Creative writing is creative ignorance, according to Robin Greene, MFA. Robin is the author of several books: poetry, non-fiction and memoir, and fiction. As she gathered us around the table for the women’s creative writing and yoga retreat, she talked about what it means to write for her. Then, she opened it up for our discussion.
“You have to know a lot in order to write,” she says. “Then, you have to forget what you know to write.” This seems like a contradiction, but it is important not to let the discipline of writing — the thinking part — get in the way of the self-expression.
During our week together, eleven women talked, wrote, meditated, did yoga and vocal stretching, and expanded our voice. Robin guided us in the writing life. Beth Miller, our superb yoga instructor from Boulder, Colorado, gave us the inspirational tools to relax, focus, and gain introspection.
For twenty minutes before each writing session, we would meditate using Zen practices (count your breaths to the number ten) or Vipassana insight meditation. This approach was more organic, physical. We were present with our bodies, our thoughts were like clouds passing and sound became part of the background music. The practice cleared our minds and allowed us to open up to be more mindful.
“When you are more mindful, you are more creative and authentic,” says Robin. “You have a place to return to in order to attend to the writing.”
During the early sessions, we took turns reading from our favorite authors and poets — passages that were meaningful to us. To listen to the words, the lyrical stringing of thoughts, ideas, passions, reminded us of the beauty of language and affirmed our own capability to express it. We read Rilke, Sylvia Plath, Bill Buford, Mary Oliver, Tonantzin, Helen Hunt Jackson, and William Carlos Williams.
Then we heard each others’ voices: heart carried on white wings, my mother in the hospital room, the intermission of fruit, pomegranates, an invitation to the unknown, women who weep at funerals, let yourself be revised, dear Ben, my life is fragments, a dawn embroidered with birdsong, dark coffee beans and indigo threads, my job here is to lift the latch.
We soaked up the culture of the village and the immersion was a place for us to renew our commitment to ourselves and each other to write.
Our next Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat is scheduled for December 28, 2011 to January 2, 2012 with an optional two-day master class from January 2-4.