Messy, Gorgeous Process

What if I told you that it took me ten years to understand what I was teaching? It looked like I was teaching people how to write, but what I was actually doing, I realized late in the game, was teaching writers how to peel away the layers of their story and dig for something more true, more authentic and just plain honest. And while all that digging and examining is good for writing, it’s also excellent for living. When you chip  away at the façade of your story, and you lay down one true word, and then the next true word you will eventually become stripped down and naked to yourself. And when you see yourself like that, there’s no turning back. You may, as many of my students have done, begin the process of changing your life. I’m a process person. I’m all about getting words onto a page; messy, ugly, imperfect, glorious words. And to do that you need to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. For me, it’s not about what I’m writing or whether I like what I’m writing that’s important. That the pen inks like a river across the page, that I have the courage not to know what the next word is, or the word after that…that I keep going anyway. That’s the spirit, that’s what makes a sound turn into a song. I might only be able to hear bits at first – the merest sound of a refrain – but I’ll swirl it around in my mouth, taste it, roll it on my tongue and Wa La, I start singing. That’s...

Finding Me Some Outgoing Guts and Imagination

“Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Sylvia Plath Wow. You go Sylvia Plath. And here I was all set to write a piece on how I was struggling to find an authentic voice in my blog. That might surprise people who know me. I teach folks how to find their authentic voice on paper – so if anyone should have one packed and ready to roll out for a weekly blog it would be me. Not so. When I’m with my Wild Writing students four days a week I write really honest, messy stories about my relationships, sexuality, addiction, aging, all the things I long for and struggle with. I show up naked and full of those unseemly thigh dimples. I think that’s why I have so many writers who come back and work with me year after year; I put myself on the line and model the kind of authentic writing that Wild Writing is all about. And when I forget how to do it, my students take the lead. Together we create a world where imagination and guts is golden, the thing we reach for. But the blog isn’t a room full of women who I’ve been writing with for months. I have no idea who is reading this, but moreover, I’ve been confused about what to share. My website and my more public persona is that of a writing teacher, but that’s just a slice of who I am. How do I find that middle...

The Power of Asking

A couple of years ago, right after my Dad died, I fell into this funny mid-life thing where I felt really flat about teaching – felt in fact that I had taught everything I knew how to teach – that I was doing it with my eyes closed and it wasn’t serving me or anyone else. It started when I watched my Dad die a few months earlier. There we were, the whole family, my sisters and brother, my Mom – all of us sitting around Dad’s bed as he took his last breath. And as he did, this huge WHOOOOSH came straight from him to me and it screamed silently LIVE! As in STOP FUCKING AROUND WITH EXCUSES AND REASONS WHY YOU CAN’T DO THIS AND WHY YOU CAN’T DO THAT. It was a HUGE call to myself to wake up to what I was doing and to reflect on the things I’d wanted to do but told myself I couldn’t. So I made a list of some of the things I’d always wanted to pursue. I got back to guitar lessons. I moved into a coaching program, I scooted around the world of commercial ethnography – and that was all great – just the exercise of trying new things was energizing. But what I really wanted to do, if I could do anything, was to travel around the country and study with all of my favorite writing mentors – nobody I actually knew – but people whose books I’d read and taught from for years. Thing was, I didn’t have the time or the money do that....