I was talking on the phone with my teacher, Natalie Goldberg, telling her that the same group of students continued showing up for my Monday Sit/Walk/Write class.
“I see they want something,” I said. “And I remember how I kept showing up to study with you, and I wanted something.”
“That’s great,” she said. “But you have to be clear about what you want.”
“It’s not writing,” I said, an odd comment to make to your writing teacher. I didn’t mean writing as in the great American novel, although I might like to attempt that some day. Not writing that seeks validation in the top literary journals, although I wouldn’t mind that either. I wanted writing practice and beyond that I wanted the freedom I felt following the instructions for writing practice: Keep your hand moving, don’t cross out, you’re free to write the worst shit in America. After years of striving and constantly trying to say and do the right thing, when I discovered writing practice, I learned to write whatever came to mind. No editing or crossing out. No censoring. No judging. After years of trying to please my professors, my peers, my editors, I had only myself to please and what pleased me was saying my truth.
In writing practice you put down whatever comes up, including your feelings. In the art world, in the academic world, I didn’t believe there was room for emotions, nor did I have a lot space for disappointment and grief when I was growing up. Writing practice gave me permission to revisit the day my grandmother died, and my parents left me with my aunt and uncle, who left me to cry all night while they smoked pot and listened to the soundtrack of Hair. I could write about my first art history class when the professor showed us slides of the stained glass windows of Chartres and I felt my insides light up.
I want the freedom to express whatever comes to mind, to put into words the things that make me feel alive. What about you? What do you want? What makes you feel free?
If you’re interested in exploring Sit/Walk/Write, the next session of Write from the Bottom of Your Mind begins, Monday, October 6. Information and registration here.