Nurturing our writing is so important.
As a poet and creative writing teacher, I find myself focusing on “craft” often—encouraging myself and my students to revise their writing by placing technique first. And yes, while writers improve their work by focus on craft revisions, nurturing your art cannot stop there.
I often recognize the significance of acknowledging the role “heart” has when creating a work of art. Creative writing is artistic expression, and over the years, I have challenged myself and my students to pay close attention to the way they feel when they write.
When I wrote my first chapbook of poems, The Way Home, I had little trouble finding quiet places to write, and I felt beyond thankful for that. I put together this collection from my creative writing graduate thesis, a composite novel exploring love, loss and landscape—emotional and physical. I remember writing in my bedroom, or sometimes moving to a quiet and hidden patio. I remember driving an hour away to process these poems at the beach, where I felt focused and grounded. And grateful.
My second collection, For the Woman Alone, did not come so easily. I began the book in Florida—writing in a quiet apartment, but I finished the book in New York City—writing on chaotic subway trains and alcoves I found between buildings and random stoops. I was always searching for the time to absorb, process and focus.
I felt extremely grateful to be in this intense, stimulating and intelligent city—but I had to re-program the way my heart processed my work. In time, I found my own way of carving out quiet areas to let myself breathe and be, honoring the subject matter of each poem. I found ways to help myself stay grounded, acknowledge how deeply I love and appreciate the journey of each poem.
I am back in Florida now, finishing my third collection. I often have trouble finding focus, which is so different than my previous experiences writing here. I understand that I have to “find my way” again, to find a sense of grounding again.
With my own writing practice, I’ve noticed that if I take time to fully nurture the work (with “craft” and with “heart”), the work comes out stronger.
I know I am not alone here. I originally made this list for myself, but now I would like to share it with you.
1. It’s okay to turn off your phone and recharge your own emotional batteries.
At first, turning off my phone caused me anxiety. I immediately would think of all the people who would get upset with me for taking time to process and work. However, I ended up learning that if you set your boundaries, you will end up feeling more energized and rested—which will not only benefit you, but everyone in your life. Remember what our rights are—we have the right to say “yes” when we can expand energy, and we have the right to say “no” when we need to recharge.
2. Take time to connect with your subject.
When we spend hours with our subject matter, we get to know it. By treating our subject with care and by listening to what it has to say—by speaking to it—we expand our relationship to our subject. Freewrite with your subject. Sit in silence and think with your subject. You may be surprised at what you discover about yourself and your work.Remember, we also have the right to change our minds, and we have the right to ask any question we want. Ask your subject questions. Challenge yourself to be honest and open.
3. Encourage yourself to stay grounded.
If you are feeling ungrounded, place your hands on the floor, grass or on a wall. Notice the way this solid material feels on your hands. Next, place your feet on the floor. Notice how you are feeling. A three-part check in can work wonderfully.
To do this, ask yourself these three questions:
- How am I feeling physically?
- How am I feeling emotionally?
- How am I feeling in terms of my connection with the world and universe, as a whole?
When we cultivate this awareness, we will be able to hear ourselves with more strength, which in turn can help us write with more clarity.
4. Challenge yourself to love the journey wholeheartedly.
Making a list can work wonderfully here. What are 10 things you love about the journey of writing your book, poem, story or essay? Note the things you love about this journey—the journey of listening to yourself and to your work. By writing down these “loves,” we can return to them at later times. These “love lists” can remind us of why we write, and sometimes we need to be brought back to the good things.
A steady, sure and true way to nurture ourselves and our writing is to breathe. The breath is our life force. Every poem, too, has a breath. Every story and every sentence. Breath is space—room. Let this space help you listen. Hear what you need to. Go to the ocean, or to a field, and sit. Close your eyes. Feel the breath move in and out of your body, steadily. When you’re ready, notice how it translates onto the page.
I encourage you to delve into these nurturing exercises with your whole being.
Move at your own pace, but do your very best to focus completely on the task at hand. Notice the way your writing reacts, no matter how subtle. And then notice the way you feel, because yes—you, too, matter.
Know that the relationship between yourself and your writing can be a loving, transformative one.
Author: Ashley Inguanta
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: Author’s own.