Thursday, May 8, 2014

Focus objects and written intentions

Last week I experienced Kindling Words West in Breckenridge, CO.

As you can see, our surroundings were sublime.

Our first evening together, all the attendees stated their intentions for the retreat. The mornings that followed began with yoga (optional), a fortifying breakfast (so necessary and appreciated), and an inspiring hour-long talk from Laurie Halse Anderson (brilliant). At the start of each talk, Laurie focused us with a writing prompt, usually about significant objects from our past or present.

When she asked us to journal about an object in our lives that helped us refocus into our writing, I wrote about the various inspirational doodads I've collected or been gifted since I got serious about writing. That was fun, but then I remembered the Brontë poster I brought back from the Parsonage Museum -- Branwell's portrait of Anne, Emily, and Charlotte. As you may know, this painting originally featured the artist standing at the center, but now all that remains of him is the golden column where he later effaced himself.

I face the poster when I'm sitting at my desk, and it's the perfect focus point for a little informal meditation. When I look at that painting, I think of the sisters rambling the moors and scribbling at the kitchen table. I imagine them burning up with a story fever that poverty and loss couldn't extinguish. And as for Branwell -- his tragic self-loathing is a good reminder to be kinder to myself. (The muse responds to deadlines, but not so well to disparagement.)

So, inspired by Kindling Words and Laurie Halse Anderson, I've identified a focus object and pledge to list intentions at the start of each writing day. I hope it becomes a habit.

How about you? What would you choose as your focus object?

[Cross-posted at Livejournal]


  1. A picture of a girl maimed by machinery in a textile mill in the early 1900s. It's a story waiting to be told. It sounds like the retreat was productive and replenishing - can't wait to hear more about it!

  2. Laurie Halse Anderson and that view must have combined for a unique and memorable experience. I'm so happy for you!

    I love the idea of "burning up with story fever" and realized that the Bronte girls had their own little writing group. I imagine them giggling beside the fire. I also love that the artist reminds you to be kinder to yourself. It's a good reminder for us all.

    1. I guess it was a foursome writing group, since Branwell was a writer, too. If only he hadn't been so . . . what's the right word? Self-defeating? As the son, he had all the advantages. Ah well.