An excerpt from Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing:
“When it comes to storytelling (and it’s all storytelling) I often tell my students that we need to be dumb like animals. Storytelling itself is primal. It’s the way we’ve always come to understand the world around us–whether recited around a campfire, or read aloud in an east village bar. And so it stands to reason that in order to tell our stories, we tap into something beyond the intellect –an understanding deeper than anything we can willfully engage. Overthink and our minds scramble, wondering: Should we go in this direction? Or that one? . . . But when we feel our way through a story, we are following a deep internal logic. The words precede us. We hear them. We sense their rightness. How did I do that, we ask ourselves, once we’ve finished, once the paint has dried, once we’ve worked through draft after draft after draft. . . . We are animals, our ears pricked, our eyes wide open. We put one hoof down, then another, on the soft and pliant earth. The rustle of a leaf. The crack of a branch. A passing breeze. We do no stop to ponder, What’s around the corner? We don’t know. There is only this: the bird’s nest, the fawn, the snake curled beneath the gnarled root of an ancient tree. There is only the sound of our own breath. Our pulsing bodies. We are here. Alive, alert, quivering. We are cave dwellers. With a sharpened arrowhead we make a picture. A boy. A bear. The moon” (150).
Did you ever notice in writing workshops that the students who were the best at critiquing others’ pieces weren’t always the strongest storytellers? I’m not saying that they were not strong writers–they were– but that there was sometimes something missing in their stories. The emotions we feel when we connect to a story has to do with essence; the essence of you and me, which you cannot reach through the thinking brain. In my yoga & journaling workshop, we’ll use the yoga practice (i.e., mindful movement) to shift from the hustle bustle of the left brain hemisphere to the freedom of our right brain–to tap into something beyond intellect. It is in this more spacious state of being that we can connect to ourselves and the world around us: the rustle of a leaf. The crack of a branch. From this centered place, we can express ourselves more authentically and create with our “sharpened arrowheads,” or whatever writing utensil you choose. 🙂 A Boy. A bear. The Moon.