Writing to Wake Up: A Course in Creativity and Community

Think about it: Even with all our sophisticated technologies and modes of communication, who feels as though there is 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, each other, the world.

In this eight-week course, we will take time and use writing as a practice to wake up more fully. We will experience solitude, as writing is an individual journey. And we will extend 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 or laptops. 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. I will also offer provocations 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 Goldberg’s methods and even occasionally write thoughts down, meeting together, weekly, is a way of holding ourselves accountable to do the writing, reflecting, and creating we want to do.

Here are the specifics:

How Long and When: 8 weeks: from Thursday 1 February to Thursday 22 March, 6:30-8:15 p.m.

Where: At my home, 4514 Chouteau Avenue 63110 (Forest Park Southeast). Please park on Taylor Avenue or the 4400 block of Chouteau.

Goldberg’s book
Notebook and pen, or laptop
Select a book you would love to read or reread: it will serve as a companion as you make your way from winter to spring in this course.

Tuition: $165. If anyone is interested in doing the class online, tuition is $120.

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

I have used Writing down the Bones in university classes since 2001. I currently teach Humanities at Maryville University. I’ve written three books: a critical study, Elie Wiesel and the Politics of Moral Leadership; a memoir, The Book of Mev; and a novel, Dear Layla/Welcome to Palestine.


“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

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

“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

“You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world….The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter it, even by a millimeter, the way… people look at reality, then you can change it.”
—James Baldwin

“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

“You have to write your own history, nobody’s going to do it for you.”
–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 thinks 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

“Through it all I wrote constantly: notebook, typewriter, letters. Wrote every day once again as I had in high school. With joy and abandon I found the poet again, the vision from which I started. ‘I am certain of nothing, but the Holiness of the Heart’s Affections, and the Truth of the Imagination.’”
—Diane di Prima

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

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

“Meditation has been a mainstay in my life. It has helped me more than I could have imagined prior to learning how to meditate. I don’t meditate the same way I did earlier in my life, when the pressure to write, to mother, to travel, to be an activist, and to pay the bills was intense. Now I just live more meditatively, and it is very helpful that, understanding my nature and its needs for flourishing, I’ve created retreat spaces that keep my sanity and, quite often, my serenity.”
—Alice Walker

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”
— Ram Dass

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

“Write in recollection and amazement for yourself.”
— Jack Kerouac

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

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

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

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

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

“I feel very rich when I have time to write and very poor when I get a regular paycheck and no time to work at my real work.”
—Natalie Goldberg

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