all along. Every day, Love brings our attention to a range of discomforts that arise from beliefs that no longer serve us. We can choose to grab a pen and notebook and release one or two onto paper.
Thinking of taking time out in the middle of every crazy-busy day to write about your “bad” feelings is too overwhelming and not what I am suggesting. Start small. Can you imagine trying this just one time? When you imagine trying it one time, do you feel interested? Calm? Curious? Then start there. If you can already imagine making it a part of daily practice, feeling calm and interested, go for it. Wherever you can begin is the perfect place.
Imagine. Notice. Enjoy.
Writing can also be an amazing tool for creating more of the life you want to experience. We are creating life just by existing. There is no way to stop it. You are an invaluable creator of life rippling out from you like the breeze from a butterfly’s wings. You have no idea how your very breath may cause a man half way round the globe to finally pick up that brush and start to paint, or a woman to follow up on her feeling that she can alleviate suffering in her community.
Wouldn’t it be fun to see even a little bit of your effect on the world? A sort of It’s a Wonderful Life scenario where an angel gives you a peek at the connectedness of all things? What if you can see Love? What if the evidence is this very day you are living? You can take more notice of Love as the thing we all are, the thing that connects us and everything, by keeping track of a few of your asking’s and receiving’s. It’s easy and fun.
Whatever you learn or become aware of in any way, you can intentionally experiment to test its reality. Whatever is Real does not change with time or circumstances. Experiments are fun to do with a like-minded friend. You each have the encouragement of the other during the process and you have someone to celebrate with when you learn the truth and life changes forever. Caution: engaging someone not of like mind in experimenting to convince them that you’re right will NOT work. Worse, you will be robbed of your own revelation and celebration.
As we continue to expand, our need to experience what is Real expands with us. We are never learning the same lesson over and over like a dim-witted dog. We are experiencing more and more of the inexhaustible truth of infinite Love. Writing some of it down helps us remember that we are never going backwards, never ending up in the same spot over and over. Writing is evidence that there is always more to know, live, and enjoy.
Here I give my beloved teacher, Emerson, the last word on experiments:
Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little coarse and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.
A journal can be so much more than a litany of what happens. You can certainly start there, and it makes sense because our lives seem dominated by plot. One event after another occurs and we react. Or so it seems. What if the exact opposite is true? What if you react and then an event happens? A good place to explore that possibility is in a journal.
Circumstances, including events, are always changing and appear differently depending on who is recounting them. So if you stick to writing what happened, you’re not saying anything real or true, by our definition. You’re just trying to hold and describe a slippery pile of electric eels. If you move on to writing about the beliefs and energies that precede an event, then you’re getting to the truth. Using your journal to write about your thoughts and feelings allows Love to teach you on the page. It turns your journal into a life experience through which you can know fundamental truths that transform you over and over again.
Journaling can be a practice of vulnerability where you show up uncovered as best you can with all your shame and fear in tow. Right there between your pen and the page, old limiting stories and false beliefs can be revealed, conflicts can be resolved, and distractions can become evident and released. Between you and Love, all things are possible, and you are free to explore every possibility that appears to you. You can be, have, say, or do anything you choose, excellent practice for creating the life you want to experience. You can tell new stories about your true identity and worth.
All of these ways of writing can be a delicious, adventurous path home to ourselves in the present moment, where we meet everything Love has for us to live. Way too many of us have been skulking through life hoping no one will notice our defects. We learned to keep our voice down and our energy stuffed into a dark hole. Making ourselves small and indiscernible from the mythically cool, successful people around us has been our coping strategy. All the while we have been carrying around the little ember of all that we had hoped to be.
Writing of any kind is a way of beginning to give some air to that faint but glowing memory of who we are. The empty page is a gracious space where we can try out our rusty power and risk feeling again. The Beauty-full women of Willow Place are writing their way to freedom together. Love and connection are the natural outcome of our explorations. Humility and gratitude are all that is left. More than enough.
In the beginning, was the Word.
~Kathy Godfrey, MA