This weekend I culminated an 8 week series of writing classes with an all-day workshop titled “The Story Only You Can Tell”. Led by Shari Caudron, it was a nice capstone to a more formal attempt at developing myself as a writer this year.
My friend Val, who is pursuing his MFA in writing at Naropa University recommended that I look into a group called Lighthouse Writers Workshop, an organization of writers based in Denver. He said I would get university level instruction for a fraction of cost – which ended up being absolutely true!
I took two 4-week introductory based courses (they are considered introductory when you don’t have to do in-class critiquing), called Writing 101 and The Write Mind. Both of these focused more on writing as a craft, developing a daily practice and overcoming gremlins to your writing. I highly recommend Doug Kurtz’s Write Mind – despite only 8 hours of class time, Doug managed to pack in an incredible amount of material and was an inspiring and motivating instructor.
This weekend’s workshop was a great complement to the prior courses. Rather than focusing on the craft of writing, it was trying to pull out the actual story that needs to be written. The day progressed through a large number of free-writing prompts that examined ones life, passions, memories and obsessions, determining whether fiction or nonfiction was the better platform developing and introducing the main character and ultimately reducing things to the final question:
Why do I need to write this story now?
My answer: I must right this story now because I am desperately seeking creative expression of my human experience. My days are filled with time playing in this gray space between the known and the unknown that constantly unfolds in my experience, the world, my mind. I seek to bring some of these unknowns into light. Although this yearning for light begins with myself, there exists a strong sense that I am not alone, that this pursuit is a fundamental aspect of the human experience.
While writing this, I was reminded of a beautiful poem by Gary Snyder, Beat Poet and Zen Student:
How Poetry Comes to Me
It comes blundering over the
Boulders at night, it stays
Frightened outside the
Range of my campfire
I go to meet it at the
Edge of the light
One of the most profound insights that came to me was that my story may best be told through fiction, whereas prior to this weekend I had never given it a thought. Something like a modern day Siddhartha by Herman Hesse… However, I reminded myself that my focus now is my blog, finding my daily writing practice and niche in this spiritual blogging community.
My writing will clearly come from a Buddhist perspective and will continue to be about about spirituality, travel, yoga, mind, life, simple living, well-being.
My subject is spiritual evolution and my theme is something like: expanding consciousness, love and compassion. The process of self-realization, embodiment of truth, learning how to be alive.
As I just mentioned above, I am in a place in my life where I am examining my experience, the world, my mind. I have a sense that others have inklings of these experiences or passions and I want to express the sometimes inexpressible through language. Its through language that we develop a conceptual framework of the world, and these concepts can be than be analyzed and destroyed to make room for more or just pure, empty space, being, or Self.
The Buddhist theme makes sense, because ultimately I believe Buddha’s basic teachings: The first of the 4 Noble Truths: Life is filled with discontent. This truth is prevalent for EVERYONE and we are running around like hamsters on a wheel trying to find a way off by going faster. But what we really need to do is simply step off the wheel. Most of us don’t even know we’re on a wheel and are scared senseless of not being on it. Ironically this is the only way to end this discontent and start to be alive.
Other aspects of my writing will continue to be around travel, social critique, life. These are lighter topics but ones that can be infused with more spiritual presence in a way that may allow others, if not completely to step off the hamster wheel, to at least slow down a little to a walk and catch a breath.
We looked at fears, at things that prevent us from really going for it. One of my big ones is “Nobody wants to read this stuff”. And while I have a good idea about a subject and a theme, I start to get stuck in the story. I know I want it to be about profound inner transformation, yet what is that really? How does one write about it? It’s this story that must evoke emotions in people to be interesting. I wonder what emotions my writing does evoke? Sometimes I see a set of opposites: Peace, stillness, joy AND Longing, frustration, self-judgment. These are often the feelings I personally have while writing.
I want to evoke the feeling that I get when I read or meet great teachers. A sense of a guide helping me navigate the world that calls on deep human mythology. A desire to answer life’s highest calling, returning to the source or Self. Its hard to say the kind of reaction that might occur, as for some it will cause disgust, pushing their carefully erected boundaries of safety. For others it might be an answer, an opportunity for self-evolution and development. But if I want to evoke anything, it is definitely a questioning of everything one perceives as real.
There you have it. More questions than answers. But what would life be if you had all of the answers? Please comment on this one. As a reader of this blog, why do you read it? What type of topics and discussions would you like to see?