Tag Archives: creativity

free-form writing frenzy #2: how soft can you swim?

“however small it is on the surface, it is four thousand miles deep” – that’s elizabeth’s 5-minute writing prompt for today. here’s what i came up with:

wow, that’s far. how much is that? i have to think in metres. four thousand times 1.6 is … is … 4,000, 2,000 and 400 that’s 6,400 metres … that’s damn low below! one of those places on the globe where the blue is really really dark. so what is this? a real long measuring tape? a loooooong roll of toilet paper? no, that would dissolve. talk about small. i’m correcting even though i’m not supposed to. i don’t care. i can correct and type real fast. it would be slower if i wouldn’t correct. then i would have to tell myself, don’t correct, damnit! and that would hold me up. i need to take THAT specific critic along. anyways. it’s small on the surface but really deep. come to think of it, it doesn’t have to be in the ocean. can be up in the sky, somewhere in another galaxy, i read enough SF, i should know that other galaxies count. but in a way they are like the ocean, just as deep and mysterious so that we arrive at the question: what does DEEP mean? hm? maybe it’s deep as in deep thought. my thoughts are so deep, my friend, they are 6 kilometres deep. try and match THAT! what? your thoughts are 20,000 miles LONG? the geometry of thoughts. sounds all pretty competitive. not sure how much i like competition. how deep can you run? how long can you sneeze? how soft can you swim? how small can you curl? what’s on the surface? is competition on the surface?

blogging yourself home – part 2

in my last MentalHealthCamp post, we started talking about what the word “home” means to us. the wordle image here illustrates what some of the commenters in that post said, as well as what was mentioned during the workshop at MentalHealthCamp.

what happens when you are in this good home, and you’re going through a phase when you don’t feel so good – and that can mean anything, from the blahs to an acute psychotic episode?

i’d like to tell you a bit about what leon tan says – on twitter, his name is @hyblis – who wrote a very good case history on myspace and blogging as self therapy.

it’s a study of someone he calls “jenny”, who used blogging first to come to terms with a difficult relationship and then after the breakup, with the suicide of her ex boyfriend.

“the internet provided a sort of safehouse from where i could speak freely for the first time” so perhaps here we have the notion of the good home as a safehouse

blogging as being home – general

  • writing is our cultural medium, quoting gillie bolton (i’d like to add that for many of us, the written word itself is “home”)
  • a blog has 24/7 availability
  • a blog is a storeroom of history, just like a home is

home – community

  • blogging is part of a progressively unfolding mixed reality social ecology – what we were doing at MentalHealthCamp, where virtual contacts met face-to-face, was a good example of this
  • blogging includes personal videos, lists of personal movies, music, books, images, songs, poetry, etc. – like the things you would have in your home; and people who feel attracted to them are people you can be at home with. this is part of a promise of listening, empathy, understanding and belonging to a wider community

home – community – people you are at home with

  • people who say “i get so what you mean”
  • people with whom you can exchange understanding, validation, support, encouragement, people with whom you can rehearse new ways of communicating
  • all things you would get from a therapist but the reciprocity would be much lower
  • reciprocity is one of our deepest needs, and something that is often lacking when someone has a diagnosis of mental illness
  • substantial and longer lasting that a psychotherapeutic relationship, which ends at treatment termination

therapeutic aspects

  • it would be silly to say that blogging can completely replace face to face therapy; just like it would be silly to say that virtual friends can completely replace friends in flesh and blood
  • but blogging, and particularly blogging as writing, is a therapeutic tool that can be used very effectively
  • blogging can help a person gain or regain confidence and trust
  • blogging as writing can be a form of catharsis, a safe re-experiencing and cleansing of deep and often traumatic emotions
  • peers replaced the clinician in giving guidance and inspiration and helping choosing topics for writing

i realize that what i have been saying so far is looking at blogging through rose-coloured glasses. i don’t want to deny the fact that the blogging community can also be difficult – in fact, one of our presenters, terra, talks about that – but for the purpose of this presentation, i’d like us to focus on what we each individually and as a group can do to make our blogs and our blogging community a good home.

once we have a good home, a home that is comfortable, relaxed, safe, a home rich in history and treasures, a home in which we are anchored, then we can launch ourselves, just like jenny did.

at this point in the workshop, i said that i wanted to open this up for discussion in a short while. before we did that, however, i gave participants a moment of reflection – i think reflection is very important both for creative writing and for our mental health – and invited them to do a bit of reflective writing, or maybe we should call it imaginative writing.

so i’d like to do this here, too. write a paragraph or two about mental health. maybe you already know what you want to write, and if not, here are some ideas. you can write your reflections wherever you wish – but of course i’d be delighted if you added it as a comment or even blogged about it. here are some ideas:

  • a good home, a good community is a place where everyone is accepted, “no-one is left behind.” what does a community look like when it is free of stigma?
  • if you wrote a completely anonymous blog, what would you write about? what risks would you take?
  • if mental illness was a treasure chest not a burden, how would you describe the treasures?
  • create a friendly conversation with a mental illness – depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc.
  • if you had all the time and money in the world, how would you contribute to your community – online and/or offline?

blogging yourself home

laptop at homehere is part 1 of my presentation at MentalHealthCamp on the topic “blogging yourself home – writing, blogging and creativity.”

i’ll present it as if i was talking at the presentation and treat you, dear readers, as if you were participants in the workshop.

here we go …

when i was a little girl, there were these tiny glass bottles that fascinated me, and i loved playing with them. and not only were there bottles, but there were also tiny saws with which to open them. i could never figure out why they didn’t just have caps but anyway, i thought they were great little things to play with. especially since my mother really didn’t want me to.

turns out they were my father’s morphine vials.

after a few years, he exchanged the tiny little morphine bottles for bigger ones. from the little 2-ounce ones to mickies to 2-litre bottles of cheap red plonk. they were everywhere. i dind’t really think they were that cute anymore.

my father had the typical addictive personality. he managed to overcome the booze, too, but he had first bladder then pancreatic cancer, and there’s a high correlation between that and smoking, which he did with a passion.

he was also a great artist, a wonderful person in many ways, he introduced me to buddhism which many of you know is very important to me – but he had major difficulties.

the funny thing is that his addictions were difficult but for me as a child they were more a nuisance than anything else.

he also had bipolar disorder, and what did get to me were those long periods of depression where he basically wouldn’t leave his bed for months in a row.

it was that and a mother who tried to cope with this and my sister who has a disability by being a rageaholic and giving me the role of being the “responsible one”

so that’s the home that i grew up in.

why would i want to blog myself home then, why would i suggest to you to blog yourself home? because let’s face it, many of us grew up in homes we don’t particularly want to go back to.

here’s what i propose.

most of us are bloggers here, which means we’re writers.

and that means that we use our creativity, we use our imagination.

the neat thing is, not only is our writing a piece of the imagination; in many ways, the whole blogosphere is a piece of the imagination.

i’d like to ask you, then, what do you imagine your ideal home to be – what are the good words that come up for you as you think of the word “home” – in general, and then also specifically, your virtual home?

why don’t you reflect on this question and comment below? next blog post, i’ll continue the presentation.

image by nuanc

the lyric self

this is another guest post by sarah luczaj, a british therapist and writer, living in poland. she runs an online therapy practice  at mytherapist.com and has a poetry chapbook, “an urgent request” coming soon from fortunate daughter press, an imprint of tebot bach.  sarah is a freequent commenter on this blog, and a propos poetry month, she contributes these interesting thoughts:

who is the “i” in a contemporary lyric poem? since the romantic poets brought the self onto centre stage, whether self as discovered through opium or as expressed in nature, the sense of poets as those who speak in some whole, organic way, for themselves and maybe also for the rest of us, has remained, despite the best attempts of modernist and post-modernist writers, or language poets, to break up that narrative of “i am – i feel – i write”. sometimes the self who speaks, as is often the case with “confessional poets”, is a damaged one, sharing dark secrets, despair, its own fragmentation and brokenness, sometimes it is inconsequential, entertaining… maybe we no longer expect the truth from our poets, but maybe most of us expect some kind of individuality and authenticity?

having my poetry published has put me on the sharp end of this dry literary discussion more than once. sometimes the problem has been simple – i have written about real situations, and real people, who were not able to ‘get’ the context in which i was writing, and who would probably not have liked it even if they had (mea culpa for writing about village life in the actual village in which i still live!) and quite rightly took it as an insult. i know i am far from alone among poets in worrying about revealing self and others in poems, but maybe an even more prevalent issue for writers for whom the “i” of the poems is not always even connected to the “i” who does the laundry, is that readers take the poems to be the literal truth.

but while the “i” of the poems, the lyric “i”, cannot be identical with the “i” who makes toast, can the two ever be totally disconnected? what is the difference between writing a diary and a poem, and is it really the case that a diary is necessarily more authentic?

in my own work, i sometimes recount events from my own life, sometimes recount episodes from other people’s lives, in the first person, and sometimes i use personas to express a kind of composite story made up of the distilled essence of many stories. sometimes, i know from feedback, the personas seem to have more resonance with readers (more “authenticity”?) than when i speak personally from the heart. in fact readers probably automatically assume that i have experienced what is recounted in the poem first hand.

maybe i have? can i notice something which i don’t already know about? do the things which i hear, see, touch not fuse inside me in a kind of chemistry by which they become inseparable from myself? what is this self thing anyway – and is the act of taking experiences inside and then writing ‘as if’ they were yours not a pretty good way of intuitively understanding it?

this seems to be what we are doing all the time, taking people’s stories inside and being changed by them. it seems to me that there is nothing very pure in ourselves that can be extricated and stand alone, and that maybe this is exactly who we are, the individuality which comes out in the act of writing the ‘poem’ or of speaking as “i”, it is what we choose to use, and what cannot be left out, and what must be left out, and the range of tones which we can enter. the act of distilling the essence, and how we do it. the tones when i am writing as a young girl with an eating disorder and as a middle aged mother, for example, are utterly different. some might recognise that these two poems are by the same writer, probably not knowing how, but picking up something about sentence structure, or use of grammatical forms, or vocabulary, which is consistent and recognisable. others might not. but it is the poem that matters, and the poem is always “true”. the rest is speculation.

as a poet, am i happy when i am always recognisable, with my own distinctive voice, or am i happy when i can carry off another voice so successfully that people feel the realness and mistake it for biographical experience? am i putting on these voices artificially, in some way channelling them, or are they really a “part” of “me”? as i have never written a poem “on purpose” – with the clear intention to convey something in particular which i knew in advance, or fulfil any kind of function with my poem (“need one by an old lady about mortality for p 39”), i can say that for me, the use of personas is not an intentional act of putting on a character. i write poems to find out what can be said about something, and sometimes i find ‘voices’ other than my own, yet also mine. i do not wish to appropriate anyone else’s experiences as mine, or even hold on to the finished product as mine, but the writing of the poem is.

so to go back to the first of this series of questions – who is the “i” in the poem, when i am writing the poem?! the answer is, very often not who you think it is.

why we write

beautiful trees and watermy little workshop for MentalHealthCamp, “blogging yourself home” about blogging, writing, creativity and mental health had me think hard about the connection between these topics in the last week or so. i was deligthed, then, to come across alison, who blogs (and teaches) about writing about mental health. in this post, she asks why do you write?

here are my answers.

i write because

  • i can’t imagine not writing
  • the sensuality of it: the physical feeling of pen on paper and fingertips on keyboard; the sound of tap-tap-tap and scratch-scratch-scratch; the sight of paper, the look of a blog post
  • my brain is always full of stuff (pete would offer a reason why) and its good to get at least some part of it out
  • when i do specific writing-for-healing, i KNOW it helps me
  • it connects me with others
  • it looks like others get something from it, sometimes
  • letters are yummy, words are yummy, sentences are yummy, grammar is yummy, language is yummy
  • sometimes i manage to create something beautiful
  • text is an integral part of my upbringing and it makes me feel part of our culture
  • did i say i can’t imagine not writing?

in the same post, alison also says that she is

opposed to writing for healing that doesn’t attend to craft. part of it is because that sort of writing turns inward away from the larger world and the political dimension is so important to me.

i find that an interesting and challenging statement, and would like to hear more about it. perhaps alison will comment.

as i am reflecting on this, i can’t quite see how writing that does not attend to craft (i presume alison means style, narrative flow, sentence structure, etc.) necessarily turns away from the larger world. perhaps alison is referring to navel-gazing content and style? even if that is the case – aren’t there lots of navel-gazers out in the blogosphere, and don’t they somehow have a community?

or – maybe that’s it: when writing is not well-crafted, it will have a lesser chance of being taken seriously, and that decreases any political impact it may have.

what do you think?

oh, and if you write, dear reader, why do YOU write?

image by floato

mental health camp: speaker list, diagnosis, and the history of stigma

for today, i’ll simply send you over to the MentalHealthCamp site.

we have a list of presentations now – really interesting stuff – topics reach from anonymity and pseudonymity to ADD to online therapy to stigma and self stigma – please check it out! the title of my presentation will be “blogging yourself home” – on blogging, writing, creativity and mental health.

there are also two very interesting guest posts.  one is on diagnosis, stigma, loneliness – and hope.

the other is entitled mental illness and stigma in history by ian from graveyard contemplations.

25 things

a bunch of people tagged me on facebook with the “25 things about you” meme. i’m going to try and do this a) really quick and b) restrict my answers to the kinds of things discussed here on this blog, namely psychology, creativity/art, spirituality, books and lefty stuff (you know, social justice, peace – bleeding heart kind of things). here we go:

  1. i still remember the feeling of my heart beating when i first read about ron melzack’s neuromatrix theory of pain which states that pain (and sensations in general) can be related to neurological “images” of ourselves, not necessarily to the physical reality of our bodies. neatly explains phantom limb pain and neurological “pain loops”
  2. i love children’s books and think that if adult books were presented like children’s books we’d all be better off
  3. watching the films “sacco and vanzetti” and “Z” when i was a teenager made a big impression on me and is one of the reasons why i’m a bleeding heart
  4. year and years ago, someone once said to a dear relative of mine that women pour all their creativity into having children and are therefore not good artists. my blood still boils
  5. i used to say the lord’s prayer when i woke up from scary dreams. hard to imagine now
  6. i once fell crazy in love with the works of torquato tasso, an italian renaissance poet who wrote libretti for monteverdi
  7. please don’t make me listen to classical italian or french opera
  8. i call the typical first two psychology courses “canadian tire catalogue” type of learning. you learn nothing but one fact after the other. yuk
  9. i once hunted down a book by abraham maslow (the “inventor” of the famous “hierarchy of needs”) at the library, only to detect later on that i already owned the book
  10. the first book i ever ordered was a beautiful book about roses by a descendant of the king of sweden who lives in a beautiful castle on a magical island in southern germany
  11. when i told my ex husband that i was thinking of becoming a social worker he said he’d leave me if i did that
  12. i am fascinated by biological psychology and utterly incapable of memorizing even the most important and most often repeated facts in it
  13. i am often baffled by how much intuitive sense buddhist ideas make to me
  14. i think i would make an awful marriage counsellor. way too opinionated
  15. a good-hearted right-winger will always win me over a mean-spirited left-winger
  16. my respect for adult learning started very early, when an uncle of mine received a PhD in theology at age 60, something almost unheard-of in 1960s germany
  17. i never had a romantic relationship with anyone who was not an artist or at least strongly interested in the arts
  18. i was one of the first people to do psychological research on the web
  19. one of my heroes in christian mysticism is julian of norwich, who lived in 14th century england and who was also the first woman in the western world to write a book
  20. i would love to be a corporate philosopher/psychologist, wondering through a company having fruitful conversations
  21. watching a bob marley concert in berlin, shortly before he died, was one of the most intensely spiritual experiences i ever had
  22. i think freud is underrated and that without him we would be nowhere today in psychology
  23. when i lived in paraguay, i had a great friendship with a pastor. we drank lots of brandy and smoked cigars; only when it came to talking about spiritual things, he got all bashful. but he was a great preacher
  24. i love singing the types of hymns they sing in evangelical churches but often feel like a fraud when i do that because i don’t subscribe to many of their doctrines
  25. i try to write a ritual poem (“words of power”) for every moon phase

i’ll tag a few people here, and a bunch more over on facebook.

giggle on
mellow yellow

quickie: writing in the deep sea

i was going to post the rest of the october buddhist carnival today but i have a cold and putting together these remaining five or six posts in a way that makes at least some sense seems to be a little much for these gray cells today.

so i’ll leave you with a quote by jack kerouac:

i want to work in revelations, not just spin silly tales for money. i want to fish as deep down as possible into my own subconscious in the belief that once that far down, everyone will understand because they are the same that far down.

deep sea blue

image by нσвσ