The Right to Write: Feed the Horses (book club)

image by Lívia Cristina L. C.

image by Lívia Cristina L. C.

A few years ago, a young patient that I worked with left a mark on me. The girl was admitted to the rehabilitation unit where I work with a severe brain injury. We like to believe that some aspects of recovery from brain injury follow a predictable course. But truly, each case is different—each individual emerging in his or her own unique way. It was fairly early in this child’s recovery. She showed little awareness of her environment. She was also nonverbal.

When will she talk? Her mother worried.

No one could give her an answer. Several weeks went by and there was little change. We began to wonder if the child would ever speak again. Often, at the end of the work day, I would sit beside her bed and pray—watching her noiselessly writhe around in the safety bed.

Finally, the day came. She spoke her first word. I’ll never forget the sweetness of that moment. That evening, I tried to capture the beauty in poem:

silence broken by
one lonely word—long
awaited. thin
voice, not as I
thought. tremulous,
leaf shiver, small
in life’s breeze. you
named her and we
cried as you
called out “mommy”

My young friend came to mind this week as I read our assignments from The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life. What a precious gift is our voice—both vocal and written. It is one of the things that make us uniquely ourselves. This week Julia Cameron reminds me of this.

… I believe that each of us already has a unique voice. We do not need to “develop” it; rather, we need to discover or, perhaps better, uncover it.

As writers we are told that there is perhaps nothing more important than finding our voice. But how? How do we uncover our voice?

Not surprisingly, Cameron believes the secret is daily writing.

I work daily. I get up to write the same way I go out to the barn and toss hay to the horses. It is unthinkable that the horses not be fed and fed in a timely way so they do not get too restless. My creative horses demand the same care. They, too, must be fed and in a timely fashion, and that is why I write first thing in the morning.

… writing regularly and repetitively and from the gut yields you a writing voice that is full and beautiful regardless of which genre you apply it in.

There is no better way to open a writing voice than to write regularly, repetitively, and from the gut…

Do you detect a theme here?

So … How are your morning pages coming? Evening pages? Mid-afternoon pages? Are you writing anything on a daily basis?

If Julia Cameron is right, this is the key to uncovering my unique voice. That rich world that lives in my head—the world of color and warmth and life—its way to the page is through practice. It starts with first words.

Every day I feed the horses. And in doing so, I too am fed.

Next week: Footwork, Practice, and Containment. And don’t forget to hug a Veteran today!

Week 9: Honesty’s Shy Younger Sister
Week 8: In Praise of Happiness
Week 7: Writing as Prayer
Week 6: The Letter
Week 5: I Go Alone
Week 4: Witness
Week 3: Invite the Muse to Tea
Week 2: Write from Love
Week 1: Start Where You Are
Introduction: Invitation

Above image by Lívia Cristina L. C., sourced via Flickr, used with permission.

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