Last night my contemplative writing teacher Miriam Hall gave us a prompt about what might be going smoothly in our lives, in the midst of roughness. Here’s what I wrote, edited just slightly for clarity:
Is anything going smoothly? Writing. Amazingly enough. Regular writing dates. Regular rhythm. Rhythmic writing. The (almost) daily morning pages. Almost daily writing dates. Weekly longer ones with read-aloud and feedback. Weekly readings and discussion with the Time Zone Lab, which inform my background research for the novel. Biweekly contemplative writing classes with Miriam. Monthly feedback group with Miriam and two of her other students.
It’s becoming routine, to be writing this novel. Not the rhythm I had before the pandemic – which leaned heavily on periodic writing retreats. They were sometimes monthly, or quarterly at least, where I’d pack up a ton of stuff, spend a day getting myself and all my gear there, unpacking, setting up, then going deep into myself, my research, my characters, my writing, catching up on transcribing notes, collecting scattered ideas into idea maps, stitching the oddly-shaped pieces into a crazy-quilt fabric, communing with the work and with the process of creativity itself.
Do I miss that? Maybe some, as I write about it now. Certainly the solitude, the sense of autonomy, the sense of magic, of connecting with nature on my walks or kayak trips. The sense of a journey, both in space, and in depth, and in unpredictability, the freedom to follow a thread down a rabbit-hole and come out the other side with plenty more time to write. And the group retreats – witnessing others’ processes, learning from Miriam and from each other. Yes. More of that will be good, one day. But.
But what? But this. This steady, everydayness. This. Is. Something. Something special, and rare, in its very ordinariness. Or perhaps it’s not. Perhaps many writers have found this way to work – in the midst of other responsibilities, a dedication and diligence and dailiness. A solid writing practice.
Solid? Yet porous. The structure is firm, yet what flows through it is still fluid, still creative, still deep, still magic. Steady magic. Making. Crafting. Knitting. Puzzling, piece by piece, word by word, page by page, “inch by inch, row by row, someone bless these seeds I sow.” Bless these words I write, bless this ink, its flow. Bless these friends who show up to do the daily work, together, over zoom, and let each other’s writing matter as much as our own, with mere attention our coin of exchange.