This blog post was prompted by the following question asked by alumna Kat Richardson (BFAW ’15):
Q: [What are] the benefits of writing from home (which I’m not feeling right now)? The reason I chose Knox over Goddard initially was because I wanted the experience of living in the middle of all those resources. I enjoy being with students of all ages at Goddard, but I really miss the energy and resources of a campus.
I believe you’re always writing from home. Home isn’t outside of you. It isn’t walls and doors you can walk in and out of, something you pay for (or paid for) to occupy. It is no wonder they say the eyes are the windows to the soul, because your body is the home.
Are you home?
Are you at home in your body?
Once you can clearly understand your responses to those questions, then look to what is outside of you. That is primary. That is your link, and so is your mother. She participated in your understanding of the outside environment. Her influences shaped your body and mind. All is information to be resourced and synthesized: mother, your body, and home.
What is your relationship to your mother (physically, spiritually, socially (woman and girls) familial, and the feminine)?
Writing from home tests your commitment to nurturing your creative (feminine) energy. You need to invite the muse over and over again, and she tests your ability to show up. You cannot always bring your mind into it—just thoughts and ideas—this will create blockages. You need to shake it up. Try shaking for 5-10 minutes before you begin the task of writing (or if you feel stuck). Imagine yourself shaking like a leaf, like a wet dog, or like an earthquake is moving the ground beneath you. Your body will sparkle with sensation. You’ll fully embody why verbs are important and wise to use.
We need movement. We also need description that activates the senses, so make sure where you write—do devote a place for your writing—has things that bring scent into your life: flowers, hot coffee or tea, burning sage. Is there something to touch, to roll in your hand, to snap? Let there be knickknacks that can stir your imagination—I keep a bunch of blown-out light bulbs, different shapes and sizes, in one corner of my office. I have nearly ten.
Sometimes, when writing from home, you forget to brush your teeth and end up staying in your pajamas all day—you never make the transition from sleeping. You haven’t let go of the previous day. Shower and put on clean clothes, approach the muse like a clean slate—freshened, and there you are refreshed.
In a workshop I took with poet Sonia Sanchez, she told a story about facilitating a poetry class at a residential retreat and informed the participants that she would not begin the class until folks made their bed. Some thought she was kidding, until she inquired, and classes started late because some didn’t make their beds. Make your bed, and become more comfortable with ending things.
Find ways to make transitions—if you’re coming from work, have been helping the kids with their homework, etc.—doing so will help you alert your body and others to the fact that you now are shifting attention to your writing. Eat a bowl of cherries, light a candle, wash your hands, put on your “writing sweater,” whatever is necessary to articulate to the muse that you are on your mark and ready.
Often, when we are in the high of writing, we forget to meet our basic needs; we excuse the growls, hold our bladders and bowels, to get that last sentenced work out. Ignore the body and soon the body will ignore you. It’s all about reciprocity—give and take and balance—and home needs to value these things. This keeps communication flowing, and as writers, we are learning to express and communicate. We understand the value of our audience, those beings in which we are in relationship—our bodies being number one.
Learning to listen is key. Your impulses speak a need. In those moments when you feel alone and wished there were others around doing what you’re doing, understand that as your need for a change. When I’m feeling that way, it’s time for my body to be in communion with other bodies doing the same thing, be it working out, yoga class, sitting in a café with others on laptops, riding the bus, going to the movies or museum, strolling around the lake. The impulse is for social interaction and that feeds my creative energy.
In order to listen more deeply, you will need to wait for the right word, for the syntax, for the character’s voice. This does not mean sit around, which can be a part of it, as long as the sitting is dynamic, awake, energizing—not staring at a screen, numbing yourself to sensation, shoulders slouched forward, head falling down, you compromise your body. In that waiting, read, revise, research, write down passages from texts you’re reading or wanting to read. Get into another’s prosody. This is another way to listen.
Talk to yourself, speak your thoughts out loud while preparing meals or doing dishes—this is what I enjoy the most about writing from home. I can superimpose the ruminations of my mind onto my environment. Doing this gives the thoughts form, and I can see if they can survive outside of my head. (I have notebooks in every room I spend time, so I can capture the liveliest of ideas.) And since I’m home, no one considers me mad, because I’m in the company of my genius.