“The thing is, there is a need to deal with climate change, restore our democracy, heal the injustices close in and further out. We need to actually get that job, or finish that project. We need to connect. We need to change the conversation or let the conversation change us. We need to move forward somehow into the new next,”
- Julie Tallard Johnson, The Changing Conversation, the New Next & Clue of the Red Thread, February 5, 2021
A few weeks ago, while discussing her brilliant new book The Clue of the Red Thread, Julie said it best within the above quote - we need to move forward into the new next. She also mentions dealing with climate change and I would like to introduce you to a writing genre that offers opportunity to write within the world of the new next where your words can change our planet.
Welcome to a writing genre that you have always lived in.
When you began your day today did you notice the first bird, cloud, flower, or tree you viewed or passed by? Writers generally welcome writing prompts and this writing genre offers prompts 24/7 because it always surrounds you. The genre is known as Nature Writing and it has been around for decades.
The genre of Nature Writing is experiencing a popularity boost mostly due to the concern we have for our planet’s climate change and, in a nearly post-pandemic world, after having worked from home for a few months, we’ve been able to view and experience our backyards and common green areas in-between working on our screens more than we did when working in offices. Writing about Nature is, well, alive again.
Nature Writing often involves the love of a place, a favorite land, and/or an experience held/shared in Nature. Nature Writing is timeless, and necessary. If we do not write about our places and experiences then how will future generations know about our land, our Earth?
Sometimes referred to as Adventure Writing and Outdoor writing, this genre has its roots in the 19th century globally and continues to currently find engaged writers and avid readers – more than ever in previous decades. The genre is also welcoming many diverse voices and hence the genre is fast becoming known as a group of New Nature Writers.
More simply put, Nature Writing has found its time and place as our planet experiences unprecedented change and we as humans learn how to best maintain our home – for everyone because we are all on this planet as one. By recording your observations, researching the facts, and gathering up your enthusiasm, you generate writing pieces that can influence your readers. Nature Writing is necessary to save the planet. If we don’t share our experiences and assist our next generation in understanding the precious elements of our world, then we could find ourselves in a worse situation than we currently find ourselves in.
Your words can awaken change.
This is an arena that is as wide open as a grassy patch of land by the side of any roadside or on top of any mountain. Our environment is changing, and our voices need to be read.
Join us. We are a group of writers who take note of our first birds, clouds, flowers, and trees viewed daily. We are writing to save the world – literally. We are writing the new next.
New Nature Writers Writing Ranger
Write about a time you were forgotten.
Take a story or scene or essay that you are writing on and turn it into a poem.
When you go on your writer's walk today (in search of an idea or to make contact with the natural world), notice three new images or encounters that you have not noticed in the past. Write about these.
Throw out, donate or recycle something today that you find you have been moving around the house but really it's just clutter. Write about this object and its journey with you. (Or write from the objects perspective).
Write about how COVID intersects with your writer's life. Use the images found on your walk.
Write about an assumption you hold about someone you don't like. And about someone you love.
Write about an assumption you hold of the world or others that holds you back or makes you want to give up.
As in all my writing prompts, let them take you where they will. My writing prompts come from an intuitive place that invites us to explore and discover what it is we truly want to write about. Let go of expectations and assumptions you hold of yourself or your writing. And notice the pilgrimage itself and where you arrive.
Join me and other writers for FIRST FRIDAY WRITING RETREATS. This coming March 5th, Friday we will explore more on the theme of Vulnerability through and in our writing. On the First Friday in April we will have a wonderful day of writing and yoga with me and Molly Chanson! Send me an email, and hold the dates. email@example.com. These will be live through ZOOM until we can safely meet up in person!❤️
The Clue of The Red Thread is now available on Amazon.🌈
I am currently reading a biography called Maxwell Perkins: Editor of Genius written by A. Scott Berg. It depicts the life and career of Max Perkins of Scribner’s publishing house who brought forth the works of powerhouse authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Tom Wolfe, and others.
Perkins was not a writer himself, but as an editor he had nearly inexhaustible sympathy, respect, and dedication to the craft. He coached, encouraged, bolstered, and supported his authors when they stumbled and despaired, which was often.
He well understood that the writing life was plagued by solitude, toil, and self-doubt. Then, if a work of great art (or even just okay art) was successfully printed and critically esteemed, the writer was sentenced to the depression and struggle of producing another work of equal or greater value, as was the case with Fitzgerald following The Great Gatsby. Tom Wolfe scrawled reams of pages of description and character sketches while standing beside a refrigerator which he used as his preferred writing surface. He produced prolifically--and had no idea what to do next with his material. Marjorie Rawlings, author of the perennially beloved novel The Yearling toiled for a year on the project, then threw the manuscript out.
In each of these cases, Max Perkins pleaded with and implored the authors to continue, to not give up. To one author he wrote, “Just get it all down on paper and then we’ll see what to do with it.” And ultimately, the authors muddled their way through mess, muck, and morass to create something that was publishable and could be put into the hands and minds of readers forever after.
So, I take heart in the familiar struggle of some of the greatest writers of the 20th century. They were both brilliant and fragile, brimming with both insight and uncertainty. They were like us. Let us, then, find our own Max Perkins--someone, something to cheer us on and force us to continue the painful effort. The end makes the means possible, even when the means feel impossible. Or, as Perkins himself put it so well, “I feel certain that it will end very well indeed, if you can endure the struggle. The struggle is part of the process.”
Camilia Cenek is a writer, consultant, and editor. She delights in working with both emerging and experienced writers to bring their stories to life. In 2020, she won first place for nonfiction in the Wisconsin Writers Association Jade Ring contest. Contact Camilia at firstname.lastname@example.org
an instagram post by Holly Whittaker:
"We do not speak or create or share for our shit to be understood, liked, loved by all. We do these things as an offering. Our art isn’t our own, our words aren’t our own; they are borrowed things that choose us, that knock at our door and ask to pass through the portal of our hands, lips, brains. And then they are gone, no longer ours, out there, someone else’s. We are the faucets, we are not the water. And the pain comes when we confuse ourselves with being the water.
It took me a long time to get this. I still struggle with it. Just not even close to how much I used to.
We speak not to convert the masses into our belief systems; we speak our truth so that others can find theirs. And people find their truth often by absolutely hating and disagreeing with our truth."
So, once the water flows out from the page to the world, it is no longer yours. Let it go. Let it nourish, entertain, make good trouble. Water like sunshine knows where to go.
My intention now with my latest book is to let it go. Not so much direct it's flow but to help it reach those it may benefit.
How is your writing, your words a borrowed thing? Write about that.
What does it mean to you to be a faucet, your words the water? Write about that.
What or whom do you need to release to write? Write about that.
Who are you hoping to entertain, reach, nourish? Write about that.
Write a poem about water and how it moves.
Write a piece on shadow and light.
And just like a bird can't always be in flight, a faucet can't always be on. Take time to rest and pause.
join the yogi and the writer tonight for a free hour and a half of writing and yoga. email me to join.
I am offering another FREE FIRST FRIDAY retreat in March. March 5th. Hold the date.
My work with writers focuses mostly on the psychology and transformational elements of writing. No matter what we are writing: journal entries, blogs, letters, a fiction or nonfiction book, or a collection of poems and short stories, all writing is transformational and conversational. Every time a writer lets the creation of words and stories transform them, they will impact their future readers in meaningful ways.
Then the writer becomes an author of a book or blog, for example. Here the conversation changes but continues. The conversation opens and takes a journey from our psyche and journals to the psyche and life of our readers.
What I got from writing The Clue of the Red Thread, the reader too will get. In fact, in my case I still refer to my books, my own musings, for guidance. In The Clue we take the red thread teachings of Nature, of other Wisdom Traditions, verses from poet Rebecca Cecchini, teaching threads of Parker J. Palmer, with accompanying explorations, to go on an internal pilgrimage to the center of our selves. We return to the world ready, willing and capable of having a positive impact on others. We become the change we want to see in the world, as Gandhi so famously said.
The writing of this book was a pilgrimage for me to a new, emerging inner landscape of hope, courage, deeper compassion, vulnerability and purpose. An invitation to a new conversation. I became more connected to my longings. I became more receptive and connected to others. I became able to cross another threshold that took me into my 2nd adulthood. I not only moved from within, but I have awoke in a new home and community, and in an emerging collaboration with a friend and yogi, Molly Chanson as we work together as the Yogi & the Writer. My pilgrimage of writing The Clue was indeed transformational, and, as I wrote this book, it broke me. Broke me open. This book, as many books can be, was also a love letter to my future self. The self that writes this blog to you.❤️
The Clue is full of micro-disciplines and practices that are wholly designed to be used in our every day life, to invite the transformational and spiritual experiences we yearn for. As in all my practices, they are fluid as well as an invitation to explore; to discover for yourself what is inside you and to bring that out to the world.
"If you bring forth what is within you
what is within you will save you.
If you do not bring forth what is within you
what is within you will destroy you." Jesus, Gnostic Gospel
Dear Reader, Bring it forth.
I will be offering a RED THREAD CIRCLE based on The Clue starting this April. A monthly gathering for a year for those who want to explore what is within you and all that you want to bring forth. The 2nd Thursday evening of the month, beginning on April 8th. We will do live Zoom until we can meet in person. Circles will take place in Madison at Holy Wisdom Monastery. Hold your place, or contact me for more information: email@example.com.
In celebration of a new day for our nation, as citizens, we are called to cross this threshold in ways that heal the heart of our democracy. I believe to bring about continued positive transformation, the success of this comes from an individual who knows that our outwardness is dependent upon our inwardness.
The Labyrinth and Clue of the Red Thread, excerpt from my upcoming book. (Available for purchase on January 26th, 2021.)
Imagine young men and women in your country and neighborhood being routinely sent to war, working in hospitals to deal with a pandemic without safety masks, or confronting such daily horrors as hate crimes, gun violence, and sexual assault. Imagine further that those in power expect their citizens to sacrifice themselves on the altar of the economy, false patriotism, and revenge at a time when guns, money, and autonomy outrank dignity, community, and justice. Imagine further that you choose to act against these injustices to serve your people as best you can and defend humanity and democracy.
In Greek mythology, the king’s daughter Ariadne lived in the palace of Knossos on Crete where she was put in charge of its many mazes and labyrinths. Crete was known as a place of “extremes and contradictions.” Underneath the Knossos palace was a complex and deadly maze built by the master designer Daedalus to house the Minotaur. Daedalus himself got lost in this maze, almost to die there.
Young men and women from Athens were routinely sent into the maze to be devoured by the Minotaur in a sacrificial rite of revenge. Theseus, an Athenian prince, came to free Athens from
its commitment of sacrifice and vowed to enter the maze and kill the Minotaur. Ariadne fell in love with Theseus, and because she loved him, she resolved to come to his aid. She gave Theseus her ball of red thread so he might fasten it to the labyrinth’s entrance, then unravel it to mark his passage into its center. When Theseus initially took hold of the ball of red thread, the deadly maze was instantly transformed into a negotiable labyrinth—though still with its challenges and deceptions—which he was then able to enter, confront the Minotaur, and safely return out.
Ariadne’s thread was a guiding device. As there was not an easy way to memorize the paths of the labyrinth, the thread helped overcome the difficulties and limitations of memory. Even when someone successfully met up with the Minotaur, they never found their way out and died trapped inside the maze. The ball of thread is known as a clew (or clue) to solving the labyrinth, which had countless paths, some of which were treacherous.
Theseus represents that part of us that can be forgetful and too often sacrificed on the platform of someone else’s aspirations and plans. He is also the heroic part of us that is altruistically motivated and willing to break agreements with those in authority in order to serve humanity.
Courageous people who have gone before or are beside us now hand us the red thread of their wisdom to help transform us into heroic figures. All teachings and teachers come to us as part of a lineage. The red thread in this book represents the lineage of my teachers’ teachings, including that of Parker J. Palmer, handed over to us here as an expression of their and my love.
Because our lives are full of forked paths, contradictory twists and turns, and frequent dead ends, and because we can sometimes forget who we are, we often need a guiding thread, a clue to help us successfully navigate our own particular labyrinths. Taking the thread of teachings gives us the confidence to reach our internal center as well as face our Minotaur, and then safely find our way back home to self, purpose, and community once more. This is what the everyday heroine looks like.
Just as with Theseus in the myth, our assumptions, emotions, memories, and beliefs may be unreliable and thus lead us astray. Ultimately, they become the constructs of our mazes. Other people, too, may try to manipulate us into following their agenda for our lives. Once we firmly take hold of the red thread of teachings, however, we are wholly capable of traversing the many twists and turns in our lives for ourselves. We do not have to be sacrificed to appease anyone, nor do we have to live life lost in a maze constructed by us or someone else.
At each turn in our metaphorical labyrinth (and very real life!), we unravel more of the red thread, revealing some promise and tangible hope contained in each teaching. Each time we place the red thread on the ground to mark a clear path back out, we also “place down” inside of us an understanding and realization that we will continue to carry within us. The thread may unwind and weave as we make our way through the labyrinth of our lives, but it can never break. This red thread, unlike breadcrumbs, will not be devoured by some hungry bird, but remain within us always as lasting nourishment for our souls and communities.
I had been offering the Initiation Course for over 10 years and later put together a book proposal based on this year-long course. A publisher accepted it, so then I had to get to work translating this material into a book. A book that people could use as a personal transformative experience. I wanted them to sense me there with them as they read and took their own personal initiatory journey. I also encouraged my readers to use the material to facilitate their own circles, which many have. The challenge for me became HOW to put a year-long course down in a book. I couldn’t just lift from my notes. So, I came up with a template, the medicine wheel, the Initiation wheel, where people enter in the south. I placed in the wheel's directions the course teachings and its explorations and practices.
As a writer I used the template of the Wheel to write the book.
This worked so well (and I have done similar practices to write all my books, (The Wheel of Initiation being my 8th book); I designed an on-line course to help writers find their personal templates and myths so as to write from their stories, experiences and teachings. I created the The Initiated Writer on line course. With this course, along with my personal help, you can take your personal experiences and knowledge and translate it into something meaningful to writers.
Using this on-line class, The Initiated Writer you will discover a way and place for all your stories, and with ease move through the resistances that arise along the writer's path. You will write and complete your book. Whether or not the template and symbolism is a strong narrative in the book itself is a decision you make as you write. The intent and outcome of this Initiation process is to use these templates and symbols to successfully write.
You will initiate yourself as a writer.
Truth is within ourselves, it takes no rise
from outward things; whate’er you may believe there is an inmost center in us all
where truth abides in fullness; and around, wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in,
this perfect, clear perception which is Truth.
A baffling and perverting carnal mesh
Binds it and makes all error; and to know rather consists in opening out a way
whence the imprisoned splendor may escape than in effecting entry for a light
supposed to be without.
Robert Browning, from “Paracelsus”
To sign up or explore this more: The Initiated Writer
Coming soon: My next book, where I used the labyrinth and the myth of the red thread to write:
Surrender is a sure pathway to our imagination. When we have our imaginations we are free to invite, create and manifest what is possible in any given situation.
But, what does it mean to surrender?
To surrender means to open, to release and allow space for what you want to create and experience. To surrender means to surrender our negative states, to surrender our resistance in a given area so that our creativity and naturalness can manifest without the severity of any inner opposition. To be free of inner conflict and expectations is to give ourselves (and others) a great freedom. A freedom to experience the basic nature of the universe, which, it will be discovered, is to manifest the greatest good possible in a situation.
What do you believe is possible? Write about that.
Religious fanatics, abusive bosses, tyrants, fake shamans, angry atheists, controlling partners, or cultists, are out to curb and control your imagination. This is because inherently we all know that our greatest power is our imagination. If someone controls your imagination, they control you.
Who or what is trying to control you? Write about that.
What did you once believe but find hard to imagine now? Write about that.
Write about what was outside your childhood window.
Write a letter to your future self and what you hope and imagine she will be experiencing.
"The imagination is the creative force in the individual. It always negotiates different thresholds and releases possibilities of recognition and creativity that the linear, controlling, external mind will never even glimpse. The imagination works on the threshold that runs between light and dark, visible and invisible, quest and question, possibility and fact. The imagination is the great friend of possibility. Where the imagination is awake and alive, fact never hardens or closes but remains open, inviting you to new thresholds of possibility and creativity." –O'Donohue, John. Anam Cara (p. 145). HarperCollins
A good teacher, Writing Sherpa, friend, or leader will encourage and support you in your own explorations. And when we are a good friend to ourselves we nurture and are nurtured by our own imaginings.
In Buddhist philosophy we understand that there is no singular, independent self. That everything and everyone is connected to everything else. We would not exist in isolation. Even the soul is dependent up on the body. (and perhaps the body on the soul). What is possible is dependent upon countless known and unknown factors and Beings.
Write about that.
What beliefs or assumptions do you have about what makes us human? Write a scene were you (or a character) discovers something that challenges a core belief that you (or they) hold.
“Individuality is never simple or one-dimensional. Often it seems as if there is a crowd within the individual heart. The Greeks believed that when you dreamed at night, the figures of your dreams were characters who left your body, went out into the world, and undertook their own adventures; they then returned before you awoke. At the deepest level of the human heart, there is no simple, singular self. Deep within, there is a gallery of different selves. Each one of these figures expresses a different part of your nature. Sometimes they will come into contradiction and conflict with each other. If you meet these contradictions only on the surface level, this can start an inner feud that could haunt you all the days of your life. Frequently, you see people who are sorely divided. They are in a permanent war zone and have never managed to go deeper to the hearth of kinship, where the two forces are not enemies but reveal themselves as different sides of the one belonging. O'Donohue, John. Anam Cara (p. 113). HarperCollins e-books. Kindle Edition.
What crowd occupies your heart? Write about that.
What characters are showing up in your dreams? Write about that.
The hearth of kinship is here within us and surrounds us. This moment, even during these times of separation, faces hidden behind masks, and social distancing, we belong to one another. We do not have to feel divided.
Everything (and everyone, no exceptions) is an expression to our one belonging. Write about how that is true (or feels not so true) in your life.
You dear Reader are part of my kinship, my tribe, and an expression of my belonging. Just so!, all your present and future Readers will be that for you.
May what you want continue to come toward you in this New Year. May you be an invitation to these new arrivals, welcoming them into your inner and outer hearth. May you find yourself at the hearth of the page as writer and reader. Happy New Year Friend.
"It is always hard to believe that the courageous step is so close to us, that it is closer than we ever could imagine, that in fact, we already know what it is, and that the step is simpler, more radical than we had thought: which is why we so often prefer the story to be more elaborate, our identities clouded by fear, the horizon safely in the distance, the essay longer than it needs to be and the answer safely in the realm of impossibility."
― David Whyte, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words
What do you imagine is a close in step to take? Write about that.
What are three things you can try that you have never tried? (keep it simple). Write about that.
Who were you when you were born? Write a poem about that.
What is on your horizon? Write about that.
How can you help yourself imagine all that is possible? To open to what we truly want for ourselves and our communities? Like a prayer we may say on our walks or waking: Give me the view of an explorer; help me open to what is possible and be of real benefit to myself and others.
Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
you don’t want to take.
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
way to begin
Start with your own
give up on other
don’t let them
your own voice,
Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
heroics, be humble
start close in,
for your own.
Start close in,
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
you don’t want to take.
From ‘Start Close In’ in ‘River Flow:
New and Selected Poems’
Many Rivers Press © David Whyte
Book Release!! the Clue of the Red Thread: discovering fearlessness and compassion in uncertain times, released JANUARY 12th, 2021 by Nine Rivers, an imprint of Shanti Arts.
All Write Wednesdays: World into Word
All Write Wednesdays is a blog about living the writer's life. Everything in our lives is material to explore & write about. Here, the spiritual path meets up with the writer's path. Read the All Write Wednesdays posts.