Updated: Oct 18, 2021
Last weekend I talked to a lake. Specifically, I went to the sandy beach next to lake Geneva, sat myself down and shared some thoughts with this very big body of water. Then listened to what it had to say.
Seeing as it was my first time 'wild writing,' maybe I should have started with something smaller. A tree. Maybe even a flower. But I decided that, seeing as I was a little bit sceptical about the whole thing, I might as well go big. It proved to me much more interesting and enriching to my writing than I thought.
I've definitely used nature as inspiration before. But not quite in this way...
I came across the idea of wild writing in an essay by Helen Moore who is an ecopoet from Somerset. I read it in Inspire, a book on teaching creative writing which is published by Goldsmiths. I’ve already found so many useful ideas for running my workshops, so I thought it would be good to try some of the more unusual ideas out myself before suggesting them to others.
The premise behind it is inspiration and co-creation. The idea that breathing in is our inspiration, and breathing out is sharing it with others. Either in the form of creating or teaching others to create. The other side is the idea that nothing is individual. Although we might write alone, there are countless sources of inspiration that have shaped the words before they even appear on the page. Nothing is created in a vacuum.
It also draws on the idea that everything in nature is connected. I think it’s easy to forget sometimes that we’re just as caught up in life cycles as everything else around us. It’s more obvious when you look at plants. All the times I forget to water mine, especially at the moment when it’s so sunny, the physical signs of my neglect are clear. The soil, the water, the sun, it’s all tied up together.
My poor plants are a reminder of the connected life around us
But all it takes is a bit of slowing down, perhaps a bit of deep breathing or a walk, to realise that all our atoms and processes are just as caught up in the wider world as the plants and other animals around us. And this is where wild writing comes in. If you’re interested in taking this further, Helen offers mentoring called ‘Wild Ways to Writing,’ which you can find out more about here.
For now, I’ll take you through the stages I went through in my writing experience, outlined in her essay, so you can try it out for yourself.
1. Crossing Over
In order to truly let go of the world we usually inhabit (phones, social media, general busyness), it’s good to cross a physical divide in order to feel like you’ve moved into the natural world. For me, this was the moment I stepped out of my shoes and put my feet on the sand.
After that point, I did my best to banish all thoughts of the everyday out of my head. It didn’t matter that there was noise and rushing kids around me, I just focused on the bobbing of the distant coots and the rippling of the water.
Take yourself from the industrialised world into the natural world
2. Exploring the Senses
After tuning everything else out, I focused on my senses. The wind on the water, the constant shushing of the waves and the way they sucked at the loose stones. The grains of sand in between my toes. The sun pressing its heat onto my scalp. For a few minutes I sat there, taking it all in.
I opened my notebook and wrote whatever was in my head. It came out more like a poem or description, a stream-of-consciousness that flowed over two whole pages. It was lovely to release words on the page without worrying about turning them into anything specific.
This is the bit I was worried about. The idea is that I would introduce myself to the lake. Tell it something. I’d had a difficult week, so in actual fact it was quite easy to bring things to the surface and (silently, of course) share them with this big, open body of water. I felt a lot less silly than I thought I would. There was something cathartic about laying my worries, my intentions, down into the depths.
There was definitely something speaking to me from the depths
Now this bit I did find tricky. I needed to open up my mind to the possibility that the lake could talk back to me. Although I’m not a hugely spiritual person, I do like the idea that everything that lives has some sort of connection, so I started with the birds floating on top, how they might feel to be perched there, then I thought about the lake as a being, having things floating on top of it and swimming beneath it.
The one thing I did find difficult was concentrating. There were a lot of kids running about and I kept getting distracted. But it was surprising how many ideas and thoughts came to me at this point.
Once I was happy with the last part, I simply wrote down whatever had occurred to me, whatever I’d thought in that time. I was quite surprised to find that I filled six pages of my notebook. And what was there was not what I’d expected.
It's always good to get the writing flowing
Once my thinking sank down under the water and I though of all the hidden fish and creatures I couldn’t see, I had a sense of something bigger. A large mouth, opening. Cold, damp air breathing on me. Not unpleasant, but old and indifferent to us warm and short-lived things. There was a sense of continuity, of all that had shifted around while this water had lain there. It was both comforting and unsettling to feel how insignificant I was.
You could try this with any form of nature. Even if you’re not in the countryside, finding a tree and sitting under could produce the same results. If you’re interested in taking it further, Helen Moore explains some ideas here and offers mentoring called ‘Wild Ways to Writing,’ which you can find more about here.
I hope you have a go at some wild writing, have a little talk with nature. Who knows, it might just talk back to you.
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