07 October 2009

From Where You Dream

by Robert Olen Butler

I’m not a big fan of Butler’s fiction (Severance: What the heads of historical figures might have said in the 2 1/2 minutes following decapitation??), but his method of imagining it is another matter entirely.

If you’ve ever reveled in the incredibly creative nature of your dreams—the bizarre images, the chaotic situations and the way your heart sometimes pounds when you wake up, this book is for you.

Butler tells the reader how to achieve an emotional connection when writing about purely made-up events, including a guided meditation to go to the place where dreams come from, while remaining conscious enough to take notes. If the writer connects emotionally when writing, Butler contends, there's a better chance the reader will when reading.

In fact, he says, “The crucial awareness you must keep is this: do not will the work. Do not write until it’s coming from your unconscious. If you have the itch to write before inspiration has visited you, spend that time meditating in your unconscious.” I’ve tested his methods, and they work!

The book is written a bit like an afterthought: transcribed wholly from a popular seminar the author gives. But I recommend it anyway because it gives writers, particularly someone experiencing a block, one more pathway into the cornucopia of creativity locked inside.

Writing FOR Your Life

by Deena Metzger
If you have only money and shelf space for one writing book, make it this one.

The subtitle on my edition is "A Guide and Companion to the Inner Worlds," and who better as a guide than Metzger, the long-time teacher, healer, free speech advocate, and writer of fiction, nonfiction and poetry?

If you recall a poster from the 1970s of a bare-breasted 40ish woman leaping for joy, an elaborate tattoo wending its way around a mastectomy scar, you have met Metzger. That image has appeared on some versions of her cancer journal, Tree (when the censors allowed it!). At one time it was even sold separately as "The Warrior Poster."

Well, the warrior is in her 70s now, and I had the great fortune to attend a seminar she taught a few years back. She began it by asking each of us to tell the one story only we could tell. Her book expands that same idea. She helps readers develop their specific stories by discussing creativity and personal story as having origins in the larger stories of archetype, fairy tale and myth.

Metzger describes writing in words that resonate with me: as a spiritual practice--the writer's personal church, as the case may be--and wraps up with some ideas on living one's personal stories to their fullest. In fact, she signed my copy of this book "To Susan, For your stories--ALL of them!"

The writing exercises will keep you busy for an incarnation or two, and the guided meditations will transport you to new realms, particularly the one where you ask the unconscious to provide a spiritual guide for your writing. The results Metzger herself and her students achieved were extremely interesting, and the process proved very powerful for me, testing it out for myself. Who will show up to help you?