Out with the old, in with the new…

Sometimes a good old-fashioned writing ritual can give you a helpful kick in the butt and move your writing along.  This prompt can help you get 2013 started right, and put you in touch with some of the things you carry around with you and some of your hopes that seem too big to name.

Start by free writing for 10 minutes (set a timer, and don’t go over, as the time limit is part of the ritual and helps prevent this from getting overwhelming) around things you’d like to let go of, get rid of, or simply put aside for a while.  Try to include at least one thing about your writing life/process that you’d like to change or shed. You can start the writing in list form and then just keep writing, or write a dialog with yourself, or just keep the pen moving and come back to things you want to get rid of whenever you feel like it.  There’s no right way or wrong way to do this, and if your writing veers off into other directions, just let it.  Write bravely and honestly, especially because as you will see in the next step, no one, not even you, will ever read this piece again.

When the ten minutes are up, tear your writing from your notebook, and put it into a pot or a pan or some other fire-proof receptacle (be smart and safe about this!!) and just burn it.  I did a version of this at a retreat with storyteller/mythologist/poet Michael Meade and he told us to toss our writing into the fire and immediately walk away and not look back at it, or else the things we are trying to be rid of might follow us.

The next step is to take another 10 minutes and write things you want to let in, things you want to welcome into your life, your hopes and dreams, goals, whatever it is that you want to create. Again, try to include at least one writing-related item. as before, this writing can be in any form and wander off wherever it leads.  You will keep these pages.  I’ve done a version of this where I have participants seal what they wrote during this time in an envelope and write their name on it. Then I return it to them at the end of a 10 week workshop cycle or a one-day writing workshop.  You can also do this on your own, and seal the writing and put it in a safe place for whatever period of time feels right to you.

The act of naming is extremely powerful, and this writing ritual can lead to change that you have resisted, or never imagined.  And if it doesn’t, at least you got to light something on fire.

(Also, if you want to start your writing year off right, join my Tuesday night creative writing workshop that begins January 29, or another one of NYWC’s public workshops! Details are here!)