Tag Archives | labyrinth

Inspiration from Room to Write

800px-Tower_at_Scarritt_BennettI just got home from Nashville, where I co-produced the re-instituted Room to Write, along with Terry Price and Janet Wallace.   This event is not a writing conference.  Rather, as we like to say, it is a time for uninterrupted creativity.  While we did offer several talks throughout the weekend, they are totally optional, because the point of the weekend is to give you time to get away and write.  So we emphasize that if you’re in the flow with your writing, stick with it and don’t come to the sessions.

The event is held at the Scarritt-Bennett Center in the heart of Nashville, a gorgeous spot that is a former college. As such, it is dotted with cool old stone buildings and beautiful mature trees.  It’s a very popular spot for weddings. Each participant gets several meals in the Harry Potter-style dining hall and a room.  The rooms are, shall we say, spartan, and most of them share a bathroom.  When I say spartan, I mean spartan: one single bed, one desk and a chair.  I’ve actually grown quite fond of these rooms and am able to do some great writing in them–like I’m holed up in my own little writing cave.  But participants also have free run of the entire campus and many of us ended up hanging out in Lasky, where they serve coffee and there’s lot of places to sit and write.  I got a lot of good writing done up there, too.

I could go on and on about what a great time I had, including dinner with my student Norma at Epice and lunch with the beloved J.D. and Donna at Chuy’s, but my real intent here is to share with you some good info I gleaned from the presentations.

Labyrinth Walk

First up was Terry’s labyrinth session.  We met in a fine mist at the SBC labyrinth, which is based on the one at labyrinthsbcChartres Cathedral.  Terry is a labyrinth fiend and full of great information on them.  A labyrinth can be used a lot of different ways, but it is most often used for  spiritual or creative purposes.  It is one path with no tricks and no dead ends, unlike a maze.  You just follow the marked path (in this case, it is a grass labyrinth delineated by bricks) all the way through.  It will lead you to the center and back out again.  You don’t even have to think, and the point is not to.  It can be useful to ask a question before you enter the labyrinth and most often you’ll receive an answer before you depart.  Keep your journal handy!  I’ve walked the labyrinth many times and this is the first time I’ve failed to get an immediate answer, though it did come to me later.  If you would like to find a labyrinth near you, check out this site, which lists labyrinths all over the world.

Sustaining a Writing Practice Over the Long Haul

This was my session, and I had a great time.  Since we were a small group, I invited everyone to chime in with comments and questions as we went along and it turned into a great discussion about how to keep to the page.  I divided it into 4 segments: writing, doing something writing-related, doing something that will lead you back to your writing, or doing something that will support your writing.  The feedback that I got was that the ideas were very helpful and so I’ll probably work them up into a blog post or two in the coming weeks.

Creating From Wildness Through the Poetry of Rumi

This was another great session from Terry, using Rumi’s work to encourage wild, mad creativity in our writing.   It was a rich, deep session.  As one of our attendees said, “Terry is like blood pressure medicine,” and he is.  Very chill and calming and wonderful.  Here’s a snippet of the Rumi poem, I’ll Be Mad, to give you the flavor of it.

Forget safety. Live where you fear to live.

Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.

I have tried prudent planning long enough. From now on, I’ll be mad.


Leaving the Writing Cave and Building the DreamJanet at Room to Write

Janet’s presentation on the mindset and marketing pieces we writers need for the business side of our lives was powerful.  She alternated between mindset recommendations and marketing advice.  Examples of mindset are: make peace with your desires, nurture your relationship with money, improve your gratitude, practice self-care of greater success faster, and nurture your relationship with time.  For marketing: write a personal manifesto, get clear on your ideal customer (or reader), use social media to build community and sell your books, find your tribe and continue to thrive.  Great stuff.  I took a ton of notes.

Besides the sessions and the blocks of time to write, another great aspect about Room to Write is meeting your tribe of writers.  We enjoyed an opening Happy Hour event to discuss goals and ended with breakfast at Panera on Sunday morning to talk about what we accomplished.  In between, there was much camaraderie over meals, a few spontaneous tarot readings, new friends and contacts made.  All in all, a wonderful time, well worth flying across the country for.  Of course, Nashville is my second home so I’ll head there any time!

Are you planning to attend any writing retreats or conferences this year?

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From Spark to Story Workshop Report

SBCApril2015

Scarritt Bennett Center

I am back from Nashville, y'all.  

I went there to teach a workshop with my good writing friend Terry Price.  We called it From Spark to Story, and planned it to be just that: a journey from gathering inspiration, to getting it onto the page, to shaping it into a story.  

It worked brilliantly.

Well, okay, so maybe I exaggerate just a little.  But the 17 people who were there (20 signed up but several had last minute snafus) seemed to enjoy it and get a lot out of it.  And I know that Terry and I loved teaching it.  Here are some of my main take-aways:

–15 minutes a day is all it takes.  Both Terry and I came to this separately and planned to present it as a method to find your way back to your writing and, just as important, sustain a writing practice. It resonated deeply with the participants, and many of them tweeted and posted on Facebook on Sunday morning that they'd done their 15 minutes.  (We created a hashtag for it if you're so inclined: #15minsday.)

If you were to, starting now, write 15 minutes a day every day you could have a novel written in a year.  Really.  I'm not kidding.  Do the math.  And the other thing is that often when you tell yourself all you have to do is 15 minutes, you get so engrossed that you end up writing longer.  But that's not even necessary.

–Prompts are good.  We worked some with a variety of prompts on Friday night and Saturday morning and our writers found them useful as portals to all kinds of inspiration and epiphanies.  So often writers sniff at prompts as being the province of beginners, but I use them all the time (hence, my prompt blog).  If you've not had luck with them in the past, try again.  Just remember to keep your pen moving across the page.  Its when you stop to ponder and stare out the window that prompts aren't as effective.

–Clustering can unleash you from your left brain.  More often now called mind-mapping (I like clustering better), this technique was popularized by the late Gabriel Rico in her book Writing the Natural Way.  To tell you the truth, I'd forgotten about it, but Terry is a fan and he made people try it.  Since I was icing my foot (I had a terrible attack of plantar fascitis while there) I didn't do it in the workshop, but I've been playing with it since and I can see its value.  Give it a whirl.

–Get thee to a labyrinth.  Scarritt Bennett Center, where I stayed, and where we held the workshop, has a labyrinth modeled on the one at Chartes, France.  It is a marvelous creativity jogger.  You ask a question or think of a problem before you enter, walk to the center, pause to listen, then walk back out again.  Note that a labyrinth is different from a maze.  With a maze, you're trying to find your way out.  With a labyrinth, you're finding your way in.  Take a journal with you because you'll likely have an inspiration or two to write down.  It has never failed me yet.  To find a labyrinth in your area, try Labyrinth Locator.

I'm sure more thoughts will bubble up over the next few days and weeks and I'll report.  For me, it was a rejuvenating experience to be back in Nashville and reconnect with a city I love and so many of the people I know and love who live there.  Southern hospitality truly is the most generous in the world and I've always been welcomed so warmly.

And stay tuned–because we are cooking up a Spark to Story Part Two to be held in the near future!

 

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The Writing Life: Walking the Labyrinth

Writers are always looking for ways to boost their creative practice.  I know I am.  I collect writing exercises and creativity activities nearly as obsessively as I collect books.  Today I want to write about another excellent practice I've recently discovered: walking the labyrinth.

In a recent post, I mentioned my stint as the "book doctor" at Room to Write, a writing retreat held in Nashville. The retreat was held at the Scarritt-Bennett center.800px-Labyrinth_at_Chartres_Cathedral Rabbi Rami Shapiro, the organizer and guiding light of the retreat, talked to us about the history of the labyrinth one very cold morning, and afterward guided us on a labyrinth walk.  I'd like to share a bit of that experience with you here. 

Most people hear the word labyrinth and think maze.  But a maze is a very different beast from a labyrinth.  Navigating a maze, your left brain is activated.  At each puzzling juncture, you are forced to make a choice or a decision as to which path to take to reach the center.  It is a problem-solving activity.

Conversely, there's only one choice to be made with the labyrinth: whether to enter or not.  (Isn't this a great metaphor for writing already?)  Because once you do make the choice to enter the labyrinth, there is only one way to go and your only job is to follow it.  Once you are on the writing path, you’ll need to trust that you are
exactly where you need to be.  You need to allow yourself to succumb
to the process of writing.

Once you set foot on the labyrinth, the way in is the way out.  Walking
the labyrinth is a metaphor for the journey to your deepest self and
returning again to the world with a more profound understanding of
yourself—and the words to share it.  This is the very process that the
writer repeats day by day, one word at a time onto the page.  The
labyrinth encourages a deep trust in the process, that surrendering to
it is not only okay, but desirable—something we often forget in our
organized, logical world.

A labyrinth is also a symbolic form of pilgrimage, and as writers we make pilgrimages to our deepest selves every day.  The labyrinth is an ancient form, with the first labyrinths being mentioned in Pliny's Natural History as being located in Crete, Egypt, and Italy.  Later adopted by Christians, they fell out of favor for many centuries but have recently been resurrected as a tool for spiritual, contemplative, transformational and creative paths.  Not surprisingly, they are incredibly useful for solving writing problems.

On that cold morning last week, as we walked the labyrinth at Scarritt-Bennett, Rami encouraged us to repeat a problem with our writing (or life) on the way in, pause in the center, and then ponder a possible answer on the way out.  Or, he said, you can just repeat a word such as peace or love or home.  I was quite taken with labyrinth walking and how useful it was to shaking free ideas.

One of the most famous labyrinths is at Chartres Cathedral in France, and many labyrinths are modeled in this style, including the one at Scarritt-Bennett.   Because of a recent surge in popularity, you’ll find labyrinths in many public places, including parks and churches, most of which are open to the public.  A quick internet search will find you a labyrinth in your area.    If you absolutely can’t find a labyrinth to walk, you can find finger labyrinths for sale on the internet, or perhaps at your new age bookstore.

I highly recommend it as a creative tool, to say nothing of a profound spiritual experience.  I've already scoped out a few labyrinths here in Portland, and plan to visit them as soon as possible.   Do any of you have experience walking the labyrinth?  Feel free to share.

PS.  Don't forget to sign up for my free coaching sessions for writers!  You can find out more about this offer here.  Please sign up!  I really want to talk to you!

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Writing in the Rain in Nashville

If the title of this post sounds familiar, its because it is….I wrote a post called The Writing Life: It's Raining SBphoto in Nashville back in September when last I was here.  It rained hard then, and it is raining hard

once again today.                     (Above: View of labyrinth from my room at Scarrritt-Bennett)               

Personally, I like the rain.  I'm an Oregonian, after all–I'm used to it.  But I also like the cold, wintry days we had here last week, with the sky gray and threatening snow.  I arrived on Wednesday to be the "book doctor" for Room to Write, an amazingly wonderful four-day writing retreat.

I got a lot of writing and pondering (c'mon, it is a vitally important part of writing) done, got introduced to the quiet thrill of walking the labyrinth, discovered a couple great new Nashville restaurants, and most importantly, met some incredible people.

I feel blessed to work with Rabbi Rami.  A mutual friend described him as one of the sharpest theologians of our time, and I think she's right.  He's also got a passion for writing and a passion for helping other writers.  He's awesome, plain and simple.

My very first coaching appointment was with Janet Hagan.  I came away from it with A. a new social media consultant, and B. (and most importantly) an awesome new friend.  This woman is amazing, people!  Go read her blog and soak up her wisdom.  Or hire her.  She is great at demystifying social networking for writers.

Ruth Williams is a therapist whose mission is to spread joy…and just being with her begins that process! I also shared the weekend with John Anderson, whose smile, jokes, and enthusiasm for writing lit up everyone's day, Sarah Young, Deborah Hatton, and Samantha Yeargin, new friends who were a pleasure to get to know.  I could write pages about any of them, but I won't because I have other things to discuss.

My job at the retreat was to be on hand for coaching, hand-holding, and offering advice about writing.  Besides writing, I love coaching writers (and other creative types) more than anything else in the world. It is satisfying to hear that my efforts have helped others past blocks but that's not why I do it.  I do it because through my own years as a writer, I've discovered techniques to unblock myself and keep the words flowing and its my mission in life to share them.  Why?  Because I'm a sappy soul who believes that if everyone followed their creative path regularly, we'd have a lot happier world.  Fewer wars, less anger, more joy and happiness and good old fashioned contentment.

My pleasure in coaching writers this weekend has led me to a Thought.  And the Thought is that I want to spend more time coaching in the new year.  I'm not talking about reviewing or critiquing writing here–that is a totally different beast.  I want to spend time helping you get the words on the page, whether that requires gentle prodding or swift kicks in the you-know-what.

The coaching will be based on my own system, Writing Abundance: The Seven Practices of the Prolific and Prosperous Writer, because I want you to be both madly prolific and wildly prosperous in the new year.  (If you want to learn more about this system, you can also subscribe to my newsletter, at the top right of this page.)

To celebrate this decision, I'm going to be offering free coaching sessions.  Yes, you heard it right, free coaching sessions.  Soon as I get back to Portland, I'll sit down with my calendar and figure out the specifics, so keep your eye on this blog.  And if you can't wait until then, if you need help right this very minute with your writing, just go ahead and email me.  You'll find the address at the top of this page.  So until next time, happy writing.

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