A few weeks back, I went to a creative writing workshop run by author Julia McCutchen. It was called Writing Consciously and Creatively and I was immediately intrigued.
Do I write consciously?
And what does that even mean?
This was on my invitation:
This is for women who want to discover and express their true voice on the page and in the world.
I stumbled in, slightly late as always, to a small intimate looking room up a few flights of stairs in the Hay House building. The atmosphere was calm yet controlled, and I took my sit and poured myself some water. It was very quiet and everyone was focusing. Frowning with concentration. The room full of books and food and plants by the window. I guess you could describe it as slightly intense, and slightly unsettling. Only because I was worried I’d have to share my writing woes or processes or stories. And that sort of stuff is actually quite personal. They asked me to take off my shoes. We closed our eyes through a lot of it. To really get into it, I had to throw away the stresses of my day, otherwise I knew I’d feel a bit stupid in the middle of a room in London, bending and breathing.
I must clarify straight up that this seminar was not as “hippy” as it could sound, and much more than buzzwords around meditation and mindfulness. Believe me, I’ve got enough average books sitting on my book shelf that talk about mindfulness which did nothing for me. I am a cynic. But Julia’s theories were scientific. Well-researched. A huge amount of hearty testimonials that these conscious writing exercises worked, and we were there to give it a go.
I was amongst a small group of writers, who between us, decided to discuss things which had often be embarrassing to talk about openly. It was strange discussing any inner “issues” we’d been having – maybe because we’re so used to sitting behind our laptop screens, hating our Word documents, hating ourselves and hating what sits in our “deleted items”, and we hardly ever talk about it. Either that or we’re in the pub with friends who don’t want to talk to you about a “serious” problem your having with your sentence structure or moments of “I can’t do this. I hating writing. Why do I bother.” It’s no fun for anyone.
Discussing it with other writers is hard too. For me it’s fear of not being understood. They say that’s only ever what social fear comes from.
Interestingly this workshop wasn’t just about discovering our voice in the context of bashing your keyboard with biscuit crumbs and a few tears: it was about finding your conscious voice daily. IRL. In the world. The voice in which you speak, always; because they shouldn’t be different.
I didn’t realise until this workshop that I wasn’t always writing consciously. Essentially it means when the words are coming through you, not just from you.
When you are writing, you should be aware of these things (at all times):
– the words you are writing and;
– who you are as a person writing them.
My writing is my perspective. I am just one person’s point of view. The world is big. Be aware of that. Be aware of your circumstance. Be aware of your surroundings.
Your background. Your experiences. Your family. Your beliefs. Your past. It’s all very important when you are writing. It’s why you should rarely just “dive in”.
Julia took us through a series of exercises (both mental and physical) and allowed this space to “get in the zone” essentially. She had a point: how can you just launch into brilliant creative writing when you’re still worried you’ve left the oven on?
Taken from the Preface of Julia’s book, writing consciously is about “discovering our true voice [which] leads to clarity about our core message, which enables us to write what we are truly here to write and express ourselves authentically through all facets of our authorship.”
I liked Julia’s energy as soon as I met her. She was open about her own story and her journey and work behind her book. I also enjoyed the presence of the other women in the room, who I felt were not there to judge or ask about your own process or motivations – we all let ourselves be guided along by Julia, lost in our own thoughts.
We were then taken on a guided meditation, which was the first time I’d experienced anything like it, especially in a group. I don’t want to say too much here about the journey Julia took us on because it’s all so beautifully outlined in the book – but it’s safe to say that it’s a sort of emotional experience, lost in deep thought through guided soft speaking. You get taken somewhere in your mind, and I can only describe it as going “deeper” into your thoughts.
We are all so busy with tweeting and emailing and doing our washing and paying our bills and making cups of tea and getting annoyed with Daily Mail commenters and disagreeing with politicians that actually: it was total bliss to be away from the noise, even for a few minutes.
If you’re interested in learning more, you can buy the book here.
The workshop was hosted by Julia McCutchen, the author of Conscious Writing, Discover your true voice through mindfulness – out in September but available to pre-order.