Day 19: The Work of Writing

Day 19: What’s turned up for you as you write? (or, start with the first post in the series.)

Ink and watercolor pencil on paper.

Wisdom from the comments:
From Dawn Herring: “Yes, we need to pause and pay attention to the wisdom we hear as we write in our journals. It can be rather forthright, definitely intuitive, and sometimes obvious without our realizing it.”

From Marjorie: “. . .more often than not, I go back and read one or two (or more) of my prior posts before beginning to write. It helps me orient myelf, but I also notice things I’ve written that I hadn’t noticed while writing them. Or I’ll see what I’ve written in a different light than when I wrote it.”

From Daien: “After getting off to a great start, five days in I did what I usually do, which is to stop. What was different was that I continued to read your posts and everyone’s comments, as well as continued to count myself one of the sojourners. But I wasn’t writing, and I wasn’t walking.”

*     *     *     *

Like Daien, I haven’t been writing every day. I’m still trying to find the time to write without interruption. In the morning, which is really a preferred time, things need to get done. If I put it off, I lose East Coast time–the time when the East Coast is awake and starting the business day.

I’ve been walking later in the day–at lunch–because the weather is perfect, and this is the time of year I want to walk and know I’m in the desert. January is a time when Brittlebush and a few other trees bloom. I want to experience those subtle desert seasons, so I have to build in a time to walk in the dry riverbed of Skunk Creek.  I’m trading working early morning for a lunchtime walk. This won’t work if I’m teaching, but it works for when I’m not. So I’m writing when I get back from the walk. I have the most benefit of meditation then.

And I’ve made another switch. I’m writing on the computer. Shocking, I know. All that truth about having to hand write. And I still want to write in a journal. But I’m experimenting with writing on a computer. For several reasons: I type really fast, and can get more written down–process more. I’ve been touch-typing since I was 10, and I simply feel very comfortable typing. So comfortable, that I type my pages with my eyes shut. It keeps me from editing, and I can do what I was doing using a pen before–ripping through words down to meaning.

I separate journaling from this kind of writing. For me, journaling is a creative act that encompasses both visual expression and writing. And I do that in heavy-paper journals. I might do some collage, I might build a journal. But the pages I write after walking help me dig down into the creative well and make sure the stream that comes up from that is a fresh spring of ideas. That work is best done, at least for me, with a keyboard, an open heart and closed eyes.

What discoveries have you made? Have you quit, but still lurked with us? Let us know how this time is working for you.  It’s not about success and failure. You are exploring the wayward path of your wandering. Where have you walked and what have you seen?

-Quinn McDonald is a writer who is digging for her own creative source for 30 days in the company of some interesting people.

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29 responses to “Day 19: The Work of Writing

  1. I have also skipped a couple of days of writing since I started – not deliberately (well, at least not consciously) but due to circumstances changing on those days. I think both times it was a very early appointment and a late night the night before. On those days, I usually forget to write later in the day if I don’t get to it first thing. What was different for me this time, was I noticed I hadn’t written, and even “missed” the writing. In fact, I was really relieved to get back to writing the very next day. It feels like it is becoming a real part of who I am.

    I have also noticed that I have been remembering some really vivid dreams since I started this practice. I think this writing has awakened a part of me that is bright, splashy, and colorful. It also has helped me connect on a deeper level with my “higher self” and has renewed some of my intuition and sensitivity. I love it!

  2. I write in a journal almost every morning. If I miss it first thing, I get back to it. Today is an example. I have a cold so I took time to clean dishes from the sink and load the dishwasher before using my Neti Pot. I’ve finished writing and am now reading email. I haven’t had the energy to walk, or maybe it’s the discipline. The weather in the afternoons in Flagstaff, AZ, has been gorgeous. I do sitting meditation and sometimes get great revelations as a result. Not during the meditation but later in the day or another day. It’s the process of quieting my mind and the daily practice that brings about results. Regarding meditation: Used to do transandental meditation, stopped, and now do a breathing meditation. Soon, when I feel better, I’ll get back to walking when the weather cooperates.
    Thanks for all the inspiration, Quinn.

  3. I never was walking, but I am writing. Not daily, it’s true, but stuff is coming up and out. I am thankful for this.

  4. I have to admit, I don’t like to write by hand … it is slow and ‘what do I do with all that ‘wasted’ paper?’ I type rather fast also and can do stream of consciousness while typing but I always heard how that was ‘cheating’ and ‘should not be done’. I also have carpal tunnel in my writing hand, and while typing doesn’t bother me, writing really tires my hand out … plus, I just don’t write much anymore, I type. So thank you. I seem to forget no one is grading me … and if I can go deep enough while typing, then why not do it?

    • It turns out that the original studies showed handwriting lit up the brain more, but as more and more people learned how to type quickly and effortlessly, that, too, gets to deep places. I type with my eyes closed to avoid editing, but it works just fine.

  5. Daily walking meditation is something that has served me well, but over the last year I let the practice become more infrequent, and with a cold and some bad weather, I had barely walked at all for a couple months.

    When Quinn announced this 30 day challenge, I knew immediately that I wanted to recommit to daily walking, and I wanted to try the daily writing as well. Journaling has been an off and on thing for me, helpful at times, but I’ve never been consistent. The idea of deep writing was intriguing, I know I have a lot of stuff buried where I can’t see it, don’t even know where it is anymore, and I thought maybe I would find I could work through some of it with this kind of writing practice.

    The walking has gone very well, I haven’t missed a day, and wake most mornings anxious to get out there. I’m not a morning person, but I’ve been out at sunrise most days, walking by a lake watching light paint the ridge on the other side. On the days I don’t want to, I do it mostly because I haven’t missed a day. So even in bad weather I find a way to walk just so I can feel I’ve kept this commitment to myself.

    Journaling has been another matter. I just couldn’t make myself start. I bought more blank books, new pens. Nothing. Every day I would read how much the writing was helping others, all that you were learning from it, and the more I read, the harder it was. I let the expectations I had grow until there was no way I could meet them and it was overwhelming. So I stopped reading for a few days, and decided to try writing without worrying about the results. That was just a few days ago, and I don’t know yet if it is getting me anywhere. I can’t really say it’s deep writing, but I’m working at it, and maybe in time.

  6. I find it hard to do the writing and the walking, maybe if I had made the commitment to do one, got that down and then added the other it would have been easier. ANd I have no ambition to walk in cold or snow or sleet or winter mix which is a combination of all the others and which is coming down hard right now.

    The writing, I am OK if I leave it loose. I keep the same time, dawn to sunrise times, but I don;t count pages anymore or time. I stop when Ive explored a subject as fully as I want or sometimes I push a little more if I;m circling and know I;m avoiding but I;m better without rigid rules. Sometimes I stop because my hands get numb and I hate that especially when I want to keep writitng Seems when I go back to finish my thoughts, I;ve forgotten.

    But I like the knowing its waiting for me, I like the prompts and how everyone else is doing. Isn;t it nice to know that I;m not the only one doing a perfectly imperfect job of it.

  7. I found myself with a bad cold and what feels like a chest infection – a feeling of heaviness in the chest. So, I haven’t been walking the last couple of days. Miss it too, even though I wasn’t walking regularly before.
    Starting to feel a little better, but I’m very much aware how much I resist “not-doing” and how doing and busy- ness holds us away from the darker emotions. Even meditative walking can become another form of “doing”.
    I’d love to learn to really be still and to just “be” and for that to be enough.
    Meanwhile, I’m still writing.

    • Colds are really energy-depleters, aren’t they? And yes, sometimes a daily practice can become a bad habit. You have hit on the very reason I started this. I had a habit of writing every day, but it was not refreshing or renewing. Meanwhile, feel better soon!

  8. I, too, am a cheerleader on the sidelines. I just knew I wouldn’t commit the time to write every day and I didn’t want to try and fool myself. One of the things I love about you, Quinn, is that you’re open and honest and willing to share your real journey along the way. You admit that you haven’t written every day and now you’re writing on the computer. I think it’s changes like these that we all need to accept and embrace on our journeys and know that we can still continue moving forward, learning and growing.

    On a side note, I have multiple tabs that open every time I open my web browser and I love seeing Quinn Creative pop up with those tabs! It’s always a nice way to start the day.

    • You are such a wonderful cheerleader, Traci. No sense in writing if you aren’t honest. I’m experimenting with different approaches in the hope of finding one I love above all others. In truth, it will vary. It should vary. I walk at noon now when the weather is glorious and early in the morning when it’s broiling. It makes sense to do what works. But it IS harder. I’m glad I’m there for you to start the day!

  9. Our weather has been uncharastically warm so I’ve been able to walk every day and I’ve persisted in writing something, even if, like yesterday, it’s just “I don’t really want to be doing this. I want to be back in bed, not trying to focus my thoughts and journal.” This has been a very stressful week at work and I can’t get beyond that right now. Journaling about it helps me keep in touch with my feelings and shed some of the stress, even if I’m just expressing my general “I don’t wanna” attitude right now.

  10. i’m just peeking in, and since my word du 2012 is, as you know, “stay”, i’m finding this quite interesting. and soothing. during november i write every day, and it is good. i find i feel lighter, calmer, clearer, and no matter how many words i write, there are that many more waiting to spill. then when i skip a day then a week then, well, you get the idea – it’s like starting all over again. my writing is clunky and awkward and words are mighty hard to come by. so i’m tucking (almost) daily writing into the word stay, realizing that some days the quality will be better than others, but oh well. so be it.

    • Loved your article on “stay.” And yes, let’s share it and see how it shows up in different ways. Starting over is hard if you skip too many days. It is hard to get it kick started then. But you know, it always does turn over the creative motor and get it running.

  11. I have kept up the walking and writing. Although a couple of days I did notice the writing was really not there and I would make a few notes on my page and then just stare at the paper. Perhaps that was all I needed on those days? I am still struggling with truly finding the ‘deep’ sense of self that I am searching for and worry that I can’t find it.

    Quinn, I love typing also. I touch type as well, and am much quicker at typing than writing. Also I have less problems with my hands cramping up from holding a pen. But there is something different about hand-writing your thoughts vs typing them. Perhaps it is just the tactile aspect of the pen and paper that allows us to respond differently.

    I am still enjoying the process.

    • Typing and hand-writing are truly different. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy both! And some days, I just sit in the studio and move stuff around. I think it’s a way of processing emotions.

  12. Christmas left me with no time to journal, or maybe I didn’t prioritize it enough? I opened it today and did some doodles, but I have yet to write in it. I too love to write on the computer and I sometimes journal on it. The thing I dislike with journaling on the computer is that it’s not in a bound book, so even if I do write more I miss having the actual pages. And no, it’s not the same if you print them either. But it’s all good, and mostly about the process not the outcome. :-)

    Happy New Year Quinn and everyone else!

    • Some days we just don’t want to write. Maybe we think we have nothing to say, maybe we don’t want to know what we have to say. I can do deep writing quite well on the computer, although I value the slower, contemplative writing with a pen. Luckily, I can do both!

  13. I too am a cheerleader who stands not on the sidelines but in the back of the bleachers. I walk daily, without fail, with my dog Rosie. She would never let me fail at that :-). And I write most days, on computer and with pen too. Your blog is a particular bright spot in my blogging sphere and a place where I feel included, whether or not I speak. Thank you.

  14. Until a year or so ago, I would not dream of beginning the day without first journaling, I walked every single day-early morning in the summer to avoid the Texas heat; early afternoon the rest of the year. I was doing Weight Watchers then and also love Julia Cameron’s writings which insist on walking each and every day….

    Now I do not do either. I cannot say why. I read your post every day and feel a bit voyeuristic reading but not participating….a little like reading cookbooks while enjoying a dinner of boxed soup and crackers.

    I ordered your book and love reading it…I have several that are similar, but do not feel I have the skills to begin drawing in a journal. I am so ‘drawn’ to art (pun intended) and love to haunt galleries and museums but do not yet have the courage to do bad art and practice to improve…one of my many character flaws, I suppose.

    I am grateful for your presence in the world. Know that I am here each and every morning, supporting you and others with gentle thoughts, prayers and good wishes.

    Here’s to a most creative 2012!
    Pam.

    • I’m glad you are here, Pam, whether or not you are journaling. There’s something about journaling that requires a break or a rest. When I noticed it in myself, I just thought “you’re lazy.” But I noticed it in others, too, and it wasn’t about laziness. A regular journaler once told me she had quit writing about her life, and I had a flash that she needed to “distill.” Concentrate some thoughts and let them get more meaningful. Stop writing about the same emotion. She’s back to writing–in fact, she started art journaling. I recognize the feeling that you want to draw, but not in a journal, which seems formal. My book is for exactly that feeling–I can’t draw. When I hit that stage, I would write or draw on index cards, then date them and toss them in a box. It was less intimidating than a bound book. Hang out with us, journaling or not. It’s fun to see what others are doing.

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