Writing helped me through the first months and years after my husband died. Early on, it was a sort of informal journal of dumping onto a page whatever was swirling in my head. Along the way, the writing took on various eclectic forms. I captured the essence of dreams. I wrote Seussical nonsense rhymes. I jotted ideas, shopping lists, and must-accomplish tasks. I expressed deep gratitude in letters to family and friends for the ways they helped me. I poured my heart into letters to my departed husband. I wrote comfort notes to the parts inside me that felt broken. I even followed an assignment from a bereavement class: I wrote as if the date was five years later and I was telling a friend about my current life.
Several months into the new territory called widowhood, something unexpected and wonderful happened. Sheila, the leader of a women’s spiritual community in which I had participated for many years, offered a new focus on creativity for the next year’s work together. A dozen women or so signed on with gusto.
We painted, collaged, and danced. We wrote poetry, sang, drew, and made music. We did a lot of writing. We paired modalities, such as dancing a painting, collaging a poem. We witnessed one another’s courage in sharing our creations. All of these activities felt freeing and life affirming to me. My absolute favorite new endeavor was being introduced to ten-minute writings. Natalie Goldberg tells of the usefulness of these brief exercises in her book, Writing Down the Bones. She describes it in terms of a writer’s tool. I discovered it has much broader applications.
The following are my translations. These are ways I have engaged the exercises over the past decade. Below, you will find the how-to as well as possible benefits, and approaches to using this exercise on your own and with others.
10-Minute Writings, by yourself:
* Choose any idea or question that comes to mind or is pertinent to your purpose
* Set a timer for 10 minutes.
* Begin with a word or phrase about your topic (i.e., “I like 10-minute writings because . . . “).
* Write or type without stopping – and without caring about grammar, punctuation, capital letters, anything. If you get stuck for something to write, either write the opening phrase over and over again or write blah-blah-blah-blah (my favorite) until something shakes loose. When we write without stopping, the inner editor/inner critic is by-passed.
~ ~ Benefits ~ Some benefits I have experienced:
* shifting to a brighter mood;
* feeling more creative;
* discovering possible solutions to cares or dilemmas;
and, wonder of wonders,
* melting away of procrastination.
I want to say a bit more regarding procrastination. When there is a large or small project I notice I have been putting off, sitting down to do 10 straight minutes of writing has worked wonders. It takes the pressure off. All I do is remind myself I am simply jump starting by writing anything at all about it – even spitting out my frustration or other feelings about it – during a 10-minute period of time. When the timer goes off, if I am in a groove and feel like continuing, I do.
10-Minute Writings, 2 or more people:
The directions are the same as for doing the exercise on your own; see the 4 steps in the list above.
* One difference is to decide together on the topic. At times, you might choose for all participants to follow their own topic selections.
* One person sets a timer or volunteers to be the timekeeper.
* Once the writing has stopped – even mid-sentence – all are invited to read aloud what they drafted.Very important ~ The duty of listeners is to witness in silence and to refrain from offering feedback in any way (no praise nor criticism); safety for folks to share their raw ramblings aloud is created by the neutral acceptance of silence. Sometimes I find I am pressing my lips together to keep from exclaiming, “That was fantastic!” Some of what gets written is very funny, and we are allowed to laugh – and laugh and laugh and . . .
~ ~ Benefits ~ Some benefits I have experienced or observed:
* all the ones listed above;
* deepening of friendships.
One of my favorite activities with friends is to gather at a coffee shop or in one of our
homes and do a few 10-minute writings together. Some of us used to get together in this way once or twice a month at a local Panera’s Bakery. Looking back, we realized those evenings were seeds for what became the Hilltop Writers circle, a monthly writing group hosted by my dear friend, Susan. Several of the Hilltoppers have essays in one or more of the three Love Revealed books.
I have used 10-minute writings:
* as part of individual sessions with clients and students;
* in bereavement support groups; and,
* in retreats on meditation, inner process exploration, and sock-puppets-of-the-mind.
How about you – have you ever used 10-minute writings or similar approaches?
In terms of procrastination, how do you get yourself back on track?
What ideas are stimulated by something you read in today’s topic?
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