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Writing Samples ...

"How do I start?"
"How were you hurt?"
"What is important to you?"
"How can I let you know me?"
"What makes it writing therapy?"
"What stories are sacred to you?"
How to submit your writings for inclusion here.
How to find topics and ideas for your writing.

Writing therapy can help you come into a fuller relationship with yourself.

We were corresponding about the strong anxiety that this person has lived with -- abdominal ticks, nail biting, thoughts about death.

"The strong anxiety isn't something I live with constantly (anymore). It only comes up as I decide to confront issues.  I win the confrontations and anxiety goes away. It was a general, ever-present, low level anxiety that used to make me chew my nails."
I suggest writing a letter to the fingernails and seeing what comes. "The intention is to let them know why you chew on them.  To let them know how you feel about doing that.  Just let it develop and take it as far as it needs to go to be complete.  Taking the thought to its completion is the point here."

The response is pure writing therapy, the essence of Write to the Heart!

"Dear Fingernails,

I'm sorry I chewed you all your life.  Thank you, you've helped get me through some really difficult times.  I appreciate your tenacity, your determination to grow.  No matter how chewed back, you always keep growing.  I appreciate that now that there are long periods that I don't chew you.  I'm proud to see you grow now; I'm proud of me for allowing the growth, for having dealt with enough issues that I don't need to chew you all the time."
                                     R.D., Canada, August 2000

You're stuck.  You're looking at a blank piece of paper (or computer screen) and you want to write something that feels important to you and you don't know how to begin.  Yet you've got so many stories to tell and ideas you want to express!  At workshops and writing groups someone always asks "how do I start?!" and I suggest that she write to the part of herself that holds her back ...

"My dear critic,

You really missed the point this time!  Saying that my poem is pathetic and structurally unsound makes me angry!  Does that surprise you?  Usually, you can criticize me into total inertia and I crawl off without even a whimper, put my pen and paper away and stop writing for months or even years.

Sorry -- you are dealing with a stronger and wiser person this time around.  If you want to stay in my life you are going to have to tone it down.  I realize that there is a place for you, but only if you can lose that harsh judgmental attitude.  When you reduce my work to good or bad, right or wrong, I 'm afraid - no, terrorized -- and I run away and hide.  I hide from you, but in the process I hide from myself.  I will not do that anymore!  At this point in my life I have no room for negativity and harsh criticism or for hiding.  So, it's up to you.  You can stick around or you can find someone else to badger.

Now that we understand each other, let's talk about that poem. I know I usually don't attempt to write poetry - haven't since those tumultuous teen years - so I agree this was a bit of a stretch for me.  It seemed to be the only way I could capture a particular moment.  You see, I was listing all the themes and issues in my life for our writing group assignment.  You remember - that group you tried to talk me out of joining.

Anyway, I read over the long list and realized there were very few joyful, positive themes and I started trying to remember the last time I felt total joy and freedom from all those sad, negative, depressing feelings and it came to me!  The day Mary and I took our clothes off and danced and sang - just being who we were and feeling the sun our bare bodies.  We must've been three or four years old and were having quite a spectacular time until my mother saw us.  That moment ended abruptly and I don't think I ever had one quite like it again.  For a short time I did feel like the Queen of the World.

So, you see it wasn't a story or even a poem, it was a moment in time.  I wasn't writing for publication.  I was trying to capture brief but powerful feeling.  I t worked for me and, frankly, I don't care if it works for you!"


   Once I was queen of the world
     sitting on a throne of smooth stones,
       dancing over the damp grass
       my feet barely touching the ground.

    I didn't know
        only bad girls dance without clothes.
    Once I was Queen of the World ---
        until my mother found out.
                                                                 -- A.H., November 1998

In a writing therapy session we may talk about loneliness and how our families hurt us.  We remember how we have hurt people we love. We feel the wounds again, as if for the first time.  Then someone writes...

After the First Betrayal, There is No Other

He was small enough that he could still sit cozily in his Cosco highchair with its metal tray where his face shone foggily back at him before he painted it over with mashed potatoes, applesauce, and a few droplets of milk.  He wasn't quite a baby anymore, almost two and a half years old, and he didn't really need a highchair anymore, but he liked it.  He didn't care about being all grown up like his daddy who was tall as a house and could balance his peas on a knife though now he lived in another place far away and came to visit in his very fast car sometimes on Sundays.  He didn't even care about being  a big boy like his brother Davey who was three and a half years old and used a spoon for his peas.  Jonathan was allowed to pick up his peas with his fingers if he did it carefully, one pea at a time.  It didn't even bother him when his big sister Jennie Lynn slipped past his highchair and whispered, "baby, baby" then flashed a radiant false smile at their mother saying "Doesn't Jonny look cute in his high chair with his little blue bib," and waving her fork grandly before impaling two peas with one stab.

Jonathan was a boy who cherished the familiar things he could trust: the strip of satin that had once bound his yellow blankie, his cribbie with the pink, blue, and yellow plastic balls on rods in the headboard which he still like to spin with his forefinger, eyes staring dreamily at nothing g at all just before he fell asleep each night.  He even liked his diapers, the way they were rounded under his blue plastic pants like his stuffed clown.

He was well aware that his mother had no fondness for his diapers at all and was losing patience with his.  Almost daily when she dropped a leaking, reeking diaper into the blue lidded pail she would remind him firmly that when he was three he would not need diapers ANYMORE because then he would be a big boy.

He heard the veiled condemnation with its hidden threat and pulled his brows together in a glowering frown to show his disapproval.  He was the baby of the family and was content with that.  He knew perfectly well what his own interests were and which were clearly not his. He intended to hold fast to what was his own.

One hot muggy day toward the end of the summer just before he was two and a half years old, a friend of his mother came to visit.  George, the friend, found the three small children endearing and entertaining, especially the littlest with his sober somewhat sternly appraising stare.  Tousled curls and dimpled cheeks in no way diminished the fact that the littlest assessed each meeting looking for the expectations and seductions the grown-ups preferred to hide.  He knew the coin of his own desire and he rarely faltered.

On this particular day, George decided to take the children for a walk down to the corner store and back.  The older two children were delighted and asked if George would buy them gum, a generally forbidden treat in their house as it often found its way to places gum never should go.  George said, "Sure" and Davey and Jennie Lynn began dancing about joyfully tugging at his hands.

Jonathan hung back.  The store was a long way off, a full block and a half, and once around the corner he could no longer see his house with his highchair and cribbie in it or his mother smiling warmly as she worked suds into a froth at the sink.  Jonathan liked to help his mother stir up suds.  Besides, George was even taller than his father and took huge giant steps so that Jonathan had to run almost all the time to keep up.

Finally, Jonathan didn't much like gum.  No matter how cautiously he chewed it was always quickly swallowed and gone.  He decided to stay home and stir up the suds with his mother so when George reached for his hand, he shook his head and said, "No."

George was surprised and a little hurt.  He wanted the littlest one to like him and he certainly didn't want the children's mother to see him as a man a baby rejected.  He was casting about for an effective appeal when Jennie Lynn said, "I know, George.  Ice cream is his very favorite thing.  Offer to get him an ice cream cone."

Davey jumped up and down wildly.  "Do it, George.  Do it."

George was greatly relieved.  Jonathan would surely come along for an ice cream cone.  Scotching down to look directly into Jonathan's eyes, he was met with a stony stare.  George laughed.  "Come on, Jonny.  If you come to the store with us I'll get you a big vanilla ice cream cone, just for you."

Jonathan looked into George's face and saw triumph.  He recognized Jennie Lynn's sly confident smile, Davey's eager impatience.  He gathered himself firmly in hand and said coldly,  "Don't like 'nila."

"He does, George, he does," Davey squealed.  Jennie Lynn shot him steely daggers.  George quickly said, "No problem, Jonny.  Strawberry or chocolate.  You name it, both if you say so."

"George!" their mother said, laughing.

"Come on, Jonny.  Let's go get that big delicious strawberry chocolate cone." George coaxed enticingly.  Everyone was staring at Jonathan, waiting for desire to overcome resistance and for his will to collapse.  He searched their faces for something warm and kind that would let him say yes, but they looked like huge spiders, waiting to spin down the web toward a caught fly.

He shook his head.

Jennie Lynn and Davey both wailed simultaneously.  "Jonathan, you have to come" and "Mama, make him!"

George scratched his head, disbelieving.  Then suddenly he bent down, inspired.

"Jonathan," he whispered conspiratorially, "if you come with us I'll get you the only blue ice cream cone in all the world."

"George!"  Jennie Lynn cried in amazement.  "What is it?  I've never seen blue ice cream!"

And Jonathan felt a great desire well up in his chest, bigger than a huge balloon.

"Blue ice cream?" he echoed, eyes wide with wonder.  Whatever it was, he could be the first little boy in the world to have it.  For the first time, Jonathan wanted something unfamiliar, something so strange he had never heard about it before and neither had Jennie Lynn.

He started to reach out his hand for George to take.  And then suddenly everyone cheered.  "Yea, Jonnie!" laughing uproariously.

"Gotcha!"  George crowed gleefully.  "Come on kids, let's go."

But Jonathan froze.  Then he took a deep quivering breath and stepped backwards.  Slowly he turned a cold steadfast gaze on his brother and sister before looking straight into George's eyes with a look so naked in its betrayal George felt as if he'd been struck.

"Don't want blue ice cream," Jonathan said, then turned and walked out of the room without looking back.  They could hear him climbing the stairs, one step at a time.

George didn't know where to look.  Finally, with a sign, he took Jennie Lynn and Davey by the hands and left to buy gum.  The children's mother stood motionless by the sink, her hands clutched together listening to the wild whirring of the plastic balls on Jonathan's crib.  Faster they spun, an angry blur of sound until finally, the spinning slowed.  Tears slipped silently down her face as she stood in the empty kitchen waiting for the spinning to stop.  Years later she would understand that it never would, though she still would not know if alone in his kind, safe cribbie he had cried, too.

                                                                           -- L.L., December 1998

"Who/what is important to you?" is another way we show ourselves and meet each other through our writings.  Is it your job that holds your attention?  Your partner? Your dogs or cats?  Your relationship to nature?
"Walk down any country road in [Maine] late March or early April, it's a wasteland.  Barren, littered with rocks, pieces of tarmac, crumbled yellowed newspapers, squashed beer cans, and other unidentifiable flotsam and jetsam deposited by an impersonal snow-plow in months past.

The remnant sands of winter's snow removal coats all edges, punctuated only by glimpses of stones, or long-dead-brown leaves.  Uninspiring.

March marches through.  The winds whirl, the rains beat down, the weather hints of summer one day to be followed the next by a deep night freeze.  Desolate, barren, dead.

But wait!  The heralding of spring, the beckoning of the returning sun, the memory of warmer days and gentler rains, nudges the furthest recesses of our minds.  Wait!

The change is phenomenal, so magical, so indescribable.

Walk down any country road in late April -- be amazed.  Grasses of myriad species jostle one another to see who can grow and survive closest to the road's edge.

Shy white violets peek from under spirals of unfolding ferns.  Myriad Mayflowers litter the side of the road like paint spattered on a drop cloth.

Shiny green, dark veined vines, punctuated with hard red berries insinuate and thread themselves throughout.

Horsetails pop up like unopened umbrellas eventually looking like miniature forests in a Lilliputian landscape.

Solomon's seal leaves explode open-- throwing their pollen -- confetti that covers everything with an eerie, chartreusie tinge.

Before May has passed, seed heads will have formed on many grasses that, in turn, will catapult this life-giving pollen into the air like a mini fireworks display.

Tiny wild strawberries' flowers appear magically in the sand-berms that parallel the road.  Runner fingers reach and root and intermingle into an impenetrable mat of fuzzy leaves that hide these little berry jewels from hungry human eyes.

So don't rush down that road, across the street, or wherever you're going at such speed.  Stop, look down, see the life seething around you.

Take time to notice and made note of the so subtle changes that occur, and burst out in full parade dress when you least expect it.

Really look at this world!"

                               -- F.G., April '99

"Who are you?" is a question that comes at us a lot in this world -- whether at a job interview, when meeting new people, or when sitting alone in meditation.  How do you answer that question?  To start, I ask people to invent a metaphor that describes themselves, using the formula "I am more like a ... than a ... "

                            I am more
like a white tiger in a cage than a perched
    I feel special and am unique but cannot enjoy
                    the freedom of expression.
        I have been on a life long journey and have
                              learned to fear.
             Why must this continue I have often
     I grow weary by the day already realizing the
                 bars of my mind will not yield
Resentments haunt my past memories and
envelop the inner realm
                         of the present
    The people I love the most poke at me with
                                spears of
    expectation, and I roar with a reviling peal

The dream I dream is to be comfortable in my
own white skin
    never compromising, never comparing, never
                                again jealous
                      only to have peace within.

                                                  N.J., May '00

Serenade Me With A Cedar Flute, Please

     Being Indian was never a choice for me, I was born that way.  I can remember during the late sixties and early seventies when being Indian  was 'in'  and so cool.  I saw all nationalities wearing  braids, beads, and feathers.  Some even wore more buckskin and fringe than I did.

     Once, after an outdoor concert, quite a few Indians were at this tavern in Portland,   Oregon.  A tall black boy showed me his whistle made from the leg of an eagle.  How dare he, I thought to myself!  That boy was never a veteran.  Only men and women warriors, veterans of war were allowed use the sacred eagle whistle.  I didn't talk to that black boy from Seattle, because he kept blowing that blessed whistle in my face!  He told me he was serenading and courting me like the Indians do.  I think he mistook that ritual; serenading and courting (called 'fortynine') is done with a flute made of cedar or chokecherry wood.

     A black beaded beret with a large, beautiful eagle feather slipped off the bushy head of a non-Indian man and he didn't bother to pick it up until he had finished his peach wine cooler!  When that feather hit the floor, every Indian in the place froze; but we didn't say one word.  It wasn't our place to do so, because none of us were medicine persons or elders.  The eagle is a messenger for the Creator, his feathers must never touch the ground, or floor.  When a feather falls to the floor, it's like a highly respected warrior or relative has fallen.  There's a little ceremony where a veteran is chosen to pick  up the feather.  Those of us who were Indians, looked at each other with sadness in our unworthy hearts.  If the world had ended then and there, we would have understood only too well.

             A.A. Washington State, 2000

How to send an excerpt from your writing for inclusion here ...

What lessons have you learned from life?  What's important to you?  Share your stories here.  Submissions are welcomed and comprehensive feedback will be provided if a review fee of $25 accompanies your submission.  Please include a statement warranting that you are the sole author of the material.  Please note that NO PORNOGRAPHY, EXPLICIT SEXUALITY, OR VULGARITY will be considered or reviewed.

Or e-mail submissions with a note that payment and signed statement follows. Please put the word "write" in the subject line of any e-mail you send. 

Send with payment to:

Iris Selig
P.O.Box  454
Damariscotta, ME 04543

I look forward to hearing from you!  Write on!

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