26 Feb 2017, 1:10pm

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Writing or Not Writing?

I’ve done very little writing in the last few months – instead, this time has been about deepening, becoming quieter, more still.

Odds and bits of writing arose, some of them quite marvelous and with great potential, but nothing with any discipline, and nothing completed. When the tap is on, I write. When it turns off, I stop.

I don’t know if a more focused or productive time is coming (my intuition says yes), or if this is simply the tail end of being a writer.

I’m fine with either ­– which is its own vast curiosity. But there it is.

I’m not dismayed. I am curious. What will today bring?


From Quarry Lake, near Canmore

Let The Story Be

I came across the phrase people who love the interior world a while ago. I love this – it completely explains where I find myself right now. I don’t remember where I came across it. Apologies for not crediting a radiant phrase.

It explains the books I loved as a child, and my drive now to go deeper into silence, an amazing roller coaster of discovery. I’m diving deep into the interior world.

When I was a child I adored the poem Halfway Down, by A. A. Milne:

Halfway down the stairs

is a stair

where i sit.

there isn’t any

other stair

quite like it.

I remember myself at four years old counting our basement stairs, finding the middle stair and sitting, contemplating the end of the poem. It isn’t really anywhere. It’s somewhere else instead.

I loved the strangeness of Alan Garner’s The Owl Service, and the magic and wonder of Mary Stewart’s Merlin and Arthur stories – not the sword fighting, but the otherness, the mystery. I find it in transcendental poetry, and Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I’ve always been drawn to the mysteries of life, and now I find myself immersed in it. It feels absolutely right.

Now, can I catch this in stories? Part of finding the mystery is allowing myself to not know. Can I “not know” about writing? To simply sit with it, to let it emerge, to be what it needs to be, to let the story become?

I’m editing another novel manuscript. It became clear I need to edit it by retyping it entirely, slowing when I reached anything that isn’t quite right, and letting new words come from a quiet mind. Nothing cognitive, just being with the story.

I’ll hit a paragraph that just doesn’t feel right and let a rewrite flow. I move on through lines that work, that feel right, and when I reach another rough patch, I let the story become what it wants to become.

It’s oddly slow, coming in fits and starts, letting the story set the pace. Once again, I have to release all control and just let the story be.


Organic Editing

It turns out that writing as meditation is no easier with a cold than regular writing. Brain fog is brain fog. But it cleared, eventually, and I got back to work.

What I’m trying to do is kind of like floating, to move through my day letting the day be what the day will be. Which is exactly what it will be anyway. At least this way I recognize my lack of control over life. I wonder what today will bring?

In October we met some mountain sheep at Lake Minnewanka, just hanging out, and I was able to take a whole bunch of pictures using a zoom lens. This is what the day gave us.

This is how I need to write, to find what I find in a story. Other writers will recognize this. It’s often taught as freefall writing. I’m trying to extend that to editing.

I’m trying to turn off my cognitive mind and just let the writing write, the reading read, the editing edit. I’ve decided to call this organic editing, to distinguish it from cognitive editing. Editing without the thinking mind. I know, this sounds like total lunacy. And yet, here I go. This is my current writing exercise.

I’m trying to sit down to editing with a really quiet mind, and not let the thinking mind, the cognitive mind, get in the way. If it tries and I notice, I quiet it, or I stop working. Writing is sporadic and slow, and yet there’s something wonderful here I need to learn.

I’ve wondered if playing the right music or a teaching as background might be useful for keeping my mind where I want it to be. My first try was with Philip Glass. The music helped pull me into the right place in my mind, but once I was editing well, organic editing, then the music pulled me away and I turned it off.

I’m hoping organic editing will get easier with practice, as I train my brain in this new way of working.


11 Oct 2016, 3:45pm

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Not Writing

Writing hasn’t been happening. It’s like I get up a little steam, an idea that I’m ready to leap in with, and any energy for leaping vanishes. I suspect I still need to wait ­– to not return to writing, but to move into it from a new place, except I keep slipping into the old pattern. So I wait. More quiet. More listening for the right next thing to do. Enjoying the beauty of fall. Catching up on odds and bits of tasks. Allowing myself to move slowly, to be quiet, to settle into silence. To accept I may not write again and that would be fine. Of course, as soon as I go there I’m reassured you will write again. But I’m not quite there, and pushing to get closer drives it away. I need to allow not writing to be okay. To simply be, to rest in silence. More and more I’m learning the importance of silence, of falling into it, resting in it, marinating in it.

It’s oddly nondirective in a society that pushes us to drive, to plan, to lean in. Instead, I’m putting down the paddle and waiting to see where the flow of life takes me. For those who say Into the rocks, water flows around rocks. It knows how to flow downhill. And my spiritual practice right now is to trust that.





Silence in my head

like entering a large room

after a crowded party

at a gallery




freshly painted white

the last art show gone

the new not yet hung

the room waiting


I lay my papers on the floor

study write and shuffle pages

when I’m done I sit back

into silence


26 Sep 2016, 2:51pm

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Words Words Words

I watched a murder of crows congregate in a spruce tree across the street, cawing to call others to join them. Another group cawed back from a block away. “No, no, our group is better. Come here, come here.”

I had to fight to stop myself from thinking about the great names for congregations of birds, like a murder of crows, and instead stay in the moment and simply be present with the crows.

I struggle with this in writing, too. Writing is all about the words, and yet to be wholly present in the story, I need to let go of thinking about words, and fall into the story itself. I need to not think about editing, or word choice, and simply flow with the story, knowing I can work on the other stuff later.

I struggle to hold that focus, distracted by ideas I want to jot down, the need for another cup of tea, that insistent nag to check email or Facebook. And so I come back to it over and over and over, in a circular meditation of being present, failing, and coming back.

Just watching the crows is a meditation, too. Or that moment when I see a flower in the morning, glowing as the sun hits it. “Ahh.” That pause needs to be wordless, too.

I rarely sit in meditation now, as every day is a meditation, every moment an opportunity to be present, or not. Which shall I choose in this moment?



To Walk The Earth

we are spirit

embodied in form

trees mosquitoes sparrows

dogs humans


I learn to see

but with new eyes

breathing from a new place




being the universe

embodied here


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