A Writer's Process: Bridget Holding

Written on 20th March 2016

Today has been a perfect writing day. In that I have arrived at the evening with a real sense of satisfaction. The poem may not be finished, but it knows where it’s going.

Writing on a Sunday is sometimes more productive than during the week. Probably because all those small administrative things that usually niggle at me, seem to have no sway at the weekend. It’s the day of rest after all. Not that writing is exactly rest. It can be hard work. But it nourishes me.

This morning I awoke without an alarm at around seven, and had the start to the day that is most conducive to my writing process. I lay in bed a while, seeing what was present for me in terms of feelings and body sensations. 

Today is the spring equinox, and I knew I wanted to write something on that subject. However, I know from experience that if I don’t let what’s already there be heard, then that will block other expression.

Sometimes I just brainstorm on to a piece of paper with words about ‘what’s in the way of my writing today’.  However, today, there was one strong theme.  Sadness. So I made a cup of tea, propped myself up with pillows, and wrote down the words that wanted to come from that place of sadness. I was blessed with a strong image, so that helped me to find a path of self-expression from the feelings.

Once I was up, showered and breakfasted, I looked at information on some of the themes around the equinox, on the internet. I always feel a little like this is not what a poet is meant to do, but I’m enjoying bringing some astronomy and physics into my poems on ‘the turning year’. I like that specificity. It’s grounding my work.

What really sets me on fire as a poet is building a path from the microcosm of the movements of my own inner experience (body sensation and feeling particularly) to the macrocosm of the movements of nature, or the universe, or other abstract themes.

Aristotle said (I’m paraphrasing) that ‘the greatest of thing of all, is to be a master of metaphor’ I aim at that. Why not aim high! So, I found in the information and videos of the earth moving round the sun, some movement words that allowed me to feel that rhythm in my own body.

Then I stashed some paper and a pen, and my phone, into my coat pocket, and went for a walk. I’m lucky enough to live in the foothills of the Pyrenees. I walked two hours up a mountain, which really feels like going into the wilds.  I tried to feel into my animal self. Not to think, but to stay with the embodied experience of walking, alert to my environment, taking in sensory impressions. As words came to me, I jotted them down. I returned with two pages of hand written notes on various facets of my subject.

I ate lunch and took a siesta. Sleep for me, is like a wave clearing the beach. When I awoke I was in my body, and ready to go back to the poem.

I’ve been happy with today’s poem from the beginning. It found a form and shape immediately. I knew the pace, where to put the reader’s attention, the outline of it, from the outset. So today has been about filling that outline in.

This afternoon’s work (I meant to work two hours this afternoon, but worked four) has been about two things.

First, I’ve been doing small physical movements to feel deeper into the moments of movement in the planet I describe in the poem. Sometimes I might, for example, repeat a small tilt of my hips, which mirrors the tilt the earth makes in my poem at the equinox, perhaps fifty times. The words rise up from that embodied experience. If I am patient enough to wait and be with it.

The second thing I did this evening, when I had a good-enough first draft, was to consciously bring all the senses into the poem- I want the reader to smell, touch, taste, hear, and see the colours. That took some time. And some thinking myself back to the experience of walking this morning.

And then there were some internet facts to check too. Quite a few as the poem seems to be expanded to a story about three countries (not to mention the planet as a whole!)

Although I was hoping to write this poem in a day, it’s not finished. As quite often happens, it’s turning into a longer poem than I had intended, and is taking longer than I hoped.

It’s hard work too. Somehow I forget that between writing each poem.  Stringing words together on a mountain top, is really just the beginning of the day.

I realised at the end of this afternoon, that I need to bring the spring mountain flowers more alive to the reader. And the sensory impressions aren’t quite there. To do that I might have to walk back up the mountain again sometime this week, and bring some back.

I’ve going to put it online anyway. We are writers sharing the process, after all.

I’ll sleep soundly tonight.  In touch with the wild.

You can read my poem 'Spring Equinox-March 2016' also on this blog.