Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What's in your Hands?

I read something the other day that stuck with me. I continue to go back to it. I wanted to share it here, but I'll be danged if I could remember where I read it. I spent at least an hour going through my history files, checking blogs I follow, re-reading posts then hopping on to others. Finally I gave up and decided I'd just try to put the thought in my own words. Actually, I didn't give up for good because I tried one more place - the trash bin - and voila! there it was. An article I threw away when I should have saved it.

Right after Christmas I signed up for an on-line workshop called Breaking Into Blossom facilitated Paula Josa-Jones. For a variety of reasons, none of them good, I have read the exercises but not followed through with assignments or community conversations. One of my excuses really belongs in the Too Dumb to Count category. See Jones is dance person. She writes about movement, improvisation, rhythm, "opening doors to an unpredictable aliveness in the body," and I just can't go there. It's not that I don't want to, I'm just too stiff.

And being stiff calls to mind my failed attempt at being a dancer. Okay, I was never close to being a dancer, but I did like to put on pink tights, and ballet slippers. For many years my long thin body was something dancers starve themselves to obtain. I took lessons, I plie-d, I arabesqued and I twirled with my arms in a circle over my head. The problem was my two left feet. I've always been a bit on the less than graceful side - some might call me a clutz. I remember well the day my dance instructor lined the class up at one end of a long dance floor and had each of us do circles with our arms opening and closing in tandem with out feet down the length of the room. We were supposed to pick a spot to focus on, so that with each turn our eyes would be straight and we'd not get dizzy. Getting dizzy is not good for dancers, because dizziness usually leads to wobbling and wobbling leads to un-ballet-like falls. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't get the hang of it. Slowly and sadly I came to the realization that movement was not part of my creative DNA. Maybe that's when I turned to words.

What I'm learning from the Blossom class, however, is that even though creativity comes in all forms, many of the rules are the same. I think movement and improvisation in writing comes when one is willing to stretch. Stretching is what my writing facilitator, Carol, encourages us to do.
Write something ... without censoring. Just get it on paper.
Exercise ... write 1000 words a day.
Be disciplined ... write at the same time every day.
Trust your voice ... everyone has a story to tell. Tell it your way.
Rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite.
Keep pushing yourself towards the next rung on the ladder.

I've learned when it comes to writing it's hard to sit down and write a story, a magazine article, a poem or a novel without practice. And even if the story is in your soul dying to come out, it is not always easy to open that floodgate. This is where writing prompts come in. Like playing piano scales to warm up your fingers before playing Flight of the Bumble Bee, prompts help limber up your writing muscles.

So, back to the whole point of my story. Here's a prompt from Breaking Into Blossom Lesson #9.
"Right now, close your eyes and bring your hands together. Use your left hand to slowly and carefully explore your right hand. After a few moments, let your hands switch roles , so the right is exploring your left. Let your hands come to rest in your lap.

Now write: 'My hands are holding ...' "

Since I didn't have anything else to write about, or at least I wasn't tapping into it, I tried it.
I closed my eyes. I ran one hand over the other. I could feel the bones, the puffy veins, my rings, my rough nails and dried out palms. I thought of my mother's hands. I thought of holding my Dad's hand. I thought of my fingers encircling a newborn's perfectly shaped pinky. Then I asked myself what am I holding.

My answer was a) love and b) memory. To be honest that's as far as I got. I didn't write any more than that. Yet, the stirrings of my story lie deep in those 2 words - love and memory. I think I just have to be still and let them move me in the direction they want me to go.

Won't you try this exercise? What do you find in your hands?
Merry ME

Paula Josa-Jones, Breaking into Blossom #9, 2/20/12


MamaJoe said...

I am holding warmth and work. The heat of underlying swelling that raises lumps around my knuckles. I am holding the tools I use everyday to help facilitate my work. But most of all I hold the hands that hold my lovers hands. And those two sets of hands have aged together and love together.
Thank you for a good exercise.

wholly jeanne said...

well, hey sugar - look at all those dance words you spelled correctly! shoot, i can't even pronounce them, let alone do them. you make a fine point, though, that regardless of specific medium, creativity follows the same path of trust, discipline, process. and that exercise is a good one. this post is a good one.