Writing Under the Influence

I was of two minds about attending the writing under the influence workshop. Not because I didn’t see the value in writing workshops; I’ve participated in enough of them over the years – as student and teacher – to deeply appreciate the value of flexing your muscles lest they atrophy. No, my hesitation had to do with how my once promising day had collapsed on itself. I couldn’t stand the thought of being around people just then. But I decided to chance it anyway. And not only did my writing muscles get a work out, my spirits were lifted.

Tanya Evanson’s ice breaker exercises put you off kilter enough to get you out of your head and then Rumi, Rumi, Rumi…and then group writing…oh how I hate group writing exercises…because my creative route goes brain-heart-spirit to fingers…group work short circuits the path with a detour to the tongue…and as it happened I didn’t verbalize much (read: at all) while the group writing chain linked and clinked itself together…truth is …by the time my puzzle piece of words lined themselves up someone had already jumped in and the chain had another link…always a beat behind, I held my tongue…but then we were sent our separate ways to reshape this chain into something of our own making…this part I loved…this part flowed heart-brain-spirit-fingers…I edit and write for a living so it felt almost like second hand…but then this was no simple edit… no, the words started reforming into something entirely new…and I felt alive in the process…and that gave me the key to the poem…by the time I was done I was quite eager to share it…so eager in fact that my heart was beating a wild tattoo against my rib cage…I could hear it…truth be told…the rhythm was also driven by my body’s instinctive rejection of public speaking …I do it, have done it multiple times, will again …as soon as this coming weekend…but boy do I hate it…boy do I fear it…but true to my mantra…feel the fear, but do it anyway…I leap into it…so I decided to do just that…I volunteered to go first. And because we had to be creative in our presentation I decided to incorporate my yoga (breathing) practice into the exercise. It fit the poem after all and was less about performance and more about melding with the audience. Once I was done, I could relax and enjoy the rest of the presentations and didn’t even think about my craptastic day again until I stepped outside of the cocoon of the workshop and back into the real world.

This was the chain from the group exercise:

Live in silence

Close your eyes

Speak only to yourself

Hear without ears

Feel without touching

Sense without being

This beauty is only for the blind

For those who can see won’t understand

Follow your thoughts

To their rest

I’m unable to speak

But I can use my hands

Truth cannot fill an overflowing cup

Sense the spirit that lives outside

I’m glad for this glass door that’s hiding me from deception

Ask no questions

My body shows it all

Guided by the feetless walk

Upon winding paths of the mind

Trees move not

Hear not sound

Mind sees and hears all

 

My redraft (entitled Truth):

Close your eyes

(a beat)

Close your eyes

Speak only to yourself

Without ears

Without words

Absent sight and sound

Live in silence

Come alive to yourself

 

The beauty you shield

Is only for the blind

For only those without

Sight

Can understand

Understand yourself

 

Follow your thoughts

Use your feet

Use your hands

Do not speak

Let your truth fill this cup

So it overflows

Swirls around you

Like spirits’ touch

Do not flinch

From it

Do not hide

From yourself

Live in silence

Come alive to yourself

 

The water becomes the mirror

In which you

See yourself

No more deception

No need for hiding

Come alive to yourself

Swim in this truth

Follow the currents

Where they

Lead

Let your instincts guide

You

Trust yourself

Here where

There is

No sound

No sound

No sound

Only you

In the silence

Speaking truth

To yourself

 

 

Blind one-word evaluation (one from each member of the group):

“wonderful”

“Lilting”

“Abstract”

“Creative”

“Harmonious”

“Inspiration”

“Lustrous”

“Gripping”

“Fantastic!!!”

“Direct”

“Entertaining”

 

See also another workshop participant’s experience of the experience.

 

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

3 Comments

Filed under Literary Gallery

3 responses to “Writing Under the Influence

  1. I also experienced wanting to add a line only to have someone jump in, this left what I wanted to say appear irrelevant. I didn’t contribute a line to the group poem, but it was fun sculpting a poem from it. Great write up and hope you have a better day.

  2. Thanks to both Joanne and Kim for sharing your experience of my workshop. I am humbled and happy to know it was an uplifting experience with positive ripple effects. Your insights have truly inspired me.

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