I’m changing my word.
Can you do that, mid-year? I don’t know the protocol for this whole word-of-the-year business. But I’ve decided I’m changing mine. Or at least, expanding the definition slightly. And since my word was originally “open” - meaning, I want to be open to new ideas, new challenges, new perspectives, I think the shift is actually quite apropos.
This all came about at a writing retreat this last weekend in Danbury, Wisconsin. (Two hours north east of Minneapolis). For so many reasons, this now-annual retreat is a sacred weekend for me. Not least because I am surrounded by incredible views and vistas and even more incredible writer friends. All weekend, we read, we write, we laugh, we cry, we eat delicious soups and salads, we read and write some more, and laugh and cry yet again. We are so very different, eleven women gathered around a table, together because of our love of (and need for) storytelling and for our fearless leader Kate Hopper. (She who tells us to make lists, and pick one, and then write and write until we have reached as deep as we can. And then who demands we go deeper, usually with another list). We share our stories free from fear and judgement, or scorn, knowing that our stories are safe here in this lodge nestled into the woods, far from home.
Some of us are published writers, some bloggers, some binge-writers who only write here on these weekends, some novelists and fiction writers, some closet writers, and some on the cusp of (and anxiously awaiting) the rejection letter from our first submission. No matter, we are a collection of women with stories so different and yet bound together by the thread of humanity, and loss, and grief, and joy.
I don’t have a big project this year. Well, that’s not entirely true. I have a very big project, but it’s nothing to do with writing, though of course, it will inspire writing. So this year, I come to the retreat with the goal of simply writing for pleasure. I haven’t done much of that of late. I’m out of practice. Before we sit to write, we are given a prompt, based on an essay or flash narrative that we read aloud together. We talk about the piece, what we like, what we don’t like, and then Kate gives us direction for the next few hours, should we choose to accept her prompt. (Of course, nothing is required on this weekend). Reading these essays made me realize: 1) I miss reading. 2) I don’t read enough. 3) If I want to take my writing to the next level, it might help to know what the next level looks like. (in other words: READ!)
I am also reminded at these retreats that I love writing, that I want to have a big project, but that I haven’t found the big project yet, or it hasn’t found me (as often happens with writing). And this made me realize that I need to practice patience. Let go of expectations, enjoy the process, be open to inspiration (there’s my word!) - but also, just to gestate.
So for so many reasons this year - I am changing my word to gestate. (Mirriam-Webster: to conceive and gradually develop in the mind)*. Writing on demand and for a purpose, say this blog, for example, or to a deadline, can be fun and challenging. But it can also be stressful, and can take the joy out of writing. So instead this year, I am going to take my time. Read more words. Sit with my own words. Let them simmer until they are ready to come to a boil. Who knows what that will look like. I may be absent from the blog for awhile. But I’m taking the pressure off the pot. But how delicious it just might be when it bubbles, when it’s ready.
Watch this space.
* (See also: gestate: to carry in the uterus during pregnancy; to be in the process of gestation,
baby #3 due September 2017)