The Sources page links you to many resources to learn more about Caryn's well as well as your own writing practice. Scroll down to see some basics about starting and sustaining a writing practice, writing groundrules, and click here to see "Staffordisms," wonderful advice about the writing life from poet William Stafford, who among others says, tells us, "“Every person, if pitched right, meets things with a song – a just right resonance.” Caryn believes so much we learn how to write by writing, and as Annie Dillard says, by aiming into what calls us to write:
Who will teach me to write? a reader wanted to know.
The page, the page, that eternal blankness, the blankness of
eternity which you cover slowly, affirming time's scrawl as a right
and your daring as necessity; the page, which you cover woodenly,
ruining it, but asserting your freedom and power to act, acknowledging
that you ruin everything you touch but touching it nevertheless,
because acting is better than being here in mere opacity; the page, which
you cover slowly with the crabbed thread of your gut; the page of
your death, against which you pit such flawed excellences as you can
muster with all your life's strength; that page will teach you to write.
There is another way of saying this. Aim for the chopping block.
If you aim for the wood, you will have nothing. Aim past the wood, aim
through the wood; aim for the chopping block.
~ Annie Dilliard, The Writing Life
Get Started, Keep Going, and Begin Again
Here's some tips to get and keep going:
- Remember that writing is a practice more than a talent or lightning bolt. The more you show up to meet your words, the more your words meet you.
- Pick a regular time and place to write -- it can be 10 minutes when you wake up or before bed, an hour each Thursday afternoon, or whatever else works for you. Having a regular place to write, even if it's just a chair in your house or on your porch, will help reinforce the writing.
- Aim for short stretches. You can write a lot in 10 or 15 minutes, even if you're not particularly inspired at the moment. Or aim for a certain length, such as writing two sentences or filling half a page every three days.
- Make writing dates with others. Meet at a home, coffee shop, restaurant, park, favorite bluff or wherever else suits you. You can each bring one writing exercise to try out together or just work on current projects.
- Create your own writing circle that meets weekly or monthly to write together. Find writing prompts in books (see next bullet point) or have members bring in prompts, drop them in a bowl or hat, pull one out, then write like crazy for 10-20 minutes.
- You can find lots of writing resources at the Transformative Language Arts Resource Page. Look under "expressive and creative writing" for great books. My favorites are Deena Metzger's Writing From Your Life, Susan G. Wooldridge's Poemcrazy, Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones and John Lee's Writing From the Body.
- Keeping a running list in your journal or in your computer of writing ideas and starter phrases or paragraphs. You can list all your firsts (first kiss, first car, first home, first job), lasts (last house, last love, last miracle), moments of beauty or sweetness, who and what you love most in this life, amazements you've seen or catalyzed, great kindnesses, things you've lost or released, most precious belongings (material or otherwise), and moments of folly that turned out well.
- Consider taking a writing workshop in-person or online. You can find great online sources at two places where I regularly offer workshops along with other writers: the Transformative Langauge Arts Network, and the Loft Literary Center.
- If you stop for a while, start again. Put any guilt or shame on the shelf, and meet yourself through your words. The page is always waiting for you.
See Caryn's writing Groundrules here.
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Transformative Language Arts
Transformative Language Arts (TLA) is a new and emerging calling, profession, and academic field focused on social and personal transformation through the written, spoken or sung word. Transformative Language artists bring the language arts – writing, storytelling, drama, performance, and more – to community-building, cultural and ecological restoration, personal development, and many other areas of individual and collective liberation. Caryn founded a master’s level TLA degree at Goddard College and the Power of Words conference, now a project of the TLA Network. Caryn co-edited The Power of Words with Janet Tallman, and Transformative Language Arts in Action with Ruth Farmer.
- Brave Voice: Writing & Singing For Your Life
- Konza, a Bioregional Journal
- Transformative Language Arts Network
- Chrysalis: A Journal of Transformative Language Arts
- TLA Resources Center
- Kansas Area Watershed Council
- Konza: A Bioregional Journal
- 150 Kansas Poems
- Kansas Poets & Poetry
- Map of Kansas Literature
- Essays on the Writing Life and More by Caryn