Authentic Voice, Assumptions, and Imitation

A few of our regular workshoppers were down with illness this week, and we had a smaller group again. Our conversation, as always, blew me away. Just like opening up Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, exactly what you need seems to always come up. The connections are all around us, and if we are open to them, we can begin to perceive how wondrous the universe is.


We each have a sum of experiences that is different from every other person. That sum makes us unique, and it gives each of us something unique to offer. This uniqueness also means that no matter how close you feel to another being, how much you think you have in common, no one is like you. Thus, arrives a paradox in writing and communication.

Part of the purpose of writing (and communicating) is to share what it means to be you, and no one will ever truly understand what it means. This impossibility, though, doesn’t discourage us from writing. Quite the opposite. It also guides us to our authentic voice. Create writing that is true to your unique experiences, while also understanding what you are trying to accomplish.

Write for yourself first (and alone) and trust that there will be someone (or many someones) similar enough to appreciate what you appreciate. If you’re called to write a sentence the length of a paragraph that flows and dives around corners and demands your audience attend, write it.


Finish collecting your ten pieces of writing, so that we can craft or share our chapbooks next week. This collection will give you insight into your personal tastes, it will give you a body of work from which you can learn, and it will give you movements you can imitate.

Check out this TED radio hour piece or the accompanying TED talk about Hetain Patel. We learn through imitation. Patel also says, “Each time I fail to become Bruce Lee, I become more authentically me.” Use those masters whose aesthetics please you, to shape who the writing you becomes.



Our prompt last night is best with a partner. If you don’t have one, though, you can still use it. It is most fun with someone you are comfortable with, and who will play the game. We will use a question to prompt our imaginative cells and then build a conversation between participants. One will be questioner and one will answer as the writer.

Start with the question, “Who were you in my dream?” This question invites a connection between questioner and answerer. Write the answer down and say it out loud to the questioner. Ask another question and build the connection deeper. The goal is to work together to create a poem out of the answers, to draw more out of both participants than they would have gotten alone. Give the answerer enough time between questions to write their answers down. Other questions might include: What were you wearing? What were you eating? Why were you hiding? Who was with you?

Use the answers to create a poem and bring it to workshop next week with your 10 poems/prose/excerpts.


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