7 minutes

I had a conversation while at the hairdresser’s about the work that I do and how my work involves writing, the teaching and encouragement of writers, and how that sometimes also includes one on one coaching. My hairdresser told me about how they’d always enjoyed writing and how as a child they used to write essays and little stories and how they enjoyed the act of escaping away into a fictional setting.

Someday, I would like to write a book, my hairdresser said. But I keep thinking that writing means I need to carve out lots of time to write and I don’t know that I have the patience to sit down for long stretches of time just to write.

She then went on to tell me of how she’d made this resolve to take along a journal during her holiday with the intent of doing some sort of travel journal.

Except, she said. At the end of the day, I would find myself quite overwhelmed by everything that I needed to write down. I just didn’t know where to start or how to write it down anymore.

It was a story that I recognised from others who were just learning to embrace writing as a practice.

I recently gave a fresh notebook to a young and upcoming writer and her first response was to say that she would take time to write thoughtful things in it.

To which I said: write everything in it. Write even your mundane grocery list in it. Write a to-do list or any random scribbling.

She said: Oh, then I’ll look for the perfect pen.

And then, she looked at me because I was shaking my head and she said with a laugh. I know what you’re going to say. Don’t wait to find the perfect pen. Any pen will do.

And we laughed together because she already knew what my next words would be: Just write.

In embracing the practice of writing, I think of the 7 minute rule. I don’t know if it’s a rule, really. It’s something that just came to mind and something that feels handy. 5 minutes feels too short and 10 minutes feels too long. But 7 minutes feels somehow just right. So, I gave the same advice to my hairdresser as I give to new writers who feel daunted by the idea of finding time to write. I said: find 7 minutes. Just 7 minutes. It can be shorter, it can be longer, but set your phone for 7 minutes if you’re sitting somewhere in between moments. Say to yourself: Okay. It’s 7 minutes. Just write.

It doesn’t have to be brilliant. It doesn’t have to be poetic. It can be mundane. It can be anything. But just take 7 minutes to write. You just might be surprised.

one for the road

I can feel momentum in the wind. Like energy, rising and gathering as the universe opens doors to different knowings and learnings.

I’ve just arrived home from Amsterdam where I attended the Storytelling session and the reflection session for Amsterdam Assembly: Letting Go of Having to Speak All the Time at Framer Framed. Four stories told by people who shared not just their stories but also the process behind coming to storytelling and the process of finding voice and what that meant to them.

I think about the creation of community, about building bridges and connections and how by sharing something that’s personal or close to us, while being an act of vulnerability is also a very powerful thing. It requires trust on the part of the person telling the story as well as courage and I think that kind of trust should also be met with openness and trust and a willingness to accept and be vulnerable as well. In today’s social media society where everyone is busy talking over or alongside each other, to be present in a space and to be able to offer listening and being in the moment is a way of remembering that these circles of conversation are how we connect to each other and that requires making time to sit, offer your full attention and listen.

Later, during the break I had the opportunity to walk and converse a bit with Nneka Mora who is a storyteller from Nigeria. We talked about what storytelling meant to her and also about how story can be as simple as conversing with your mother and telling her what you did today. The conversation we had made me feel so joyful and I am thankful for Nneka’s words and insight.

If you’re reading this blog and are interested in watching the recorded sessions Framer Framed has the sessions published on YouTube.

There’s still one more day of listening and I’ve signed up for the webinar for tomorrow’s session. I think it’s a privilege to be able to sit and listen. To hear what’s being said and to take them to heart.

Lockdown and writing with the boys

We were celebrating one of the younger cousin’s birthday, when the announcement went live.

We had been expecting it, of course.

“Well,” said the only other aunt who had showed up. “I suppose this will go down in family history as the Corona birthday party.”

We sat there, sipping our tea and coffee, while Ministers Slob and Bruins made the announcement. The room grew dark as twilight fell.

“A shame,” the other aunt said. “There was sun this morning.”

We made the appropriate sounds of assent and laughed at the sign language for hamsteren (hoarding).

Youngest son showed off a picture he’d made earlier in the day of empty supermarket shelves.

On tv the Minister says all pubs and cafes will be shutdown for at least three weeks; classes are suspended, and any gathering that includes more than your own immediate family is discouraged. And in particular, no visits to the elderly because they are the most vulnerable.

“That’s it then,” sister-in-law said. “So, I guess you should all go home.”

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I found myself thinking of absurdist movies and it may sound strange, but for a moment I couldn’t help but wonder if a director would jump out of somewhere shouting, “Cut”.

Of course, this didn’t happen.

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In the morning, my sons and I walk to the nearest supermarket. We’re out of bread and cheese, and we haven’t got a gigantic freezer or any kind of stockpile.

So, we walk because classes are suspended and I think children (regardless of age) need some sort of physical movement. I also believe that fresh air is good for you.

Already, the youngest son wants to know what’s on the programme for today.

I propose a short piano lesson.

“Not too long,” youngest son says. “Or else I won’t have time for anything else.”

Eldest son scoffs at youngest son’s declaration, but I promise that all we’ll do is learn the second phrase of Fur Elise.

“What about a short writing session in the afternoon?” I ask.

Both boys perk up and look interested.

“Is this going to be like the workshop you’re giving?” eldest son asks.

“Uh,” I look at youngest son. “I’ll have to adjust it a bit, but it might be fun.”

“Why not?” Eldest son says.

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Today we did two small writing exercises. Afterwards, I asked them if they would like to do this again tomorrow.

It looks like we will.