Writing to Wake Up 2020: A Winter Course in Creativity and Community

Writing is essential to my life, like breathing. I can live without a husband but I cannot live without writing. By writing I become one with the world and with myself.
—Nawal El Saadawi

What I discovered that autumn at Stinson Beach was that each morning, after the routines of dressing and feeding the kids, and eating breakfast, I would simply and without forethought find myself at the window looking out at that small garden and writing [my play]. So that it simplemindedly dawned on me over time that maybe that was all there was to it: maybe, just maybe, a writer was nothing more than someone who wrote. Gratuitously, and sometimes aimlessly, sat down and wrote—often without design.
—Diane di Prima

So I try to write during those ‘naked moments’ of epiphany the illumination that comes every day a little bit. Some moment every day, in the bathroom, in bed, in the middle of sex, in the middle of walking down the street, in my head, or not at all. So if it doesn’t come at all, that’s the illumination . . . . So I try to pay attention all the time. The writing itself, the sacred act of writing, when you do anything of this nature, is like prayer. The act of writing being done sacramentally, if pursued over a few minutes, becomes like a meditation experience, which brings on a recall of detailed consciousness that is an approximation of high consciousness. High epiphanous mind.
—Allen Ginsberg

I just want to continue to do what I’ve always done, which is to write, to think about these things. I’m searching for an understanding. Not for my readers, for myself. It’s a process of exploration. It has to further my understanding of the ways things work. So in a way it’s a selfish journey, too. It’s a way of pushing myself further and deeper into looking at the society in which I live.
—Arundhati Roy

Write in recollection and amazement for yourself.
— Jack Kerouac

Even with all our sophisticated technologies and modes of communication, who feels as though there is enough time? And yet, especially this year, we need time, as community activist Grace Lee Boggs has said, to “grow our souls”: Time to think, to explore, to share, to listen; time to be, and, as Thich Nhat Hanh would say, to inter-be with ourselves, each other, and the world.

In this eight-week course, I want to share some of what I’ve learned from my writing, reading, and accompanying others (and being accompanied) over the last ten years. I invite you to commit to writing as a practice to wake up more fully. Accordingly, we’ll welcome solitude, as writing is an individual journey, and we’ll extend and receive solidarity, as writing can be a bridge to others.

Our basic method is drawn from Natalie Goldberg’s classic Writing down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. We’ll practice separating the “creator” from the “editor” (critic) by doing non-stop, timed writings in notebooks or on laptops. We will explore a variety of topics and experiment with advice from several writers (like some of those cited above). Each class will allow time for multiple writing sessions, paired exchange and large group sharing of writing, report backs on weekly assignments, and quiet meditation. I will also offer provocations and inspiration from poets, sages, artists, and prophets.

By the end of the course, we will be more confident in our ability to write about anything (breadth) and to explore any topic (depth). Even if you are already familiar with writing practice and even occasionally write thoughts down, meeting together each week is a way of holding ourselves accountable to the creative life we want. A community blog will enhance our sharing during the days in between classes.

Here are the specifics:

How Long and When: 8 weeks, on Wednesdays from 11 November to December 30.

Where and How: Via Zoom, 7:00-8:45 p.m. Central Time. (In previous Zoom classes, I’ve been delighted to have participants from as far away as El Salvador and India.)

Essentials: Curiosity, a notebook and pen or laptop, a book you would love to read or reread (it will serve as a companion as you make your way from fall to winter during this course).

Tuition: $140, payable via PayPal or check made out to me and sent to 4514 Chouteau Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63110.

To sign up, contact me! Markjchmiel@gmail.com


Writing down my bones in $2.00 notebook; Sao Paulo restaurant, Brazil; September 1990; photo by Mev Puleo

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