Writing Prompt: Where Are You Writing From?

During this week’s writing group, I walked us through a meditation that brought attention to the head, heart, and gut. I asked you to notice how each feels, what each might say. Are they in harmony? Over the past few weeks, I’ve been personally exploring what my needs are. Identifying them, let alone communicating them to others, can feel so foreign! How am I supposed to tell you what my needs are when they’re constantly changing and often conflicting? Sometimes my head thinks I need to hurry and get more work done, while my heart is telling me to slow down and offer myself space for self-care. For me, being in alignment means my head, heart, and gut can all get on the same page – or at least respect one another and work together. 

Checking in with these different parts of myself was first introduced to me on my first-ever silent retreat, led by an incredible spiritual teacher and author, Will Pye. Until I arrived at the retreat in Eastern Tennessee, which required me to fly for four hours, then drive another four hours, I had no idea the long-weekend retreat was silent. This concept – the inner dialogue between my head, heart, and gut – assigned names to the competing thoughts in my head and provided me with some much-needed comic relief. I started journaling a script, as though they were distinct characters with their own unique feelings about being on a silent retreat: 

  • My head: “WTF?! A silent retreat? I’m so uncomfortable! How awkward to have to eat with these people and not say anything… What the hell am I supposed to do? Do I make eye contact? No, that makes it more awkward… Where do I look?” 
  • My heart: “Oh no, how will I ever connect with these strangers if I can’t talk to them?” 
  • My gut: “Thank god I don’t have to make small talk and socialize.” 

This is something to think about when you write. Who’s really speaking? Which place, or part of your body, are you writing from? Often, I’ll start out writing with my head, trying to get all of the important details on the page. (Sometimes this means my ego gets mixed in there, and I’m including superficial details that don’t really serve the reader.) Then, I pour my heart out and onto it, letting the words flow freely even if they don’t make sense. Finally, my gut becomes my editor with the final say, intuitively cutting out what doesn’t need to be there, while expanding on and finessing my original thoughts.

The next time you sit down to write, consider what roles the different parts of yourself play in your own process. Put them to work for you (not against each other). 

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