by Janet Grace Riehl
Do you want to go deeper into your work? Do you want to listen in on your creative mind that often slides by unnoticed? Directed contemplative writing plants a seed and coaxes it to grow.
In free writing we write as fast as we can without making corrections in an effort to get around the critic, and travel beyond the intellect. In directed contemplative writing the need for speed is replaced by placing the mind.
You may already use some of these steps, but using them all together and in sequence can produce revelatory writing that may surprise you.
1. Create a comfortable, cozy, and safe environment
Writing is inherently risky. Through writing we come to know ourselves and allow ourselves to be known. This is scary and against all that we’ve been taught. To hush and hold these fears we must learn what makes us feel safe and allows us to be our own cozy companion?
I feel safe wearing fuzzy socks with a soft blanket draped around my shoulders. My writing cave is quiet suffused with low light. But perhaps you feel most comfortable in a coffee shop surrounded by people and piped-in music. To each her own.
We become our own cozy companions when we find and listen to an encouraging supportive voice within us that is curious rather than combative.
2. Choose a seed thought. Keep it simple. This sets your intension for your session. What do you want to explore?
3. Journey. Go to the place where your seed thought is most alive for you. This may be a real physical place, an emotional space, or frame of mind.
4. Write the seed thought at the top of the page. Now go. Write either fast or slow. You may wish to pause to listen for the words forming. Follow this guidance.
6. Scan. What do you know about this seed thought? Follow it like a thread through a maze. Take your time.
5. Seed thought as touchstone. If you start to wind down or lose energy, go back to the seed thought. Write it again if you need to regain stride. Rhythm and recurrence often emerge. These can make your writing stronger. Don’t be afraid of repetition.
6. Go for sense image and the life inside the object, place, or feeling.Hold an image or sensation to transport your reader to the scene you’re writing.
7. Keep the flow going. When you feel that you’ve come to a natural stopping place, then stop.
8. Read the piece out loud to learn what you’ve discovered.
9. Rest then read. Let the piece rest. Let yourself rest. Then read the piece out loud. Is there anything you need to add? What would you like to do with this piece? You may wish to keep it private, or use it as part of an ongoing project.
Directive contemplative writing practice keeps us in touch with ourselves and our work. It allows for intimacy and dialogue between our body, thoughts, and emotions. Contemplative writing prepares the ground, plants the seed, then waters and cultivates it until it’s time for harvest. In January 2011 Creative Catalyst launches a series on harvesting our work.
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