One of the touted features of Writing Practice or Morning Pages is allowing your fingers to run free of your Inner Censor to open new thought-branches and discover new ideas and connections. That happened to me this morning. I sat down to write about things I am especially grateful for today. Before I wrote a single word about gratitude, I found my pen moving off into the storm we had two days ago. In only a few lines, I reached a branch. I could write about this angle or that. I chose “that.”
As I started writing about “that,” I found another branch and thought of the crooked path my words were following. My wild mind raced ahead of my pen and I had a clear image of the trails in the woods about a quarter-mile down the road from our house on the “wild side” of the road. Dozens of acres of woodlands spread along the hillside. It’s too steep for development, so it remains Mother Nature’s domain, a buffer zone. I love to hike in that suburban wilderness where magical things are found.
Trails spread along the wild sides of the slope, well-worn and smooth, a generous foot wide. The trails form a network along the hillside, with frequent branches and interconnecting paths. It doesn’t take long to become familiar with the landmarks, know which trail leads where, and how to loop back to the one you began on. Knowing the layout is great, but for me these are trails of discovery, not travel. I go there to find things out of the ordinary: an especially lovely clump of wildflowers, or a bush of blackberries, ripe to perfection. It’s about the fragrance of the forest, and the chattering of jays and squirrels, and shafts of sunlight turning clusters of leaves to gold that would be the envy of any alchemist. It’s about the joy of steps gently challenged by uneven terrain. It's about letting my mind run bare and wild, open to the unobvious.
As I write now, I face a similar branch. I can go on to tell about hoof prints in the mud and communing with deer as I walk on the wild side. I can write about the gratitude they inspire. Or I can loop back to Writing Practice — writing on the wild side of my mind. Right now I’ll choose Writing Practice.
You can see, from the paragraph above, how our wild minds wander through our mental terrain as capriciously as deer amble through the forest, grazing on a bush here, a clump of grass there, and delicious lilies further along. When I write in a hurry, I have a destination in mind, and I write straight to the purpose, sticking to the paved streets of my well-explored territory. With Writing Practice, also known as Free Writing, I set aside a specific destination, and allow my mind to ramble along nature’s path, making choices intuitively rather than purposefully.
Paved roads and purpose are great. They keep life moving smoothly. But if you look aside at all, you are more likely to see concrete walls, vagrant burger bags, and speeding vehicles than wee violet-filled meadows, dragonflies perched on milkweed, or fawns sipping from a pond.
I’m not able to enjoy the trails in the woods just every day. Some days, like the past few, it’s too muddy. I don’t enjoy the bare, bleak woods in winter. I don’t enjoy them when it’s seriously hot and humid. Most days, I don’t want to take the time. That makes the woods especially delicious when I do go for a ramble. Writing practice is different. The weather isn’t a factor, the surroundings are never out of season, and I can spend as little as ten minutes. It took less than five to find the seed idea for this post, and you can see that several seeds also began to sprout.
Writing Practice is no substitute for getting out in nature now and then, but it is a great way to enhance the value of wilderness walks and spread their fragrance into the arterials of your days.
Do yourself a favor. Take a Nature Break today, and a Writing Practice break every day!
Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal