Into the Fire, and out again…


Not everyone will understand this, but I am so relieved the workshop is over!  In very recent retrospect – since it just ended – this workshop was an ordeal for me.  Last year was an ordeal too, come to think of it. 

Whenever I slow down after a period of intense activity, and stop and write what I am pondering, I tend to reach quickly into the depths of my emotion.  Like so many men typical of my station in life, I have long known I carry a lot of grief, regrets, anxiety and loneliness.  Some call it the “midlife crisis“ but I think that tends to diminish the uniqueness and importance of the struggle.  I‘m not at all surprised by what comes up. 

Yesterday I chose to record my pain into this blog out of a workshop prompt “to write what is most challenging, to write from a fearless place“.  I know there is more emotion where that writing came from, but I‘ll save the details for my personal journal or another blog.  If you thought I was losing it, relax dear reader.  To the contrary, by expressing what I hold inside, I am awakening and finding myself once again.

The retreat concluded this morning with a panel discussion of how writers “dig the well“ and get writing, followed by readings from editor Sy Safransky‘s Notebook.  It was refreshing to hear the writers‘ various techniques, ranging from the call for daily discipline, to “binge writing“, to “sitting and staring at the page until blood comes out of your forehead“.  Sy compared writing to a spiritual practice, not unlike prayer, then quoted Thomas Merton: “Prayer is only possible when prayer becomes impossible, when the heart has turned to stone.“ That one brought tears to my eyes, again.

Then the Sun Open Mic featured participants reading favorite quotes, inspiring and thought provoking.  A few gems:

“Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.“ – Malachy McCourt

“If writing is your practice, then the only way to fail is to not write.“ – Gail Sher

“If you don‘t like what you write, lower your standards.“ – William Stafford

And from Leonard Cohen, I got a wonderful confirmation for my chosen name: “If you don‘t become the ocean, then you‘ll be seasick every day.“

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