Want killer writing? STOP doing this.

It’s okay, I do it, too.  Even the most seasoned writers admit that they have to remind themselves over and over at the beginning of any writing project or piece how to start fresh. Each time we sit down to write is a new beginning and this is at once frightening and freeing. But the one thing we must stop doing if we want writing that is real, vulnerable, dangerous, true, meaningful and pulsing with delicious energy is being so damn polite.

Now then, I’m not suggesting you march out into the village square (village square?) and start screaming obscenities at innocent women and children, but what I am saying is we need to follow the forthcoming advice to the letter if we want to get anywhere worth going in our writing. In the brilliant and timeless treasure titled Writing Down the Bones, author Natalie Goldberg shares the secret to “burning through to first thoughts” which are “the place where energy is unobstructed by social politeness or the internal censor, to the place where you are writing what your mind actually sees and feels, not what it thinks it should see or feel.”

The idea is that what lives on the surface of our manic minds are actually third and fourth thoughts, the things we layer on top of our true thoughts and feelings in order to make them more polite or socially acceptable. But the good writing—the beautifully dangerous, cutting edge, electric writing—comes from first thoughts. The thoughts that live closest to the bone.

So this week I’m challenging myself to follow these 6 rules from Writing Down the Bones for getting at my juiciest stuff. Are you up for it, too?  Cool, here we go:

This is the kind of writing I believe we need to get back to in our regular practice. The first thoughts, the ego-less raw truth of what we think and feel. My suspicion is that there is one thing that keeps us from really delving in and that is that we are terrified that whatever we put down, we are forever. That if we write something that scares us because it is so real then we cannot recover and move on from it.

But as Ms. Goldberg would also have us remember: we are not the poem. 

“There is no permanent truth you can corner in a poem that will satisfy you forever. Don’t identify too strongly with your work. Stay fluid behind those black-and-white words. They are not you. They were a great moment going through you. A moment you were awake enough to write down and capture.”

In that same vein, I love it when a lesson comes full circle and you start to see signs of its truth around you almost everywhere. As I was contemplating this idea of burning past being so polite in censoring my own first thoughts and feelings, and the worry I seemed to have that if I wrote it down I had to be it forever, I came across this same biting truth explained by the fiery Janne Robinson. (Click on the photo below to read her entire invigorating piece.)

I adore the liberation in her first line, “A poem is a moment.”

So this week as you are writing and creating I hope you will give yourself the freedom to keep moving the pen across the page to get to the real stuff, the truth inside. To stop fighting what is within you and instead accept it, curl into it, become one with it.

And then, when the moment is gone, to just as gracefully and impolitely, move on.

Until next time, I’m sending you so much love & inspiration,

Allison Marie

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My secret to adding more dimension & texture to your art.

There is so much unique vision inside of you. Know how I know this? Because you have that creative instinct, you have beautiful taste, and interesting ideas all your own.

I think that is one of the most fabulous things about you, actually.  🙂

So this week I’m eager to share with you my secret for keeping close to that unique vision, that one-of-a-kind way of creating gorgeous art all your own. This is what makes you so special, so let’s get more of that going, yeah?

What is no secret, of course, is that I’m a writer. My greatest love is the written word and my heart of hearts blooms mad wild for poetry. This means that the majority of my creative time is spent with words in some form — writing them, reading them, listening to them. Which is a fine and good thing EXCEPT it can run me right into the ground creatively if I don’t jump way outside of it from time to time.

Whatever your craft is, no matter how much you adore it, if you don’t give it some fresh dimension, some new texture, it will start to feel (to you and to your audience) like running on a hamster wheel. More of the same, the same, the same.

My favorite way to bust out of that wheel is to get out of the words ENTIRELY and feast on images, visuals, paintings, sketches, photography. The best way to give whatever your art is more texture, depth, dimension, and perspective is to fill your mind with something completely outside that box. Because it awakens your senses in a new way, draws your whole being into the birthing of new things. And it relieves that anxious feeling you can sometimes get when you are feeling blocked or stuck or uninspired.

Here are two gorgeous Instagram feeds I just started following to get my mind off of words for a little refreshing break. The first two images are from @sfgirlbybay Victoria Smith which is a Home & Garden website based in San Francisco. Her images are stunning, bright, and fun, and I get happily lost in the visual candy.

Gorgeous, right? The second site is a clothing design gallery called @lacausaclothing and I’m in love with the hazy hot summer feel of the photos she shares. What happens for a writer is that by exploring visual experiences that bring you joy, you awaken parts of yourself you may not realize are there, and those awakened bits of you begin to subconsciously seep into all of the art you create. Also fun? You learn clever secrets about yourself, your taste, and your passion. Like apparently I have a major crush on the color pink and sexy cool bathtubs. Who knew?

So forget all the hype about social media being a time suck, a creative drain, a mortal sin. And instead make it work for you by adding to your artistic scope. Getting outside the box of your routine style exposes you to more of the fantastic art that is out there all over the globe — how delicious! It also unearths some joy-filled and beautiful secrets about you. Which at the end of the day? Is what the magic of art is all about.

Until next time, I’m wishing you a bright week ahead. Now as your mama used to say when you were a wee little thing — Go out & play!  🙂

With so much love & the color pink in All The Things,

Allison Marie

P.S. Want to receive weekly inspirational ideas like these every Monday? Click here to join my mailing list.  Never spammy, always kind & uplifting. The way more Mondays — and artists — should be.  🙂

where sky becomes wing

i try to get out past that feeling
that you have something
to prove.
as everyone tries to tell you
who you should be,
i seek out that place nobody
can ever own,
no one can ever claim or keep.
not even me.
i know it’s fleeting but i
don’t care.
i want that place where
bone becomes sky,
sky becomes wing.

// Chance of a Lifetime //

There have been chance moments within all of this, moments of madness and grace,
which I fear I will surely forget. But for now I am here with you and the twilight is sliding across your face. For now your eyes holding mine and the way our fingers become whispers become the lengthening of necks become flesh over the fragile bones of dreams come back to life, for now I will feel everything. I will shatter and I will expose and I will untie all the things about myself that I have kept bound in the dark halls of my petrified being for ages. So that when this moment has gone, when it has become part of the next, and these small things become smaller and smaller still as they walk the eternal distance of time, I will have been made into everything I could have become. Because I let it all in and I let it all go and this is the magnificence, and this is the miracle of the blood of the life we are invited to know, when life is allowed to open and to close and to flow.

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// Pieces of the Whole (In Me) //

I am learning to look back and see that every cycle, every phase of the things I have been through, they each needed the space and time and energy they needed. That is simply the truth.

There was nothing I could have rushed through and nothing I could have prevented because I was unfolding in two ways at once: in love and in fear of love. And these two streams were crisscrossing each other all the time exactly as they were set in motion. I made choices, of course, but each was made from that intersection of love and fear of love.

I can see that now, however briefly, however fleeting that clarity may be, I can see my life, my love and fear-of-love story, as whole. As complete in the way it met and did not meet my expectations of myself.

There is a place which is a way, which is a way of thinking about these things without judgment. It’s a center, a balance, we can seek out if we can trust ourselves enough that it exists. This place within is where we cut ourselves free, let ourselves off the hook for whatever we believe the past held for us. What it gave to us and what we gave in return can be what they are.

It is really tough to dwell within that clarity and it moves ever in and out of focus.  But through some kind of madness or miracle, it can be done.

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// A While On Sadness //

Maybe not everyone will like it but I wanted to write a while on sadness. I needed to.

Why? Because this is something we all live with, live within. It’s all around and underneath our fingernails, our tongues. Sadness is upon our shoulders, in the hand of our minds. I want to write from it, I want to become her lips and bones and match my heartbeat to hers.

I want to listen.

The only thing more crushing than sadness is sadness which is lonely.

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// Random Acts of Blindness //

The warm stained scent of wet city sidewalks and all the ways I struggle to say what I mean. I don’t know anymore if that is voluntary or medicinal but I’m often overwhelmed by the possibility that it might be either. Or both (I know it’s always both).

I flip through vacant magazines and pace the floors barefoot but all I can see are storm clouds closing in on me.  The second you walk out the door they move in. What happened to the way you used to make poetry out of flickering skylines? Whatever became of the sun setting behind my tender flesh and how it used to spark the bones we traded. If I had any words left I would give them all to you. I would sit underneath your shadow and pretend to be protected.

Did you ever want to run away with me? Search my eyes for the deep blue rivers of a time you had forgotten but still believe in? You come to me in dreams but so do so many others.

Heavy rain slides down the kitchen window. So many things that happen like lightening seem to last forever. I watch as raindrops make patterns of circular chaos in the cracks on the pavement and I know a journey into me is a journey straight into the center of the earth. I know I am not easy and the pressure gets inside your head. The way you look at me is your gray lungs getting weak.

You are orange slices and sticky fingers, so sweet, so goddamn inconvenient. The way you rip the names off of everything and throw my longing back at me in the words you so carelessly choose. We rehearse the end and then we welcome the mistakes in all over again, lighting cigarettes one after another in the dark for hundreds of thousands of years. Your terrible lips and your beautiful eyes, your pearl teeth in the moonlight glistening. Even through all this blindness I can still hear you smile.

I can still remember how my dimples curled themselves against your swollen need for satisfaction. I cannot find the words to tell you gently that I’m trying so hard not to be gone when I’m with you. So hard that I write about thorns tearing rose petals, that I have often secretly hated myself for being and not being with you.

When I was very small I learned that pink bleeding hearts are flowers, and once they tell you they never tell you again. You kiss the way nothing lasts forever. We make love the way civilization collapses apart without making a dent in the universe.

Do we touch or just open our mouths.  And are we talking past each other now.

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// On the Other Side of the Carnival Smoke //

I remember you, you despite everything else which has faded from my memory. Even when my light is dark and my skin is crumbling graystone, here you are, like the most beautiful shadow falling upon the hills and caverns of my shoulders. I remember we walked, we walked all night to smell the buds of the roses climbing the trees. Observed in quiet stillness the death of a carnival, rusted in the dew of cherry cigarette glow.

Passing by the water, you take hold of my hand and I come alive with ecstatic electricity. Why would you do that (how could you not)?  We have belonged among these shared ruins for quite some time, where even the darkest secrets choke and expire.

Romance is nothing compared to war. The bridges all on fire overhead. Some will not make it to the ones waiting for them on the other side. These are the ones you must look out for, you must learn better to recognize mourning. It will be odorless, it will come to you wrapped in a plastic smile. We write love letters to the universe, we write ransom notes by connecting the stars in the northern sky and grabbing love by the cords on her wrists.

We write because no one ever told us these things would happen.

We became wings as all feathers tend to do when they gather close enough and the sunlight over the ocean kisses them with just enough promise. I offer you my tongue and you remove the metal fences from my throat. Two small animals, soft, wet, unafraid. I undress as you separate my ribs and whisper your words like small mouths into my heart, in response she beats for another century (or more) only for you.

And all the tears that pour forth from my eyes which never dare to seek the sun, they will turn this trembling earth again green. All the colours of the wind are made of pigments I had never seen. Here is the tomb of the little unknowns, here is the way they walk the nighttime ceilings. Here is the way I kneel at the foot of the bed and listen to my own blood slamming in my chest.

It sounds like the dawn may return any day now. Amen amen amen, I carve myself upon these words made flesh. I hear the faintest sounds of stirring, like maybe this time we will all rise to greet you, but I have been wrong so many, many times before. My pain bears a panic you wouldn’t believe.

And sometimes the weight of this desire tugs so deep it splits me clean in two.

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// Self Reflected //

Maybe I should have spent more time worrying less about time. Maybe the things we waste sweaty nights and crying dawns raging about are just a handful of gory jokes offered up to the maniacal gods like mandarin sunsets that bleed from the open wounds of missing someone who has been taken away from you too soon. Maybe I write too much about loss and feeling left behind but what is more real than the cuts of separation, what is more beautiful than tracing the steps we should have taken in reverse.

Tears are the sickest sweetness. Hearts are the purplest greed.

I can taste spring on the lips of winter and in the face of the sky I can see the memories of the man in the moon, who grows tired alone. Planets and stars all burning out in soft lavender trails, no more hills, nothing left to climb.

What will become of the way we are, who will remember what we said in the fields. All these screams rising up from the tortured earth. Butterflies are messengers sent from another world. There must be someone up above, this is what they offer me like warm milk, and I sift in and out of believing. I breathe in hungrily and take this strange life for granted. I do it as I run the bath, I do it as I pour the drinks into crystal glasses of oblivion (take this cup away from me, take this chalice from my lips), I do it as you speak and I try but am unable to listen.

I love you and you are lovely and love is everywhere but I’m on the outside because I am the carrier of anger and I am a collection of ways to be torn apart, and my smile fell away from my bones a while back, and no one can see except these pages.

And so I give them everything. I come into the silence to bleed.

And all they ever give is the light reflected into the darkness.

All they ever give is myself back to me.

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// Darkness Falls //

I didn’t want it to be like this
you hanging by your teeth from my breast
and my not wanting to kiss you.
How the being of neglect walks alone through the hills
black cloaks and woodland creatures falling all around
my feet

the birds have come to nest
the birds have come to die

for lack of air in my lungs.
I could watch you spinning for as long as it takes
to stand the earth still
and freeze the clouds overhead in place,

write to me of the darkness you see. I want
to read the words you choose.

I bathe in cool darkness,
shower and dress and tug at my
neck
in darkness

line my lips and my eyes and stain my cheeks
with the smut and the ink

of the darkness in which
we dare not between us
speak.

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