Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance.
- Yoko Ono
Fall is here! We've slipped into the deeper, darker half of the year. The autumn equinox was last week. There will be a new moon this week. It's a rare black moon, our second new moon this month. To me, this is all part of a good pause before the holidays. September and October are the year's last call to establish or ground a creative routine.
While the writing itself is what matters, I'm a big believer in the power of rituals to bring us to the writing. At the beginning of my workshops, I share the affirmations and practices of the Amherst Writers & Artists Method. Often I share a quote to center us. Sometimes I invite people to take a deep breath before we start. To me, these aren't agenda items to tick off. These are essential rituals that signal the special space and sacred time that our writing occupies. The rituals aren't elaborate, but that's for the best. They more easily quiet and ready us that way. There is no flash for the inner critic to turn her nose at. There is only the humble work of beginning again.
As you slip into fall, I hope you get some time to re-center in your creative life. I'm sharing a handful of rituals that always call to me at this time of year. You may have others (I'd love to hear them), or you could adapt one of these. You might try a few and land on just one you love. However a creative ritual works for you is the right way, as long as it draws you into your creative spirit and helps you write.
Re-center your creative intentions with journaling.
If you don't already keep a journal, fall is a wonderful time to start. Over the years, I've learned (or accepted) that journaling does not have to be a play-by-play of my life. Keeping a journal is a meaningful practice even if it's devoted to just one aspect of your life, or just one question. The beauty is in showing up regularly, not necessarily in how much content you produce or how closely it follows your life events. If you want to get started or get re-centered with your journal, here are a few prompts:
- What matters right now is...
- I want to remember...
- The most beautiful thing I saw today was...
- The most meaningful thing I learned this week...
Try a new soundtrack for your writing.
There are various opinions and studies on whether music is good or bad for creative work, so follow your own instinct here. Mine shifts from season to season and project to project. In the summer, I tend to write near open windows so I can hear the birds, the trees, and our soft wind chime. In the fall and winter, I bring music back in as a ritual.
As you play with music for your writing, try listening to the same album multiple times, perhaps every time you sit down to write. The music becomes another kind of signal. It's not in the forefront for entertainment value. It's another part of the environment saying, You're here, it's time to create, and you're safe to begin. Here are a few options I've been trying out:
Use changing colors to tune your attention.
It's no secret that walks are good to feed your writing. They can quiet the racing parts of our brain and tune our attention to something beyond ourselves. Even if you don't live in an area that gets a fall color show, there's likely to be something changing. Maybe a new flower coming in or dying off for the year. Maybe a bird arriving or departing.
When you go for a walk (or rest and look out the window), consider throwing a challenge in the mix. Maybe you look for red things. Maybe you listen for just one kind of sound. Maybe you count how many acorns you see along the way. This can be especially helpful if you have a lot of racing or anxious thoughts to disperse. It gives the mind a task, something to latch onto while you free up your creative flow.
Fall for some new poetry.
Poetry is always a good companion, but it feels especially good for the re-grounding, contemplative time of fall. Maybe it's something about the days of beach reading trading themselves out for a little darkness. Earlier this year I learned about Homebound Publications, an indie press that specializes in contemplative literature. They have a number of books that have called to me for my fall poetry reading, especially these:
I've already shared a poem from Joy is the Thinnest Layer in my writing workshops this fall. Poetry is always ripe for writing inspiration. I feel like it teaches us what's truly possible with just one image or phrase. Even if one poet has written something with a particular image, the chances are your own memory will get sparked in a different direction.
If a poem moves you, try using its first line as the start of your own writing. See where it takes you. You can look to other writing as a door into your own—this is part of reading as a writer, I think. (Just be sure to credit the original writer or remove any of those "borrowed doorways" if you send your writing out into the world, of course.)