The first day at workshop, John said something unusual.
Our instructor asked us why we’d chosen to enroll ourselves in such an endeavor. What we hoped for?
John told us he was dying of a rare form of cancer.
At that time, he was still feeling good. He said he was here to finish up something before he passed. He’d written several love letters to his wife. He wanted our help to get them “right.”
This was a three part writing workshop that I attended for those in transition with change, divorce, loss, grief and growth. This was about three years ago. I wanted to explore my life story: all the tales, myths and metaphors so I could better compose what I saw when I looked back, and so I could redeem my story up ’til that day, and so I could look in the mirror and re-imagine the future.
In order to do this work, we gathered from poetry, stories, free writing, silence, discussion, participatory exercises to stimulate reflection, self understanding and our own depth of healing and hope.
Powerful stuff. Important, worthwhile work.
That’s when it dawned on me that writing isn’t exactly about writing. It’s about remarkable communication. It’s about accomplishing something with language that is important in our precious lives. Writing is a means towards something bigger no matter how poorly we feel. That writing workshop was a place where we gave one another our fullest attention. The act of doing so is one way to advance dreams.
I have always said that writing is life work not desk work. This means that writing from our core and listening from our core is an act of optimism, it’s a way for us to clarify what we need to do. Then use writing to move in that direction.
No “writers workshop” required. Most people will never go to a writers workshop, but we all have a life to live. We all collect the small bits of life, add thoughts and responses then declare it precious. We all do even if we don’t realize we are. We do. We are meaning makers.
Life work is about finding the reason a particular encounter stayed with us. It’s narrowing our way deeper until we understand what happened there. Because it’s not random that you forget so many things throughout a day but specifically remember others. There is something in that which reveals who you are and what you are here to do.
That’s what I believe. That’s why I have a healthy practice of writing from my core almost every day.
If you’re the type of person that doesn’t necessarily like lots of white space and no directions, here is a short step by step start to find your first ink mark on the blank page.
1. Make a list of all your encounters from the day. Include the encounters you’ve had with your self. For whatever the reason, write it down fast. Keep sentences short.
2. Put a star by the item on your list that summons to mind a story, a conversation, anything memorable.
4. Write “the story of your thinking” of this encounter. You may begin by describing your understanding of why this encounter stayed in your mind. It might be something in particular that someone told you. It could be a description of an interaction you had.
One way to think of this: You’re home at dinner time gathering with friends, family and/or loved ones and find yourself telling about your engagement with this encounter. Something worth telling happened. What is it? What did it reveal that you know to be true?
I believe the world needs what only your stories, your poems, your voice and your vision can provide? I am amazed at the influence personal stories of others help me understand and experience human connections. I can’t get enough because I don’t think the whole story will ever get told without your voice.
Lastly, if you hear a voice telling you that you aren’t a writer… Please!
Understand that you have what you need. We all do. Whatever your experience – if you’ve written a note, a letter, a postcard, a Facebook status update – you can share your story.
Or like John, you can work with others to get the communication “right” and have something to pass on.
I want to be the strongest version of myself so I have a checklist every day that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. I know that if I just mark the boxes off this checklist, I’ll be okay
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