Sunday, July 06, 2014

Faith Writing at the Farmhouse

You can tell that the instructions to get to the farmhouse were written, not by a level headed man, but an eye-for-detail artist woman.  I would never have got to my destination without the house with the red roof, the sign about the eggs and the big fir tree near the drive.

The event was a creative writing morning.  As much as I love my Saturdays with a lazy breakfast, a lucky fifteen bet and my gorgeous husband across the table – I will hand all three over without a backward glance to spend time learning a little more about writing.  I am a writing addict.

The morning was led by Chris Leonard, a professional writing tutor. She has written lots of books and presided over large groups and small groups of creative writers.  I missed some of what she was saying as, like the inattentive pupil at the back of the class, I was talking to my friend, Cliff, about other, perhaps what was at the time, more urgent stuff.

The room was full of people mostly at the beginning of their writing journey.  They were pushing the door to see what was behind it – but all very much creative people in other disciplines.  There were artists and musicians and a woman who was about to build a house in a field.  There were some of us who were not quite at the start of the journey but some place along the path.   

The opening exercise was all about stretching the muscles.  A lot of writing is about connecting with the five senses.  Given the start of a sentence we were to fill in the end. 

Darkness smells like… wood smoke

Chocolate sounds like… a sigh

Surprise tastes of … lemons

The exercises weren’t anything new.  It wasn’t new either that there were so many similar and different responses.  Taking time to read through what we had written and to try and explain our choices – that was new.  Other creative days have been perhaps a little bit more filled up and fast paced and the focus was on the writing rather than the reading and reflecting.

Next we were presented with some plates of stuff – some edible, some less so.  Although the olives were on the edible plate – they are not edible.  Having spent five years in Cyprus it was expected that I would develop a taste of olives, but I never did.  Some twenty five years down the line, and spurning all things olive, I wondered whether I had developed simply a prejudice rather than an active dislike.  I once thought I didn’t like Wheatabix, but I was wrong.  I popped an olive into my mouth intending to give it an unprejudiced chew.  I really don’t like olives and it’s not a mental thing but a taste bud thing.

I settled on a piece of moss to write my piece and retrieved a memory about Sunday school, “making Jesus with an empty toilet roll and crepe paper” and racing snails along the windowsill.

Being ladies, many of the women, picked on basil or rosemary, and wrote about meals they had made, or eaten, or remembered parents making when they were young.  Writing anything, whether it’s poetry or prose, is about engaging the emotions.  Chords were touched and tears flowed unexpectedly.

My favourite writer of the morning was Marion.  I am not sure I understood much of what she wrote – herbs and I are just passing acquaintances.  It was her reading of it that captured me.

There was a musical round.  Lorna, who had opened her home for the morning (indeed, invited us to stay as long as we liked and pointed to a couple of empty bedrooms if we so needed), is a wonderful pianist. She has recently produced a DVD of inspirational music.  She played while the rest of us wrote.

Last week on a church retreat we also had a time of listening to music, soaking in the presence of God, and tuning in to his voice.  Using music as a writing prompt wasn’t something I had tried before. 

Eventually I wrote the first draft of Summer Play. It was a very fresh tune, not heavy or slow, but light, with arpeggios up and down the scales.  I have a thing right now about trees and leaves and light breezes and it began to fit together.  

I am always surprised at how much of a positive response I get from the things I write.  I think about how this could be improved or that, and I pour over a thesaurus and swap words endlessly round, trying to find just the fight combination.  I need to write and let go!  Launch it and let it fly!  (and a hundred other sound bites!) I definitely hold some things in my hand too long.

We had lunch in the sunshine.  I had made a promise to myself that I would stop eating tuna sandwiches – I know fish is good for you I don’t think I like tuna that much.  It was the only sandwich filler in the cupboard.  Maybe it was the bread rather than the tuna, or the sunshine and scenery, or the company and the creative words still swilling around my head, or the echoes of the music, or the knowledge that I had not got lost on the way and arrived late, or a first draft of a new poem waiting to be polished up – it was a good end to a very good morning.

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