Writing Your Way Home
Clapping your net over the butterfly of the moment.
Posted 3/5/11 | Updated 7/3/20
“It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.”
—Vita Sackville-West, English poet (1892–1962)
As I write this, I'm eating a home-baked brownie with white chocolate chunks. The rich cake is chewy and dense. The colour reminds me of glossy chestnuts, or damp leaves on a forest floor. It smells of my childhood, and comfort. The nuggets of chocolate taste golden somehow, as they melt into honeyed sweetness on my tongue.
Pausing to experience the taste, chocolate-scent, and texture of my brownie (and write it down) has helped me to enjoy it properly. It isn't always like that. Sometimes I gulp my food down and I hardly taste it. Sometimes I've walked home from the local shop and I haven't noticed a single thing along the way. The moment passes, and is forgotten.
Writing can help us to clap our net over the butterfly of the moment. If you'd like to write your way towards joy, follow a few of these tips to get you started.
Once a day for a week, or once a week for a month, commit to writing a praise piece or a love letter. Sit down and tell us why you love your red shoes so much, or make a list of the things you enjoy about your garden or the view from your office window. Describe what made your roast dinner possible where were the potatoes grown? How did they make their way towards you from deep in the earth? How did you cook them? How did they taste? Write a love letter to your sister or to the woman next door or to your dentist. Don't hold back. If you're really brave, you could hand your love letters over!
Seek out the writing that sets you on fire. Copy out or memorise poems that speak to you. Put time aside to concentrate on re-reading your favourite novel. Go to poetry readings. Join a book group. Read the lyrics of your favourite songs. Appreciate the idiosyncratic wording in junk emails. Read as s-l-o-w-l-y as you can. Read out loud, and ask your husband to read to you. Nourish and relish your love affair with words.
It's easy to lose our way with writing we start worrying about how 'good' it is, and whether we'll ever be published, and why we're even bothering when there's so much amazing writing in the world already. You are likely to have these thoughts again and again. You're not alone. All the writers I know, however much money they're making or how popular they are, need to find a way of ignoring these thoughts. Say thank you to this critical, scared bit of you for its input, and then write anyway.
A word of caution. Nobody feels joyful all the time, and we shouldn't expect ourselves to be. Sometimes it is entirely appropriate to feel miserable or annoyed, or to be in mourning, or to just feel a little disconnected from everything. These feelings also have an important message for us. Write in your journal, and allow whatever you're experiencing to tumble out. Let the words take you where they want to take you. Unpack and explore. Get the support of other people along the way. Appreciate fleeting shining moments amongst the darkness, when you notice the sun catching on the mosque's golden roof. Have patience with yourself. Trust that you'll find the path towards joy again, and that actually you've been on it all along.
As you may know from my essay, The Joys of Mindful Writing, a small stone is a short piece of writing based on paying careful attention. If you want to write your way towards joy, focus on praise when you're looking for your small stones. What can you appreciate about the scene in front of you? Even if you're just looking at next door's brick wall, notice the colours and the texture. Have you noticed the weed with miniscule sky-blue flowers emerging from the cracks in the pavement?
I enjoyed every last bite of my brownie, and I've enjoyed writing every word of this essay for you. Now I'm going to make myself a cup of tea and see if I can find the right words to describe the steam as it curls into the air Another mini-project in writing my way towards joy.
©2011 Fiona Robyn. All rights reserved.
Satya Robyn is a novelist, psychotherapist, Buddhist priest and the co-founder of Writing Our Way Home with her husband Kaspa. ...