Part of Charlotte Lit’s “Keeping Pen to Paper” Series.
Let’s face it. Life in the outer world is typically so busy, most of us hurry through our days with little awareness of what’s going on inside us. We awaken each morning with to-do lists so long and loud, our nighttime dreams evaporate before we even open our eyes. And, we climb into bed at night so dog-tired we’re lucky to read ten minutes before our eyes slam shut again.
If you’re like me, you have a towering stack of books on your bedside table. And, as frightening as these days are for all of us, for the next few weeks (maybe months), we’ve been given the gift of time. Time to read. Time to write. Time to reconnect with our unique creative genius.
Social isolation doesn’t have to feel isolating when you have a bookshelf full of friends. I’m not suggesting you read for mere entertainment or as a way of distracting yourself. Rather, I suggest keeping a pen and a notebook nearby so that you can begin making real connections between the words you read and the life you live. Whether you scribble in the margins of your book, keep a list of the beautiful sentences you find, or find yourself inspired to riff on one of its themes, reading with a pen or pencil in hand is an essential form of conversation—with the author, with the book’s characters, with the world, and, most importantly, with yourself.
Starting a conversation with a book (or any other form of writing) is one of the best ways I know to bridge the gap between life in the outer world, which has suddenly gotten much smaller, and the interior world, which is infinitely large. These conversations build psychic bridges between our egos (the conscious part of the personality that manages practical, day-to-day life) and the unconscious world of forms and energies from which imagination arises. Every time you cross that bridge you strengthen your connection to the inner world and, with it, access to creative ideas.
So, your assignment this week, is to begin (or continue) the inner journey by building this bridge. There are lots of ways to do this. Here are three suggestions:
1) Open that fat book—you know, the one you’ve been saving for the day you have enough time to really dig in—and read it slowly. Underline or place sticky notes on the sections that inspire you, make you wonder, or make you mad. After 30 minutes, stop reading, select a passage to respond to, and write for 15-30 minutes. The form doesn’t matter––essay, poetry, fiction, love letter, cartoon strip. Just start a conversation that deepens your experience of the book by taking you deeper into your own experience.
2) Write for 15-30 minutes (from your point of view or the point of view of someone else—real or fictional), beginning with one of the following questions:
- What stands between you and someone you love?
- What stands between you and something you really desire?
- What stands between you and the person you once were or the person you want to become?
Then, continue your writing by wondering how you might bridge the distance.
3). Write about one or more bridges you’ve burned. Describe the bridge and the things, people, or places it connected. How did the fire start? Did you watch it burn or turn your back? When you think back, is it with regret or remorse? Or is with certainty? Where did the burning of that bridge lead you?