At the beginning of my barre workout, the online instructor sets an intention that we’re to focus on as we relevé, plié, and battement. This morning’s intention is ambition. “What is it you are reaching for?” she asks us as we stand in second position and plié; our arms are raising up and down as we rise and descend.
My main ambition today is to go grocery shopping without getting Covid-19, I think, noticing pain in my arms and legs that I haven’t felt in a while. I’ve forgotten the impossibility of dance. I’ve forgotten how strong I must be to move with grace.
I watch how beautifully the instructor moves and I think again of ambition. I want to look like her.
Before I judge myself for the thought, I consider what it is about her that I want for myself. I push past the gorgeous hair, the perfect make-up, her abs (good gracious her abs are amazing), and I focus on her posture. I would like to stand like her.
I adjust myself: roll my shoulders back, elongate my neck, breath so that my chest—that I know I try to hide and cover up as much as possible—puffs out like a bird. Standing like this feels good and I decide I want to move like this throughout my day. I want to take up more space.
I suppose it seems strange to start off a discussion on writing with a scene of me exercising, but moving my body might be the most important writing ritual I have. Running, dancing, walking, kickboxing, any type of movement for a prolonged period of time is how I am able to do what Nicole Gulotta suggests in Chapter 5 of Wild Words: Focus on my feelings, then ask myself—what do I need, and what can I change?
This morning, as I practice standing tall without feeling ashamed, I feel powerful and vivacious. I need to feel this way more. I want this attitude to seep into the rest of my day.
As Nicole suggests, I consider what this feeling has to do with my creativity, specifically, my writing. Am I writing defensively? Am I writing toward something without letting the story unfold the way it needs to? When the story gets difficult, do I race to end it too quickly? Does my writing want or need something more from me?
I am not in the season of raising young children, but at times I wish I were because that was when I was building something alongside my girls. Motherhood and writing were so intertwined, the pairing ended up feeling like a security blanket. I could wrap myself tightly in it like a cocoon.
Now though, the blanket is gone, and as I stand in relevé and the instructor suggests I hold both hands in the air (“just for a breath”), I believe it is time for me to learn who I am, and who my writing is, apart from my girls.
Perhaps it isn’t so much my chest that I hide, rather it is my heart, I think, as I continue to stand tall and think about Nicole’s advice to “share what’s in [my] heart because it feels good.” Perhaps what I can change as I move forward in my career is to lead with my heart.
I think that’s how I will spread my wings, and see about this new part of myself I can return to.
1. How do you return to yourself? What sorts of things do you do to feel like yourself again?
2. How do you feel right now in regards to your writing projects and dreams? What do you need, and what can you change in regards to moving forward on your dreams?
3. What does slow writing look like for you?
4. If you are a parent, what season of raising your children are you in, and how does that affect your writing practice?
Editor’s note: Join us this month as Callie Feyen leads a book club discussion of Nicole Gulotta’s Wild Words: Rituals, Routines and Rhythms for Braving the Writer’s Path. We’re reading on the following schedule:
A Writer’s Dream Book
This book gives language to the fierce concerns of an ordinary woman. It tracks small but defining moments, attesting to the joys of design and the pleasure of color we feel as we choose and joke and work and play in jeans, sandals, a coat, T-shirts. Start reading and you will be hooked.
—Jeanne Murray Walker, author of The Geography of Memory