How I Came to Writing Practice: Drought, mountains, and finding inner reserves

Three days to launching the class schedule for my inaugural month of teaching!

Between July 27 to 31, I will be posting the story of how I came to writing practice. This will hopefully give some context of what to expect and why I believe so strongly that we are all storytellers and why I believe in this process. Please leave comments and questions if there’s more you’d like to know.

Taos MountainI studied with Miriam until the summer of 2009, when I moved back to the east coast. It was after moving back that I had to learn what it meant to practice solo. I learned what the heart break of leaving behind community feels like.

I also learned, and continue to learn, how hard it can be to simply show up. Having a class, once a week, where I was scheduled to be there, where others would ask where I was if I didn’t show up? That’s a commitment I could handle. Showing up for myself, at my big wooden desk? That was much harder.

I don’t know what prompted it, probably Miriam’s suggestion, but in October 2009, I went out to Taos, New Mexico, to study for a week with Natalie Goldberg. Her book, Writing Down the Bones, is probably the best known introductions to writing practice. The practice described in it is the one that served as foundation for both of my teachers. The time is Taos was a great big opening for me. I had to face some of the demons about teaching, writing, and self that I hadn’t had to face. I spent Tuesday through Friday evening in silence. (If you know me in real life, you know that’s hard for me.)

In thinking about it, the picture of Taos Mountain in this post is a good description about how I felt about my own practice as I found my way toward the retreat in the fall of 2009. I had only been away from my physical writing community for three or four months, but it felt like forever. I was taking online courses with Miriam. It wasn’t quite the same, though.

I felt dry like the southwest, but as I saw Taos Mountain as I took the shuttle bus in, I felt my body relax. There is majesty and solidity in practice. I spent a full week learning what that meant. During that time, there was a lot of meditation, slow walking, and writing. Writing writing writing writing. Writing out the hard things, the joyful things. Writing about the food, the land, my own interior landscape. Retreating into writing practice for a week was like finding a wellspring where I didn’t realize there was one. It was releasing a feeling of drought for one of plenty. And that overflow? It allowed roots to drink, be filled up, and continue to grow.

The first iteration of wanting to teach writing practice tickled at my brain. I felt the roots digging in more deeply. And honestly, don’t we learn more about our subject when we teach it to someone?

Check back tomorrow to see where the tickling idea took me.

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4 thoughts on “How I Came to Writing Practice: Drought, mountains, and finding inner reserves

  1. Good for you! I’ve been teaching creative writing — a “practice” class w/ prompts, etc. and a manuscript class — since 2008. It’s so rewarding! I began very much entrenched in Goldberg and Julia Cameron but have added my own flavor to it as time has passed. You will too, in time. This Fall, I’ll be teaching a more “contemplative” writing class, infusing insight meditation, courtesy of a wonderful Buddhist meditation instructor I sit with. Best of luck!

    • That’s wonderful Thank you for your comments.

      What prompted you to begin teaching? What do you find rewarding about it? How would you describe your own flavor with the classes?

      I would love to hear more! Feel free to also email me if you’d like, at visible.and.real at gmail dot com.

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