Writing To Wake Up Course

Writing to Wake Up: A Course in Creativity and Community

Think about it: Even with all our technologies and modes of communication, who has enough time?  And yet, we need time, as community activist Grace Lee Boggs has said, to “grow our souls”: Time to think, to explore, to share, to listen. We need time to be in touch with ourselves, our world.

In this ten-week course, we will take that time and learn how to use writing as a practice to wake up to our lives.  We will practice solitude, as writing is an individual journey. And we will practice solidarity, as writing can be a bridge to others.

Our basic text is Natalie Goldberg’s 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.  We will explore topics such as memory, dreams, work, obsessions, wonder, play, politics, friends, letting go, and much more.

Each class will allow time for multiple writing sessions, paired exchange and large group sharing of writing, report backs on assignments, and quiet meditation.

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 Goldberg’s methods and even occasionally write thoughts down, meeting together, weekly, is a way of holding ourselves accountable to do the writing we say we want to do.

Here are the specifics:

How Long: 10 weeks: from Thursday 20 September to Thursdays 29 November (skipping November 22)

When: Thursday evenings, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Where: The home of Nicholas Taggart Long, Colleen Etling Long and Lindsay Sihilling: 2167 S. Spring in the Tower Grove neighborhood.

Essentials:  curiosity; notebook and pen; select a book you would love to reread: it will serve as a companion as you make your way from the end of summer into deep fall.

Tuition: $150

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


“Beauty is all about us, but how many are blind to it!  People take little pleasure in the natural and quiet and simple things of life.”
–Pablo Casals, Spanish cellist

“Life began for me when I ceased to admire and began to remember.”
–Willa Cather, U.S. novelist

“Write a little every day, without hope, without despair.”
— Isak Dinesen, Danish writer

“If you don’t valorize reading and study and thinking and imagination, you are in trouble as a culture. You remain cut off from other cultures, other realities.”
–Anne Waldman, U.S. poet

“What I had that others didn’t was a capacity for sticking to it.”
— Doris Lessing, British novelist

“You have to write your own history, nobody’s going to do it for you.”
–Allen Ginsberg, U.S. poet

“I have no time to be in a hurry.”
— Henry David Thoreau, U.S. writer

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”
— Oscar Wilde, Irish writer

“When we begin listening to one other, and when we talk about things that matter to us, the world begins to change.”
— Margaret Wheatley, U.S. management consultant

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”
— Ram Dass, U.S. spiritual teacher

“The world will change when we can imagine it different and, like artists, do the work of creating new social forms.”
— M.C. Richards, U.S. potter and poet

“Write in recollection and amazement for yourself.”
— Jack Kerouac, U.S. novelist

“I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.”
— Diane Arbus, U.S. photographer

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.”
— Walt Whitman, U.S. poet


Mark Chmiel has used Writing down the Bones in his university classes since 2001.  He currently teaches Humanities at Maryville University. He is the author of a critical study, Elie Wiesel and the Politics of Moral Leadership; a memoir, The Book of Mev; and a novel/collage, Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine.

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