Storying: Playfulness and Wonder

#wonder, #storying, #Blog, #Story telling #clustering #playfulness, #writing #webbibg

In her book Writing the Natural Way, Gabriele Lusser Rico introduced the concept of “clustering” also known as “webbing,” as a creative technique to return to the playfulness and wonder of childhood storying.  Traditional schooling programs our brains to write in a prescribed way that follows a sequence of events.  When writing for school we write from the cognitive rational part of our brain.  The creative part of the brain is often shut out of the process, which discard any emotional or sensory experience from the events in the story.  This kind of writing can often feel dull and unimportant, which lead a lot of people to turn away from writing or retelling their life experiences through the written word.

Children love to create stories and hear stories.  They learn how to translate themselves through the stories they create.  The psychologist Renee Fuller termed “storying” as a term for what children do to try to create wholeness out of their experiences in an adult world.  Our ancient ancestors also storied their daily experiences and life stories with their community around the fire.   Images carved into rock or painted on rocks told the story of hunting and life in the early communities.  Stories are a way for humans to connect, to have relationships and to express who they are to others.

Gabriele Lusser Rico explores how adults lose the sense of pleasure and wholeness in their writing that they had as children.  As adults we trade curiosity for the mundane, delight of the new with worry for the future.  Adults replace a free sensory notion of the world with a preconceived notion that has been written in a prescribed formula.

According to Gabriele, we do not lack ideas for writing, but we lack the access to them.  Her clustering model allows for the creative part of the brain to be very active.  The child curiosity and wonder are reignited.

To begin clustering Gabriele suggests that a single word, or a few words, are written down in the middle of the page.  Then circle it.  Jutting out from the initial circled word draw lines connecting to other words or phrases associated with the original word.  Some words might become their own nucleus with many spokes coming out from them with connecting images or thoughts.  Continue to allow the creative mind to make these connection and form patterns until it feels like you have exhausted any new ideas.

Below are some examples of words to choose from to begin your creative clustering experience.  You can also place the name of a person or specific experiences you might want to explore deeper in your first circle.   Include sensory experiences as a way to expand your memory and bring it to life.  I choose the word prompt “things found” and wrote about my Gramp’s chair.  I also provided an example below of the clustering I did first that led me to the short written piece.  You can choose just to cluster or, if the story wants to be told, allow your clustered memories to take shape to form your story.

Word prompt:

Fear, Pain, Hunger

Age, Body part’s (stomach, shoulders, feet etc…)

Myself, My mother (father, grandfather. . .), childhood memories

Letting go, Time, Dreams

Things or people Lost/found, things desired, things despise

The name of a person, a place or a time in your life, friends, enemies, person admired

Dinner table, favorite foods, places to eat

Travel, vacations, Events, situations and circumstances, concerts attended

Things said/things not said, things known and unknown

Jobs lost/jobs found

Pets you have had in your lifetime, car’s in your life

Things Found

Gramp’s chair

My Gramp sat in his bedroom chair twice a day, once to put his shoes on and once to take his shoes off.  I don’t know where the chair came from or why it was the chair in my Gramp’s bedroom, but I remember sitting on his lap as he sat to get ready for the day and later to end his day.

The chair was a wood frame, burnt umber, with a hunt scene of horses racing across the chair in an eternal chase for the fox.  A conservative block pleat wrapped around the edge of the seat and- a wood frame with line webbing criss-crossed beneath the horses and their riders.  It had a barrel shape back that was softened by a cushion shaped with a larger surface for the back and two smaller sections that appeared to wrap around and hold my Gramp’s shoulders, supporting his rotund body comfortably.  The chair sat lower to the ground like it was made for the purpose of putting on and taking off shoes.

I used to sit on my Gramp’s lap after he laced up his brown leather high top shoes.  We sat there together in our generational union looking at pictures of people I never knew and would never know.  Gramp kept a piece of corrugated cardboard wrapped around a parcel of photos tied with white string in his top dresser drawer.  My Gramp would show me these small black and white photos, although they were more brown and cream colored.  The photos were of people that never smiled and wore long dresses and men all in suits standing in place they just stood on a porch or what looked like a backdrop of plain cloth.  Taller ones in the back and smaller ones in the front.  All of them the men and woman wearing high-top leather shoes like my Gramp’s.  Some of the photos were on what appeared to be a sheet of tin, the colors black and gray.  Gramp always looked at them, all these people that he knew and loved and now missed, with joy as he named them and told a little story or two about a few of his family members, my ancestors.

There was a picture of my Gramp as a young man after he graduated from college in engineering.  He was on a ship heading to Canada as a graduation gift from his father.  I didn’t recognize him in that young skin, wool pants and matching jacket.   He had what looked like reddish-brown hair and even though he didn’t smile he looked into the camera with a slight grin.  I suppose he felt proud of his accomplishments and excited about his travel adventures. I loved to look at that photo, always trying to find the Gramp I knew in that tall slim body.  I tried to imagine what he was like back then, a young man so full of energy and with a bright future ahead of him, sitting there on a boat alone about to embark on a journey.

I would look through each and every photo and hold onto the metal ones.  I was so amazed at how they got a picture on this material and I wondered how my Gramp could know so many people that came from a time I was not to experience.  He would put them all back in order and wrap the corrugated board around them for protection.  He tied the white string in a coil around them, securing his memories before laying them to rest in the dresser drawer on top of his handkerchiefs.  They would be tenderly lifted from their repose in the evening and the ancestral tails would be my bedtime story that lulled me sleep.

After fifty years, I have his chair again and it sits in my extra room.  It had been in a basement for many years and never attended to or sat on or even noticed.  I ran my fingers over the old tattered fabric with the horses and riders now faded, the back cushion missing, and the wood discolored, and I remembered my Gramp, now among the ancestors.  I plan to restore this chair and maybe I will sit in it and share photos with my grandson and tell stories of my Gramp, his great- great Grandfather.  But the photos will be in color now and he will see some wonderful smiles and goofy expression on the faces of our family.   I will bring out the ancient parcel of photos and show them to him, but I will only remember some of their names most likely not all the details of the stories.  Those stories now all live within the faded colors of the small thumb size pictures and metal sheets.

Learn more about Gabriel Lusser Rico and Writing the Natural Way
Road Signs

Road Signs

Road Signs

One evening after work I was out walking my dog, a small terrier – mix named Pumpkin. I suppose that Pumpkin has forced me to take more mindful walks due to her short stature. I now notice things around me that I wouldn’t ordinarily notice because I would be more focused on distance and cardio level.

As Pumpkin and I were strolling, I noticed how many signs fill our neighborhood. Signs with directives, instructions and absolute orders: “no passing on the left”, “one way”, “no parking here to corner”, “bump”, “one way”, “stop”, “do not enter” and even playground instructions or “play smart rules”.  Signs with the name of streets and even signs in people’s yards showing a dog squatted to poop with a circle and a line through it, often with the word “PLEASE” highlighted above the dog image.

I began to think about all the messages that these signs project to the community.  I wondered if we could flash a sign, perhaps on our foreheads, that would provide information to others. Information about our needs, requests, wants and even warnings. How nice that might be.  No need to explain, argue or feel bad for asking questions.  The message merely lights up on our foreheads and others need only obey the directives or simply be informed.

Think about some of the bad dates you might have had.  Don’t you wish that your date bore a sign like; “be prepared to stop”, “exit only”, “hidden driveway” or “keep left”?  How many “I told you so’s” could you have avoided?  I wondered about all the conversations that felt more like monologues by the other person.  Wouldn’t It have been helpful if they had a sign that said something like “one-way street” or “no U turns”?  How extremely helpful that would have been – not to mention, a great time management tool.

How many of us have missed the sign for the “Recharge Vehicle station”?  Instead, we continue to burn energy with work and commitments to friends and family until our engines stall and we find ourselves stuck on the side of a remote street.

Sometimes we might not see the sign before we enter into a situation, but the signs do present themselves and it is important that we do acknowledge them. I have heard many people talk about the “red flags” they were aware of but had ignored at the time.  Perhaps they were preoccupied by the scenery and did not fully grasp the meaning of the sign or they did not trust what they saw.

I began to think about these signs and the ones I would like to have available in certain times of my life or particular times of the day.  When I am sitting at the computer and am pulled out away from my body while writing and then someone knocks on my front door or decides to ask me a question.  I wish I had a sign “road closed”, or “caution” or “no parking.”  When I am playing with my grandson, I need the sign “beware unfenced road for next 150 Km” or the squiggly arrow for a crazy ride!   There are some people that need a “do not enter” sign and others I would like to see have the “share the road” sign”.

Think about the people in your life and what signs you would like or need to light up on your forehead when you are around them.  Or what sign you wish would light up on someone else’s forehead to warn you or welcome you.  Have fun with this and as always keep your pen moving and “no parking.”

Some sign examples: “stop”, “yield”, “R/R”, “dead end”, “no U turns”, “no passing”, “do not enter”, arrows pointing in various directions, “pedestrian crossing”, “parking” and “no parking”, “one way”, “slippery road” or “sharp curves”, “give way”, “wrong way”, “traffic light”, “bike route”, and “trash sign-Pitch in”, “construction ahead”, “caution”, “road under construction”, “speed limits”, “food and gas signs”, signs “warning of falling rock in mountain areas” or “animal crossings”, there are even “social distancing” signs now, and of course signs with “rules at swimming pools, playgrounds and parks”, “avalanche area”, “no vehicles beyond this point”, “pavement ends”, “blind corner proceed with caution”, “cross traffic ahead”, “hard hat area”, “private driveway”, “road may flood”.  Look around as you walk and notice signs and imagine how and when you might use that sign.

Prompt:

  • Find as many signs as you can and write them down.
  • Begin to make a list of people you feel you need a sign for to either welcome them or to keep them distant.
  • Imagine you are able to have these signs light up on your forehead when you encounter these people. What would they state? Who would you need the sign’s for?.
  • Write about what that would look like and how that would feel.
  • Write about the signs you wish someone else had on their forehead and how that would have been helpful.
  • Write a list of situations where you could use a special sign (in social settings, walking your dog, on campus or at work).
  • Write about a sign you wish was on someone else.
  • Create a scene where every character has a sign. Maybe it is a first meeting or a job interview. Imagine how that scene would play out and write your scene.

Example:

When I was in high school, I was invited by a very popular boy to our senior prom.  I was not one of the popular kids. In fact, I was surprised he even knew me.  I was very excited of course but also nervous since I had not dated anyone in high school. I worked at an equine center to earn riding lessons.  I worked every weekend and a few nights a week mucking stalls.  While everyone else was “hanging out,” I was working.

I told my mom that I was invited to the prom and she took me shopping for a dress.  We looked at only a few stores and I was acutely aware of the need to keep in a budget.  I did find a dress that fit well, and I was comfortable in and so my mom put the dress on layaway. She was to pay the balance and pick up the dress 3 days before my prom.  I could see her hesitation on getting the dress, not because she didn’t want me to have it, but I think she knew something was not right.  I wish that her thoughts could have been displayed on her forehead. The ones I saw in her eyes said, “blind corner, proceed with caution”.

Three weeks later and two weeks before the prom, this popular boy stopped me in the hall at school and asked what the color of my dress was so he could order flowers.  I told him blue – not a deep royal blue, but a robin’s egg blue, soft and innocent.  Four days before prom night he called me over to his locker and told me he was not going to take me to the prom, he said he was taking someone else that he really wanted to go with.  I wish that I had seen the sign on his forehead before this, a sign that stated, “U-turn”, “Dead end”, or “bridge out do not enter.”  I stood there leaning against the grey metal locker, #105.  I don’t really remember what I did or didn’t do but the appropriate sign would have been the yellow crime scene tape. Or “detour”, so that I could have remained frozen and everyone could have gone around me, left me there invisible.

I did have to tell my mom, so she did not pay for the dress still on layaway.  I chose to tell her I decided not to go.  I put up a sign that stated, “drive slow saves lives”. She never asked me about why I had decided not to go or to try to fish for the real reason.  But I imagine my mom went to the store to get her money back for the blue prom dress with a sign on her forehead stating, “private road no thru traffic”, or “no idling allowed”.

Glories, Gifts and Graces

female, Grace, Women, Empowerment, Intuitive, Alyssa MartinThis is a blog that will focus on women and their ability to turn adversity into strength. Susan Wittig Albert, in her book Writing from Life, defined “Glories”, “Gifts” and “Graces” below:

  •  Glories – the achievements and successes that give pride and personal empowerment.  Glories are the product of gifts.

  •  Gifts – the aptitudes and attitudes that contribute to our success, and the education and training that sharpened and strengthen these gifts, which are then enhanced by graces.

  •  Graces – the luck of the draw such as the time, place and circumstances of our births and upbringings.  These are the Happy accidents and synchronicities. Women typically will minimize their achievements – chalk it up to luck or coincidence.

 “Women. . . internalize countless messages: we do not belong in important places; we do not really count; we do not really shape history and culture.  And so when we do achieve recognition, we tend to attribute our success to luck or if not that, then to something, anything other than our competent and entitled selves.” Harriet Goldhor Lerner, from her book, The Dance of Deception.

Historically, women were not permitted to openly acknowledge their glories but rather needed to acknowledge them as a grace from men.  Still today it remains a struggle for women to speak their voice of success, even to themselves.  Even now as I sit to write this blog, I find myself pushing back the loud critic in my head that is shouting the familiar words – “this doesn’t matter.” I wonder how many women in my community, my state, country and the world hear similar words. I wonder how many women feel their bodies echo that same negative message, reverberating and reinforcing it.

It is important for women to remember their successes and their struggles.  When these are not brought to the conscious mind, when they are pushed to the bottom of the well, the memory of success gets lost in our everyday life.  When women are faced with a challenge, the memory of their past successes are not accessible, and they enter the new situation only with the memory of the failures. Our memories of the failures appear to have more buoyancy and stay on the top of the well, so when we dip the bucket in, they are the first ones to fill the bucket and the first ones to be swallowed.

Failure is important to success.  There is nothing in this world today that did not take a lot of trial and error to achieve the conveniences we experience today.  In the book Half the Sky the author explores women from all around the world, in some place’s women are considered less than the dirt under their feet.  The stories were about women that had survived great abuse. Some left their villages, homes and spouses and started their own village or raised their children as a community.  The men they left in the village would sometimes attack and burn their thatched structures and leave them in ruin.  Nevertheless, these women cleaned up the destruction and together they rebuilt their community.  Failure is necessary to reinforce the knowledge that we hold, and it gives us the strength to continue, which is essential for learning to happen and for self-confidence to grow.

“The women of today are the thoughts of their mothers and grandmothers, embodied, and made alive.  They are active, capable, determined and bound to win. . .. Millions of women, dead and gone, are speaking through us today.”  – Matilda Joslyn Gage, 1880

Today I challenge you to stir the well and allow your successes to come to the surface. Dip your bucket in and gather all of them.  Drink them in, bath in them and allow them to run through and over you.  Own them, hear them, feel them and see them.

 Prompt:
  • Begin by making a list of all your Glories – your success and achievements. Allow your pen to keep moving as the well water flows.
  • Choose one Glory at a time and write it on a page. Underneath it write all the Gifts – the things you did to achieve that Glory.
  • Then create a list of all the Graces – the happy accidents and synchronicities that attributed to your Glory.
  • Repeat this for each and every Glory.
  • You can also write your failures as these have also aided you in success and added another connection of courage and confidence in your body and brain.
Alternative:  Susan Witting Albert in Writing from Life suggests the “Seed”
  • In the center of the page write a Glory and circle it
  • Coming out of that seed draw a stem, from that stem draw branches for each gift that brought you to the Glory
  • Out from the bottom of the seed draw the roots. On each root write your Graces – the synchronicities and luck that enhanced your Glory.
  • Once you have your list, choose one Glory, along with all the Gifts and Graces, and write your story. Write it honoring yourself, acknowledging all that you did to accomplish this Glory.

If it is difficult for you to write this in first person then begin by writing it in second person. You can always edit later and change all the “you,” “they,” and “she” to “I” and “me.”  Then read it out loud to yourself and again drink in all the flavors of you.

 
Example
Glory: Shamrock Reins – equine psychotherapist
Gifts: experienced rider, knowledge of horses, master’s in counseling psychology, great love for horses, experience with the healing ability of horses, and strongly motivated.
Graces: happened to hear about this facility and their focus on treating veterans and first-responders, trusted my gut and reached out to the owner, on FMLA so I had the time to explore this possibility, my son was in the Army and I felt the need to help other veterans and active military.
Birthings

Birthings

Birthing’s are almost always associated with having a child, but they are not always defined by the generative process

There are thousands of ways we “give birth” in our lives, such as birthing an idea, new artwork or plans for something novel in our lives.   I have experienced many different birthing’s of myself over my lifetime.  Some more painful than others.  Some bearing more fruit or a fuller and much healthier result. Other birthing’s were wrought with much loss like divorce and the death of family and friends.  Some were lower on the pain scale like when changing jobs or schools. Many others were very simple, quick and over without a pause between the before and after. Several birthing’s took a lot of planning, editing out some fluff and whittling down the initial expansive idea to a more workable and achievable reality.

We are constantly birthing and re-birthing ourselves throughout our lives as we learn new perspectives, travel and our experiences increase.  In Composing a Life, by Mary Catherine Bateson, she explores the lives of several woman who were very successful in their careers’ but later in life they changed their professional direction.  All of these women gave birth to completely new careers’ requiring them to re-define themselves as women, mothers and partners.

After several years of growing and nurturing the concept of Airmid, the labor ended, and she was birthed.  Airmid is now in the world, conceived of all the dreams, ideas and hopes for her presence in the world.  My partners’ and I held hands as we stood on the precipice of change.  We each left full-time jobs with paid vacation and health plans, to bring forth this labor of love and passion.  As we stood there, silent, hands clasped together, and our eyes speaking a mutual fear and joy, we jumped off the cliff and into a new unknown.

We birthed and rebirthed Airmid daily, nurturing her to her full potential as a mother does her child.  Those daily birthing’s, although, laborious, almost go unnoticed as do many of the smaller birthing’s everyone experiences from day to day. Today I invite you to remember, and in remembering, to honor, all the birthing’s you have had in your life. There are the birthing’s after a loss and the ones meticulously planned for, but none the less they are birthing’s.

 

Writing Prompt #1

  • Make a list of all your birthing’s, in chronological order or in thematic order (i.e. family, work, relationships) or in the order in which they occur to you now.
  • Choose one of the items identified on your list and write about that.
  • Continue to move through your list and write about each of the birthing’s you identified,
  • Write about birthing your dreams, a new business or relationship.
  • Think about times in your life that you may have changed directions professionally, academically, socially or creatively. Often one birthing can lead to many others like where you go to college could lead to where you work and start a family.
  • Write about leaving an old identity and venturing into a new one.
As always please feel free to deviate from my prompts and write about anything that emerges as you read through the above prompts. Keep your hand moving, even when the internal critic tells you that you are wasting your time or that what you are writing is meaningless – keep writing through that and into a deeper relationship with yourself.

Birth your story and have fun with it,

Dottie