How Wild Writing Heals In A Pandemic

The first thing that took a big hit was my ability to breathe. I felt like I’d been twisted and contorted into a challenging yoga pose unable to soften or let go.

Usually, I turn to writing as a way to process and find moments of peace in this mess of a world we still live in. But those first few weeks I felt scared, anxious. I’d stare at the computer screen, my stomach in knots. Those knots would eventually turn into one big scream like the famous painting by Edvard Munch.

There are still moments when I want my pre-Covid life back. I want to feel safe again. But there’s no real safety these days in the news, texts and social media updates. Falling in the arms of my husband, an essential grocery worker or my kids, is probably the closest thing.

Surrendering to the day has become its own safety: more meals and unplanned trips to the pond looking at ducks and watching how the rain pelts magnolia trees. More time monitoring my kids’ online school while my husband works. And more time online trying to figure out which pair of kid sneakers or spice rack to buy.

As we enter our sixth week of quarantine, these activities I was finding are becoming emotionally draining. I need a way to show up and write before my head sizzles with emotions and the day gets picked up like a tornado with everyone else’s needs.

Enter: Wild Writing. 

Writing quickly without leaving your pen off the page isn’t something new. For years, I’ve taught freewriting to my ESL (English as Second Language) adult students to help them jumpstart their academic essays. But, in a pandemic, I need a way to quickly get out of my way.

My guide each morning, is Laurie Marks Wagner, a former writing teacher, who now appears in my inbox as part of the 27 day Wildest Writing video series.

The gift of these short videos is learning to listen for the next thought and the next and just be open to writing them down. The prompt usually comes from a line from a poem Laurie reads, and it doesn’t take long for my creative subconscious to get going. The entire process from start to finish takes about 25 minutes and my brain is already well-trained in that it knows what to expect.

At the very beginning, I was on my guard. I wanted to write pretty sentences. I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable writing about the tangled web of our lives. There is so much discomfort in the world right now, you cannot avoid it. You cannot anticipate when you might write something good which is why listening is its own technique. You train your creative subconscious by listening, not by controlling it.

Laurie says, “Your creative subconscious has its own GPS. Wild writing is not about making good things. Just listen to what’s coming. Listen to that thought and the next.”

Listening to what’s coming. That was how I wrote a very jumbled list, “25 things about myself” consisting of random things ranging from cooking pasta to walking the earth. Some of the sentences unraveled the seeds of power, energy, strength. Most likely I would have never written that list if I hadn’t tuned into these videos. And most likely I wouldn’t have written those ideas if I was in contemplation mode. My brain is over quick to swoop in and rule what’s potentially good and what isn’t.

Wild Writing, I’m discovering, has no rules. And right now, that might be a good thing for writers. You have the freedom to bypass your busy mind and let go. There’s no-one telling you what you can and cannot write. But I’m finding that you are more likely to tune into yourself when someone else gives you permission to write whatever comes up for you.

I’m surprised by all the things I’m discovering about myself. Things like how much I need this process, especially now, and how, in the early weeks, I’d shield myself from the pain.

I cannot lie to my creative subconscious, which is already starting to form its own language. Laurie says, “Wild writing is a form of cheap creative therapy.” Whether I can heal myself in words this way for the long-term, I’m not sure.

Each morning, I still feel those feelings, but there’s also a glimmer of settling in, of figuring out how to manage this pandemic. There’s relief in grounding and healing myself with a Wild Writing practice to know that ultimately, we as a writing community, are not alone.

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