Today we welcome Dawn Siofra North to our blog. Dawn is one of the prize-winning authors in our latest novelette-in-flash anthology which you can buy HERE
Whenever I find myself feeling disheartened, sluggish, or foolish about my writing practice, I need to remind myself why I write. Of course, having a piece accepted for publication feels validating. But I find it’s also important to keep in mind the many other benefits I get from creative writing. Ones like these…
A place to play
My notebook is a private space where I’m allowed to play, away from judging eyes, like kids do when they make up role-play games. It’s also where I experience the creative joy of finding just the right words, like pieces of a puzzle. ‘Hard fun’ is how the educator Seymour Papert described this delight in challenging ourselves.
The pleasure of learning
When I give myself permission to experiment, I can enjoy the very process of developing my writing skills. In focussing on ‘process not product’, I can discover surprising things about how I like to write, and remember that learning rarely happens without making mistakes. Just like an infant beginning to walk, I often take the biggest leap forward after falling flat on my arse.
I first started writing creatively as an extension of my mindfulness practice. It can feel daunting to access an embodied state via meditation, but writing offers another way in. When I’m feeling mentally scattered, writing helps me to gather my fractured attention, to become embodied and rooted in my senses, by having to find precise descriptions for sensation-based experience. This is sometimes practised aloud in mindfulness classes; we writers just do it in private!
Immersing myself in a character’s life deepens my understanding of what it is to be human. While drafting, I often ask ‘what is this story teaching me about life, about other people, about myself?’ Whether I get a shift in perspective or a metaphorical piece of guidance, it’s as if the stories are delivering life lessons that I’m only able to receive because they arrive in imaginative packaging.
Writing as a positive resource
I wrote my novelette The Girl Who Survived during a very stressful period, and I discovered that writing offers me a refuge. During that time, the act of writing felt just as supportive as my meditation practice. The difficult conditions, while uncomfortable, ended up shaping the work in a way that I couldn’t have imposed by design.
Writing stories gives me a chance to spend time in the imaginal realm that I knew so intimately as a child. Sometimes I forget that getting words on paper is only one aspect of writing: my stories also tend to need some incubation time, in a place where image and sensation are just as strong as language. If I let go of trying to control the narrative, I get to inhabit the adventure and mystery of an unfolding story.
When I remind myself of these reasons, it’s usually enough to persuade me to make a brew and write for twenty minutes. Or just hang out with my imaginative self, and see what happens.
Dawn Siofra North is part of a home-educating family, an occasional mindfulness teacher and a writer of tiny stories. Her work has been shared in Legerdemain (National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2021) and on the Free Flash Fiction website. Her novelette The Girl Who Survived won third prize in the Retreat West 2021 Novelette-In-Flash Prize. She is inspired by story-based learning and imaginative meditation. You can find her online at https://dawnsiofranorth.wordpress.com/