Wolf At The Door Timed Writing Recipe

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timed writing recipe wolf at the door

(I) Recipe for basic writing practice (also known as ‘Morning Pages’, ‘Timed writing’, ‘Free writing’, ‘Automatic writing’, ‘speiling’) Ingredients Self, willing (enough) to have a go Working pen (or pencil) Paper Comfy (enough) place to sit Latte/tea of your choice (optional) Large scone (also optional) Book/leaflet/other literature - any (optional, if you want to randomly generate a writing ‘starter’) Method 1. Before you start – and all the way through – remind yourself that It's not possible to do it 'wrong' and that you never have to show anybody if you don't want to! 2. Decide how long you’d like to write for eg 3 x A4 pages or, 20 mins. If the latter, you may want to set a timer or make sure a clock’s in view. (3 x A4 pages or 20 minutes is good as experience suggests that something in the controlling/rational mind starts to loosen its grip if you give yourself that long.) 3. If using a writing ‘starter’ (ie a little phrase to start yourself off), open a book whilst looking over your right shoulder (unless you’re left-handed). Place index finger in random position on page. Look at wherever it lands and use that phrase to start your writing. (An eg of my own from doing this last year - “It’s hard to get a pint of light these days.”) 4. Just begin writing - using the ‘starter’ as a sort of ‘springboard’, if you wish. Or just begin with whatever comes to mind first. (Even if you do use a starter, you don’t have to stay with that as a subject, it’s just to get you going). And remember ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦

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don’t rush - it’s not a race; but write fast enough you’re not pondering (censoring) each word before you write it. Go for a kind of steady flow. don’t let the pen stop moving (let yourself write gobbledegook or ‘I don’t know what to write’ (over and over) if you really have no words coming). don’t worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation or making sense don’t edit out anything that wants to be written, however shocking, unpalatable or tender - remember, you never have to show anyone if you don’t want to, and you can tear up/burn/eat what you’ve written afterwards stay aware of your body as you write, notice any shifts in your energy – sometimes one can sense a strong energy arising one's body (or a strong emotion) - don't shy away from it... write on, write towards it, into it... through it. Discover what it wants to tell you. if you make a ‘mistake’ don’t go back, just write something like ‘oops, what I meant to say was...’ keep the pen moving forwards and see what it draws out... (but do feel free to write backwards/upside down/diagonally/with your eyes shut... etc)


5. When your time (or number of pages) is up, stop. (Unless you don't want to.) 6. Take time to re-read what you’ve written. 7. Underline any bits which particular strike you - bits which: ◦ seem to have energy/vividness/vibrancy ◦ shock or surprise you ◦ intrigue you 8. If you’re writing with a friend, consider reading all or part of what you’ve written to each other, if you’d like to. 9. A 'PS' from Ananda (whom I asked for comments on this): “Something I often do these days in my morning writing practice is do an uncensorted unstopping writing (but not necessarily timed, more often than not it comes out at pretty well one notebook page) and then don't look at it for a pre-set period of time, say two hours or til the next day, whatever feels right. I've found it also helps with the 'distancing' if your first reading of your text is in a different location from the writing location.“ Additional/optional further stage a bit like making a further recipe using the home-made tofu you just created... Writing practice is worthwhile even if you don’t ‘do’ anything with it; even if you never reread it. It 'primes the pump', sends a signal to the Muse that you're there and, as the artist Aloka might say, can be an offering to 'The Gods of Useless Endeavours'. But, if you wish you can go back through the bits you’ve underlined and see if there are any you’d like to fish out and which might form the basis of a poem or another piece of writing. It might just be a 2-3 line poem - a kind of haiku or ‘pebble’ (as American poet Jane Hirschfield calls them in her collection 'Come, Thief'.) which captures a moment of lived experience. Or you might find that you’ve written a handful of words which you'd like to dive into more deeply, eg by using those as a ‘starter‘ in another piece of timed writing. Or you may find them wanting to grow into a poem, with other ‘like-minded’ words gathering themselves around the ‘DNA’ of this little string of words.. The American poet William Stafford described this kind of writing as being like ‘following a golden thread’. He said that any detail of experience set down in language can be like the start of a golden thread which we can follow. Whether it leads to heaven, home or to a richer sense of oneself and the world, it’s a journey worth exploring.

(II) Make a list (any list) A list is so simple and ordinary, yet it can contain anything! It offers both a wide field and a familiar structure to our rich but sometimes wary minds. We often start writing workshops by inviting people to make a list of the things they didn't bring with them. Then we say that these don't have to just be literal things, they can be ideas, attitudes, feelings – anything, in fact. They don't have to be literally true, either – if your imagination offers something completely random, write it down! Later on, you might discover what it was telling you. (Or not.) On a recent workshop one woman had a rainbow staircase in her list... So how about making a list of Things I've never brought to work My favourite things about the warehouse/shop/van 4

Ten things I definitely won't miss Ten things I'll never forget Things I learned last week (google for a great poem by William Stafford on this theme) Words I would never, ever use in a piece of writing Ten all-time favourite products Topics I don't ever want to talk about The best dinners I have eaten here (lunches, if you're from the south!) (Don't forget that there's a poem that has the line 'She's eating roses on toast with tulip butter'!)

Six people who have changed my life. Six habits I've developed Twenty-seven things I'll take away with me.

(III) A poem from a single word – acrostics So often, imposing a simple limit can help us to get started with writing – and yields surprising results. The 'acrostic' poem is a form which helps this. Here's one from Manjusvara about the town he grew up in, Ware, in Hertfordshire: Childhood When I stepped across the secret river evening was sure to follow. And one I wrote on one of my first Wolf at The Door workshops: Bridge from my past Reaching into the present. It puzzles me, the way it calls me back. So many times I cried in Clifton, Tried to leave by many desperate means. Over the gorge, the bridge hangs in silent suspension. Loving its dangerous call, I return. One way to begin this exercise is to take a blank sheet of paper (or flipchart, if you're doing it with a group) and brainstorm all the words you can think of to do with a particular subject. I did one last week with the young women on a course at Adhisthana retreat centre and we just did 'when I think about the last three weeks'. Or you could use words from the previous exercise. Having got a list of words, see which one(s) speak to you and just have a go at writing. Generally it works best to have a few words in each line, but you don't have to. One of my favourites, on the word 'Dharma' from a retreat a few years ago was written by my friend Alice: Dear Happless Alice, Revere More Abundantly. 5

(IV) “I asked for knoweldge” Another favourite from our Wolf at The Door workshops is based on an anonymous poem. The idea is that you use the form of the poem – 'I asked for x, I was given y' to write your own piece. Here's the original poem, followed by one I wrote on our Brighton workshop in 2012. I asked for knowledge I asked for knowledge – power to control things; I was granted understanding – to learn to love people. I asked for strength to be a Great Man; I was made weak to become a better man. I asked for wealth to make friends; I became poor, to keep friends. I asked for all things to enjoy life; I was granted all life, to enjoy things. I cried for Pity; I was offered sympathy. I craved for healing of my own disorders; I received insight into another’s suffering. I prayed to god for safety – to tread the trodden path; I was granted danger, to lose the track and find the Way. I got nothing that I prayed for; I am among all men richly blessed. Anonymous What I asked for and what I got I asked for freedom and what I got was fear. I asked for a path, I was given shoes, a rucksack and a map. I asked for awareness and calm and what I got was a door swinging open. I asked for teachings and I was given a mirror.


I asked for practices and I was given a cloth. I longed for death and I was given awareness of impermanence. I asked for answers – I was given questions Satyalila, Brighton May 2012

(V) Twenty Blessings We often use this poem by Thomas A Clark at the end of a workshop to invite people to write a list of their own 'Twenty Blessings'. Twenty Blessings May the best hour of the day be yours. May luck go with you from hill to sea. May you stand against the prevailing wind. May no forest intimidate you. May you look out from your own eyes. May near and far attend you. May you bathe your face in the sun’s rays. May you have milk, cream, substance. May you actions be effective. May your thoughts be affective. May you will both the wild and the mild. May you sing the lark from the sky. May you place yourself in circumstance. May you be surrounded by goldfinches. May you pause among alders. May your desire be infinite. May what you touch be touched. May the company be less for your leaving. May you walk alone beneath the stars. May your embers still glow in the morning.






May all blessings be yours xxx 7

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