One of my tutors used to emphasise the importance of your raw words, written now, in this moment. The words that might arrive unbidden when you sit down at your computer to write, or scribble your morning pages in a notebook, or respond to a creative writing prompt. Your words in their natural state. Your words that are, as yet, unedited. These words can be powerful. They can be revealing. They are the words that you need to stop yourself from criticising and just sit with for a while.
Sometimes they might be trying to tell you something. Sometimes they are just an outpouring of things you need to get off your chest before the day gets started. That in itself can be telling. Is there something that keeps recurring in your raw writing? Something that your sub-conscious is saying needs to be addressed right now. Other times they may be uplifting, happy, alive with the joy of the moment they were written in. Just like us, the mood of our words can change like the wind.
I find my own raw words tend to be a fairly accurate reflection of how I’m feeling in the present moment. This morning I took a particular path through some woods I haven’t been down since the winter came last year. I felt full of the joys of spring and I was happy to be in the fresh air. I could feel myself inside my own body, the movement of it pleased me. I had to stop halfway along the path and write something, I felt driven to record what I was seeing and hearing because it was touching something in me about how the natural world keeps on going despite our best efforts to destroy it (no matter how happy I am in nature, I can never seem to completely drive away my climate change grief). These are my raw, unedited words from that moment:
on a walk in the woods
I was meant to be looking for a stick
instead I got lost in poetry
the hardy buttercups beneath the oak
the valiant primrose beside the stream
something white beating inside
the dark trees
deep croaks and sharp tweets
a black dog on a walk
the world waking up after the cold winter
some hearts will survive this too
What these words are saying to me as I type them here is that I am still capable of hope. That despite grief and anxiety over what the future might be, I can still live meaningfully in the present moment, appreciate its beauty and hold out hope that things might not be as bad as I sometimes fear. When I take time to notice the natural world around me, I am nearly always rewarded for that effort by a lift in my mood or a perspective gained. This is one way that writing helps me maintain my wellbeing.
Of course, sometimes my raw words are darker, more depressing, petty and trivial even. And I’m ok with that because I know those words need an outlet too. I can accept those feelings, particularly if I can share them in private with my journal or a trusted friend or a counsellor. Perhaps you will already have heard of Rumi’s poem The Guest House? It is all about welcoming those difficult guests when they come. In case you haven’t, here it is:
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.