Practicing: I am looking at

As  mentioned in last week’s post On Writing and Community, I’m trying a variety of approaches to help improve and inspire my writing. I am a writer by profession, but it’s a very different style of writing than the kind that speaks from my heart. It’s writing for someone else and by extension, prescriptive and academic. This blog, and my book are about opening my heart and embracing the art of writing. They are, as so eloquently described by Dani Shapiro, about “court[ing] my demons” and inviting “them onto the page so that [I’m] grappling with some of the most fundamental questions that haunt [me].”

While writing is anything but a science, it is a skill, one that I’m hoping to improve and fully espouse. As such, I believe there are formula and methods of practicing that help us to grow and learn. Arguably the most important is doing, the practice of trying and stretching one’s comfort zone. While this blog has proved an important outlet, it also offers accountability. It’s a place I feel obliged to visit often. It keeps me practicing.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to put it to work. I’m starting to work my way through the memoir writing prompts in Natalie Goldberg’s book Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir. To keep me going, I’ll post my efforts here. I hope you’ll indulge me, and please feel free to critique and offer insight.

Here are Nathalie’s rules: Write for 10 minutes. Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling, grammar. Be specific. Don’t cross out. (Or in this case, don’t delete.) Just keep writing.

I am looking at

My room. There are two bright, big and open windows that open up the outside of my back yard. It’s grey out there. The rain is pattering down, I can hear it falling, and believe it’s bringing the promise of May flowers. I’m hopeful because I really can’t make much of this grey. It reminds me too much of my mood.

My room is a giant mess at the moment. I’m cosy in bed, the comforter is a balled up mess of comfort. Next to sits an opened book, quietly calling my name. I’m content with my favourite devices, my iPhone and my MacBook.

On the dresser directly across from is a pile of socks. Why can I never find the pairs? It’s an ongoing irritant, those pesky missing socks. It’s drives me crazy, because it feels like a project that is never complete.

Next to the pile of socks are two of my most favourite items in this space. Baby pictures of my boys. The one of my second son is from just hours after he was born. It’s a creamy white frame, with a white boy and cross hanging importantly from the top. Just below the picture, one where he is nestled completely in white: the white of his hospital gown and the sheets that covered my bed, it reads: “Forever held close in the love of the Lord from this day on.” Every time I look at this photo, I’m hit with a swell of powerful memories, and a longing so deep for another baby. F0r another moment such as that one. I covet it, it’s one of my happiest memories.

On the other side of the dresser sit our wedding photos. Two of them. One of me, and one of my husband. I’m struck in this moment how that dresser holds the symbols of everything I cherish, on display as a reminder for me everyday. Those photos, all four of them, symbolize happy beginnings, hope, and wonder. As I gaze at them thoughtfully, I’m filled with contentment for the life that I lead, and for the blessings I’m so fortunate to have.

Sitting proudly between these photos are three wooden blocks, together they read: C loves J. Simple, but profound. Particularly placed as they are between these photographs. Until this moment, I never considered the significance of their placement, and how this is the centrepiece of my bedroom. A place that we designed to be an oasis from our hectic lives when we first built this house.

I’m hitting publish now. I won’t edit or refine. I’m publishing it just as I wrote it, as a stream of consciousness. I have to admit, I feel a bit vulnerable about it, but I think this is a good exercise.


23 thoughts on “Practicing: I am looking at

  1. I love how doing this told you something. It said something to you about something you hadn’t noticed before. Writing is such a gift. YOUR writing is a gift. Enjoy every moment. We do. 🙂 xoxo

  2. Justine says:

    Well done Christine! I am too chicken to ever publish without re-reading and editing a thousand times and even then I’m usually not 100% satisfied with the content and go back to re-edit. Kudos to you for taking this brave step because sometimes I think it’s overthinking that limits us and stops us from moving forward.

    And as for your gripe with socks – same here sister! It’s a mystery.

    • Writing from the heart, holding nothing back, letting the words flow unedited is a courageous thing to do. I do it sometimes, but I rarely publish those words. I use them at some time later as a springboard for an essay or a poem. This beautiful post stands on its own, Lovely, well written!


  3. Chantal says:

    Thanks for sharing Christine. I am happy to read 🙂

  4. harrietglynn says:

    Amazing that through an arbitrary writing exercise, you discover something new. I am sure that the only writing worth reading must reveal something below the surface. And that takes me waaaaaay outside my comfort zone.

    • Christine says:

      You should try it. You might find it more comforting than you think. Do it just for yourself, there is no reason you have to share. But the process itself can be quite cathartic.

  5. Celina says:

    I think it is beautiful just as is. I am very curious and am clicking over to find out more about the Natalie Goldberg book you mentioned.

    • Christine says:

      Do have a look. She offers a whole book full of meditative exercises designed to help you open forgotten doors. I’m pretty excited to be diving in!

  6. Wonderful, Christine. It is so hard to not edit – and to recognize the existence of “practice writing” (which is, frankly, what I do daily, at times, with a grimace). And I love Goldberg. I always find her inspirational to the writing process.

  7. Amber says:

    Wow! Well done! Unfortunately, I hit publish far too many times without editing and re-editing; a task I replaced with spending time with my kids.

    These memories are beautiful!

  8. This is a daring enterprise you’ve got going! I’m following with interest and eager to hear what you learn!

  9. Gina says:

    This was fun to read and see your brain working. I’m dying to tell you something – throw away the mismatch socks.

  10. This is great, Christine, and so brave of you to try it! I recently learned that Natalie Goldberg lives in Santa Fe, so I hope to participate in one of her workshops sometime. Writing exercises are so powerful because they allow our unfettered minds to explode, and sometimes it’s gorgeous to see what comes out. I heard Julia Cameron give a talk last night, and was so moved by the idea that, if we commit to writing on a regular basis, without censoring or giving in to our inner critic, we will evolve as artists and as people. And I can’t imagine something much more exciting that that!

    • Christine says:

      Thanks Dana, I really hope it well help my writing mature. By committing to do it here, I’ll be more focused and committed. I would love to go to one of her workshops! I’m headed to one with Dani Shapiro at Kripalu this weekend, and I couldn’t be more excited.

  11. I love that you’re tackling your writing project with all the seriousness and attention to craft that it deserves. Writing is a skill that needs honing, you are right.

    • Christine says:

      It’s both a strength and weakness. I tend to dive into things with complete abandon, and have trouble separating myself from the process.

  12. SueB says:

    This exercise is very similar to one my high school creative writing teacher used to begin every class. She would write three short phrases on the board, i.e. “a baseball, a blue rug, a sidewalk” and ask us to choose one. Then she’d look at the clock and say, “go!” We had to write for 10 minutes about that phrase, never once stopping. If we got stuck, we were to write something, anything, until we became unstuck (even if it was just ” I am still writing, I am still writing”). Each day we would all be surprised at the twists and turns our brains would make, looping us into stories we didn’t know were there. It was fascinating. What you’ve shared with us today is full of your own surprises — look how much you could see and how much you could share in a glance around your room. And you’ve shared your own courage with us by just hitting ‘post.’ You are inspiring!

  13. SO glad you took the leap and hit ‘publish.’ Lovely picturing you in that space, thinking of your blessed life – which I’m sure doesn’t always feel that blessed! – but still, it’s so good to have those moments of clarity, where we find ‘eyes to see’ what we have. I’m definitely ordering that book – what a great way to move into the practice of writing, especially memoir. Thanks for this!

  14. This is so cool! Thanks for modeling courage and practice like this. And as an aside, your content itself made my whole body relax. In a world where so much is about pubic life, getting situated in the private space of a bedroom and the sorts of thoughts a person has in that space, instantly made me feel more *real* and more connected with you as a real human being, too.

  15. […] exquisite version of this exercise. I also want to note that this is the next in the series of memoir writing prompts in Natalie Goldberg’s […]

  16. […] of you will remember that I’m working my way through the memoir writing prompts in Natalie Goldberg’s book Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir. This […]

  17. […] of you will remember that I’m working my way through the memoir writing prompts in Natalie Goldberg’s book Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir. This week […]

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