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Please share an example of your flow writing in the Practice Circle. 

 7:45 am, Sat. Nov. 9, 2013 – FLOW WRITING (assignment for course)

 I close them, then I open my eyes and what do I see? My computer looking back at me.

 I have a Google morning schedule file. I am making a practice of filling it out for the day and beginning my morning practice of quiet and writing time with it. It is my practice time to connect myself to my soul, to my writing and to my guidance for the day.

 This morning my computer does not connect. I got into this moment without my “skeletal” schedule for the day. That’s ok. Flow Writing is not new to me. It’s been a long-time practice and many of my journals are filled with it. I am so grateful there is paper to run to so I can record “flow” I am hearing in the midst of other activity I am engaged with, for I know it is “flow” and does not necessarily come back by demand or whim. It is the message of the moment and that moment does not return and I will have to find its wisdom some other way.

 I’ve called Flow Writing by many names…Free-write, the Artist’s Way….Writing Down My Soul…..Soul Between the Lines. It is a trustworthy prompt.

 My life always “flows” more smoothly when I am in the practice of it; when I follow its discipline; when I yield to its guidance; when I open to its surprises; yes, when I enjoy its delights; and when I search from its challenges.

Today, once again, my hand takes the pen and my words and my moment of now flow onto the page.

 Christina Baldwin

Christina Baldwin

 I am all tied up in timelines. This is because I have begun the work in Restorying Our Lives, led by author Christina Baldwin, a leader of intertwining the mysterious spiritual with our human experience in this thing we call “our life”.  By the looks of my timeline, I think I am following the storyline that I came from Infinity and I shall return to Infinity. For now, I am concentrating on just the part that follows my birth up to my 70th year. A new chapter begins on January 2, 2014, my 71st birthday.

This course guides us to consider what stories in our lives still serve us. We try to discover what stories need revision, renewal or simply releasing. But releasing is not always a quick process. We may have to be intimately acquainted with the process of forgiveness in order to truly release…and set ourselves free. But that is a whole other course!

When we “restory” something that truly happened in our lives, we are not “lying,” nor  rewriting our factual past or present. We look at it, as honestly as we can and do a “time-lapse” picture with words that view this event and what it means to us at certain points over the course of our life. When we have learned enough from it and even discovered the gift given, even where there was pain or regret, we can transform our lives with words and new insights of understanding. We are changed in our present life today with this process.

It’s not all pain and grit either. There is much joy and delight that is recalled and appreciated in new and deeper ways. The oft-repeated, “if we knew then what we know now” is bound to release some real belly-whoppers and hearty, healthy laughter. “Someday, we’ll laugh about this!” And now we have the chance.

This type of reflection, both spoken and written, is sometimes referred to as “life review.”        

Life review is often viewed as hospice activity, end-of-life reminiscence. Maybe that’s the time most likely for people and their friends and families to slow down enough to make this process conscious.  This is a combined spiritual and writing practice. Sometimes, if this occurs at the latter stages of one’s life and during an acutely ill period of time, another person does the writing, but the writing comes from the subject’s life experience and reflection. And both receive a transforming grace of satisfaction and peace.

But there is no need to wait! Examining the stories that guide our lives is sustaining creative and spiritual activity at any point. The sooner the reviewing begins, the sooner our stories are set free to guide our inner compass to the rest of the life we truly want to create.  And the sooner we do this, the more opportunity we have to  reframe those stories in ways that liberate and empower us. Then we get to live the new stories!

 I knew the reasons why I wanted to do this work. It fits right into the work that lies ahead for me in writing books that have long been awaiting the discipline and my true effort to make them real. I also feel it will help me compose and round out some curriculum outlines for courses I want to offer in the senior centers to help people find the spark of themselves in the spark of their stories. Stories they can write, whether they think of themselves as writers or not. I am very excited about this.

So, now that the course has begun, it appears there are over 200 people who have introduced themselves and given their reasons for taking the course. These reasons, I find fascinating and I share some of them below:

        “Writing does not come easily to me! My intention for this course is to use its structure to re-energize me to continue the memoir I began last year for my 7 grands, and most of all, for me!”

 –        “As ‘writing’ has been calling to me for some time, I am taking this course as a beginning.”

       ” I knew I had to leave the victim mentality behind or perish.”

 –    ” This course appeals to me, because it offers a way to discover the story of my relationship with God. My intention is to open my eyes to and put words to Who God has been and is for me,..”

 –     ” I journaled and journaled until the grief began to write itself. Then I took a writing retreat with Christina about four years ago and the experience allowed me to find my way when I was feeling lost…”

 –     ” Uncover, through my own writing, where I’ve held myself back from experiencing the fullness of my life and spirit and to discover the keys to my freedom.”

 –      ” Keys to my freedom. I know they are inside of me waiting to be seen, acknowledged and seized.”

 –    –  “I am wondering how to move my story forward.”

           “Some of my old stories have strings to my present life that I want to “cut.” I have new stories to tell and can’t wait to write them.”

         “I am in year two of coming to grips with the loss of my husband. In the first year, I coped by being busy and moving forward in my life. Just now I am in an open, empty place and allowing more feelings and reflections. I journal, but this course may help me focus, frame and discover myself in a new way.”

         “My INTENTION is to honor my 79 years with writing and reflection from a positive, compassionate and loving perspective. I hope to see my life as a whole, woven and patched, perhaps beautiful like a crazy quilt, and to get some new perspective on the painful parts. But I also deeply desire to see more clearly what is my sacred work now in this place and officially retired.

         “My intention for this course is to explore what the future holds. I will be 63 in a few days and am not sure what path to take at this point. I am hoping that writing will open my heart to spirit and possibility.”

        “Create a quiet space, and the time to write.”

         “Realize I am not alone in my searching for who I am, who I can be, who I will be

       I think I am in good company.



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Poetry teacher, Peter Markus has a magic pencil. He says he’s had this pencil since the third grade. All that’s left is a stubby stick of wood with hardly no lead on it, no eraser, worn thin like a chicken bone. But he carries it with him everywhere he goes.

And one of the places he goes is into the public schools of inner-city Detroit as a writer-in-residence with the InsideOut Literary Arts Project of Detroit for the past seventeen years.

In a commentary he wrote for the Sunday Detroit Free Press, he tells us, “I can see things inside this pencil that nobody else can see.” ” It’s magic,” he tells his students. And he says if he does not share his magic, it will dry up inside the pencil.

His eyesight is somewhat magical too as he sees the child in the lines of their own poems. He thinks of the “inner city”  as something that’s sacred and almost hidden  and very special as in an “inner circle.”

When he says he teaches poetry to those who inquire about what he does for a living, he says that what he really means when he tells them he teaches poetry is “I create with these students a space in the world where words on the page are considered sacred, a place where students come to believe there are words inside each of their pencils that are waiting to be written, heard, listened to.”

Whether their words are real or imagined, he hopes to teach them that their words — matter to the world. He says his students are like fish hungry to take this bait. The looks on their faces when they lift their own pencils to put words on their papers reveal this.

Yet these are the “fish”, that in the eyes of many, are students who according to the measures of standardized tests scores, fall short of being grade-level proficient and are equated with the fish who can’t swim.

The Man with the Magic Pencil says he is here to tell you no- he’s seen some of these fish walk across the river, some sprout wings and fly across the sky. He asks, “just like a song, how do you gauge the intelligence of a poem?”

“These are students who, when you ask them to write down a list of things they’ve seen and heard,” he warns, “will sometimes tell you things that you wish they did not have to know.”

                                 Something Lost
I have lost my father
to a bullet in the head
Alexis Marshall, Southwestern HS

He tells them their page is a mirror” and and this is what they see:

My face is a book
of invisible scars.
Each scar has its own
story. Each story begins
back when I was small.
Alex Garcia, Southwestern HS

When some of his students read their poems at a recent event at the Detroit Film Theater, one person, privileged to be in the audience, remarked that they were “truly such old souls in young bodies”.

Markus fears that we, as a culture are failing to see, failing to teach to these children.

He asks how we “score” a piece of writing that reaches out to us straight from a child’s heart. What kind of  an evaluation is “proficient” for the boy who writes of the loss of his mother to a drunken driver:

                Inside My Heart
Inside my heart there is a house
where my mom lives with angels
singing in a voice that sounds like
the wind blowing through my
Deon Bateman, Fitzgerald El. School

I, as a teacher of creative writing for adults in middle age and now turning to the senior population, have had the delight of seeing people’s expression of awe and surprise about what their pencils reveal about them in a quiet and supportive writing  group environment. Their own self-discovery and their “magical” expression of it on paper lifts them up and the values of honor and respect and listening infiltrate the room and the person’s soul from this writing experience.

It is no accident that this creativity and revelation comes in an atmosphere of quiet. Do you realize that the letters are the same in these two words:

                                           silent     and    listen

And in the youth’s classroom and the adult populations reaching all the way through senior-hood, the whole challenge is about being a quality — listener to self and others! And to become that, I find I must fine-tune the silence and the quiet within me — to be able to be the Listener — which turns into hearing.

It’s a challenge to get to that quiet because very often conversations amount to both people talking at the same time or being busy with inner talk for what they are going  to say when the other stops speaking, or just jumping in with an interruption of their own. Not too much hearing going on here.

I know. I am aware of the “interference” and frustrated that even with attention and intention, I cannot always stop it at will. I keep practicing.

So I agree with Peter Markus who responds to the “Inside My Heart” poem and the other children’s writings by saying “Such singing needs not only to be listened to; it needs to be heard. It needs to be revered. “

He thinks of the fish again. He imagines that if these poems are not shared with the wider world, it is likely the poems will dry up, the fish will have no river to swim in, no ears to sing to. He is a man on a mission to not let that happen.

“The river is a good river” he insists. “If you walk out into it, this river, it will hold you up. Watch it, listen to it flow.”

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                              Photo: Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

I had a Smith Corona electric typewriter in college, I banged away on; my dad two-fingered all kinds of business reports on an even more ancient typewriter with the wire rims on the edge of the keys. He could go pretty fast! Tom’s first job out of college was a great job with IBM Corp in Lexington, Kentucky and he worked on the packaging for the round ball type element (IBM frowned on calling them “balls”) that kept the carriage from swinging back and forth for the IBM Selectric which was in high style until………..the arrival of the first personal computer. TaDah!

I LOVE THIS STORY BELOW AND SHARE IT from a Facebook Post. Enjoy.

With a Typewriter in Tow, a Cyclist Fosters Creativity

By LIZ LEYDEN       Published: May 11, 2012

Mark Etri took his turn outside a cafe in Fishkill, N.Y., one of a half-dozen venues Ms. Stein has set up in since May 5.

Outside the Ming Moon Kitchen, a woman polished brass figurines, casting sideways glances at the unexpected sight. A driver slowed, pausing to bite into a slice of pizza as he steered and stared. Another man stopped, snapped a photo and moved on.

But when Miriam Wagner, 75, spied the typewriter, she hurried toward and then past it, to the tall, freckled woman in cycling gear standing nearby.

“I know who you are!” Ms. Wagner exclaimed. “I was on my way to get bananas on Route 52 and there you were, wheeling along with your typewriter.”

The woman, Maya Stein, nodded. She is the “Type Rider.”

To celebrate her 40th birthday, Ms. Stein, a poet and sometime caterer, merged her love of cycling with a cross-country writing project. She plans to ride 40 miles a day, typewriter in tow, for 40 days until she reaches Milwaukee, where the design for the first mass-produced typewriter was developed in the 1860s. Along the way, she is delivering the manual typewriter to public spaces and inviting people to take a turn at the keys.

“It’s an unfolding adventure,” she said.

To help with expenses, including renting the recreational vehicle that she and a friend, Grace Moore, are camping in along the way, Ms. Stein raised $16,000 on Kickstarter, a Web site on which people solicit money for various projects. She described how her father kept a typewriter in the hallway between bedrooms for the family to use, an exercise in creativity that changed her life.

“I want to bring that communal hallway back,” she wrote on her Kickstarter page, adding, “I want to make a space for collaboration and creativity, to invite people to contribute their voices to the larger story of the community we’re all in.”

Since leaving her home in Amherst, Mass., on May 5 with the Remington typewriter she had purchased for the trip, Ms. Stein has set up in a half-dozen venues, including the Cherry Brook Garden Club plant sale in Canton, Conn., and the Freight House Café in Mahopac, N.Y.

A dozen pages, smudged with ink and riddled with typos, reveal passages ranging from the meditative — “Do you remember when we were deep oceans moved by the movement of the moon?” — to the heartbreaking:“It wasn’t my fault. I was only six. I didn’t mean to throw the stick in the road. I didn’t see the car coming. I didn’t mean for her to die. I loved my dog and it’s taken me years to get over the accident.”

The experience is providing inspiration for her own writing, which she is doing daily at type-rider.com. Pedaling along lush roadways bursting with springtime green, she has passed quarries and old churches and clutches of mobile homes.

“I saw a man mowing his lawn and I loved catching that moment,” Ms. Stein said. “All that I see in between stops, that’s a treat. That’s my gift to myself.”

Inside the RV, she packs a ream of paper and extra ribbon. She carries Chiclets gum and chocolate and juggling balls, too, for quiet moments when people stare but do not stop.

A two-hour break in Fishkill on Wednesday yielded just one participant, Mark Etri, 52, an out-of-work teacher and pizzamaker from Marlboro, N.Y. He leaned over the typewriter, carefully pecking away. His black shoes, dusted with flour, tapped as he typed:

“It comes down to this: that you see everything as a pizza maker, from laugh out loud customers to screaming babies to a juggling cyclist on her way to Wisconsin. It’s not how you get there but the path you chose to arrive there.”

Aside from offering advice on the physicality of the typewriter — “Punch the keys hard!” — and writing a daily prompt to counteract the terror of a blank page, Ms. Stein waits for people to seek her out.

“I don’t want to be the salesman who makes you feel trapped,” she said.

If Fishkill was quiet, Cold Spring was a deluge. A dozen people sat to type, beginning with Ms. Wagner, a Garrison resident who had read about the project in her morning paper before spotting her riding down the road.

“I think it’s such an amazing idea,” she said. “I thought about it for just 30 seconds before I said, ‘I have to come find her.’ ”

Benny Zaken, 56, owner of the Frozenberry Cafe, welcomed Ms. Stein’s table outside his shop with yogurt and a Facebook post announcing her arrival.

“It is wonderful, absolutely wonderful,” he said of the project. “You never know what talent you will find, what sort of creative spirit is out there if you don’t give people a platform, and that is what she is doing.”

Throughout the afternoon, children and adults marveled at the typewriter itself, its sound stirring memories for some.

“My mom used to chew gum and type at the same time,” Susie Homola, 52, of Garrison, said. “Bang, bang, bang, chick, chick, chick. It was like an orchestra.”

Besides the dozen who typed, more still stopped to talk — about children who loved to write, about typewriters their grandparents kept, about their sentences.

For Ms. Stein, those stories are as much birthday gift as the written words themselves.

“There are moments you cannot capture on paper,” she said.

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Welcome, sweet writer. My pen is in your hand. Trust me. Accept each new day as one I have designed for you. I am the Pattern. You are the piece. I will talk to you when you give me the time and space. Just look and give thanks to how I have connected you to the written word and so many others who know their pen is their express highway to me.

Trust me. I am on the straight and narrow of this writing road and around every bend and curve. You cannot pass me. Just follow my lead along this writing journey.

You have the right of way on your writer’s road. Our Road Trip continues together. You only think you are the driver.

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