Friday, January 14, 2011

What is a Writing Marathon?

People are nervous the first time they do a writing marathon. They fear they won't have anything to say or can't keep writing for that long.  They are amazed when it is done that the time went so quickly"I could have written all day!"
~Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

So, you might be wondering, what exactly is a Writing Marathon?

The Writing Marathons which I run on an ongoing basis are inspired by a brief chapter by that same name which comes near the end of Natalie Goldberg's bestselling book, Writing Down the Bones:  Freeing the Writer Within.  First published in 1986, this book has been a part of my life for a dozen years now, about the same amount of time I've been formally meditating.  And as Natalie's genius in Writing Down the Bones is her juxtaposing her own experience with writing and meditation practice, this is relevant.  Although my writing classes are not meditation classes, per se, Natalie and I are coming from a similar experiential understanding as to how the mind works, based upon direct inquiry, and, therefore, share a common approach towards freeing the writer within.

In short, we recognize the power of writing in mindful presence, writing from a place which lies beyond the purely logical, rational mind.  Instead, we suggest letting go of the heavy onus of trying to overly control our writing, and, rather, nurturing a sense of writing through the whole of our being, the whole of our body, simply following wherever the pen leads us, and trusting wholeheartedly in the creative process.  And it's been our shared experience that to the extent to which we do this, and truly let go, good, authentic writing flows onto the page.  We get writing which resonates, writing which is full of life, unexpected details and fresh, untried metaphors.

And this, in a nutshell, is what we're nurturing in the four hours of intensive writing during a Writing Marathon.  We practice entering, fully, into the present moment, responding with our whole being to whatever might be triggered, at least initially, by way of a particular writing prompt.  But once we've put pen to paper and begin to write, we needn't necessarily stick to the initial topic at hand.  As Natalie says elsewhere in Bones, "You might start with 'this moment' and end up writing about the gardenia you wore at your wedding seven years ago.  That's fine.  Don't try to control it.  Stay present with whatever comes up, and keep your hand moving."

That's the practice, the discipline and the tremendously enjoyable and rewarding essence of what it is we do in a Writing Marathon.

If you'd like to join us, check the writing class schedule for upcoming marathons.  If you don't see one coming to a location near you and would like to initiate one where you live, please email Sean or telephone him on +44 (0)7971 774151.

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