1. Orient, Positive Me

When you look in the mirror, who do you see? Do you recognize yourself? 

Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. Often our lives happen so fast that we suddenly look at ourselves and can’t quite grasp how we got to the now, how we became the people we are today. I invite you to write yourself, and like the title of this blog, to write your own butterfly.

Butterflies are beautiful and unique, some do weird things like eat poop and drink tears. Your butterfly is all of your ideas, your experiences, what has been done to you, what you have done, what you like, what you hate, your dreams, your passions, your emotions, anything you. In writing your butterfly as you need to, I believe you can write yourself into a mentally healthy place and maintain that place. This does not happen overnight, but in steps. 

If you feel you are already in a mentally healthy place- great! Hopefully you can reinforce that place through a regular practice of writing.

I truly believe the production of language, of stories, of any written word can be helpful to a person. This is not about what you write being the most amazing thing you ever write, rather it is a help to you process the world, this life, and your experience. 

Writing about ourselves, of course, can be intense because our lives are intense.

You may already be a writer or you may not have ever written anything that wasn’t required for school back in the day. This writing is different. Your goal with this writing is to deeply honor yourself by writing you and your butterflies on paper.

When we write our stories, we are able to write them as we need to. You can write what you want told, from the perspective you choose. It may include secrets, things no one would have imagined, it may include funny things and sad ones, it may speak truths that no one could have guessed, it may show people who looked like saints as the devils they actually are. 

You might want to get a special notebook for this writing. If you add other writing to it, awesome! Invite your creativity. Always.

Week one we will start off positive, with three exercises that begin to build ourselves up as people and as writers. The first two start as lists. Lists are often good jumping off points as writers.

EXERCISE 1

Orient. When we orient to our surroundings we feel more grounded. To orient is to put yourself where you are. Orienting is a practice I would suggest for everyone to do regularly. All it takes is looking around. Letting your eyes go where they want to go.

Look all around you and see what you see. Look behind you, even if you are sitting with your back against the wall. Look in all directions. Notice colors, shapes. What do you see. Take 4-5 minutes looking all around you. Even if this is a place you know well. Take time to notice where you are.

When we do this, our bodies feel calmer, less anxious, and like they have a sense of where they are located. We are oriented. This is good to do when we feel anxious, but if we do it regularly, we will more easily do it automatically when we are anxious.

Once you have allowed yourself to orient, write about what you saw. List four things you see and their colors.

EXERCISE 2

List five things someone who cares about you would say about you. Write them in the third person. If you write something generic, give an example to go with it. 

Here is an example for myself: 

  1. Liza is creative. She likes to write poems and stories and to doodle in her journal.

I’ll do one more. Hmm. What good things would people say about me? Sometimes it’s hard to think about, but allow yourself to. Only good things. If you don’t believe you have someone who would do that for you, you need a positive caring community around you and after this exercise, you may want to write how you can try to connect with others who will support you in positive ways and who would say good things about you. We all need that.

  • Liza is a good friend. She keeps in touch with her friends and texts and calls them to ask how they are doing. She makes plans to see them and asks about their lives and interests. 

If you need help with ideas, I will list some, but you know you better than anyone, so what do you think others might say about you?

Possibilities:

  • You are a good artist. You draw beautiful pictures.
  • You are a good cook. I love your huevos rancheros and also your lasagna.
  • You are healthy and exercise a lot. You walk and run several times a week.
  • You notice good in people.
  • You care about others. 
  • You are a good listener.
  • You are helpful.
  • You are fun to be with.
  • You are funny without being mean.
  • You are honest.
  • You are a good mother, father, daughter, son, sister, brother, cousin,…
  • You are a hard worker.
  • You have goals….
  • You are a poet.
  • You are a musician.
  • You are neat and clean.

There are thousands of examples, probably for you alone, but which ones most ring true. List five of them.

EXERCISE 3

Part 1: Take ten minutes and put pen to paper without lifting it or pausing and answer the following questions:

What does it mean to you to write? What experience do you have writing? What messages have you been given about writing? Good and bad.

Example- I am going to give an example of my own:

I remember being given a Ramona Quimby Diary when I was eight or ten years old by my mother. I loved it. Beverly Clearly was the author of a book called Ramona Quimby and I loved that book, or at least in memory I did. The diary asked questions and I answered them. It was red and white on the outside with a drawing of the girl Ramona. I wrote my thoughts and opinions in it. That was a good experience writing and it made me want to write more. I also remember having to write as punishment in school. Write an essay about why you did that and say you will not do it again. Or, write: I will not talk in class. I will not talk in class. Over and over again one hundred times. Ugh! What a perfect way to make people not like writing, punish them with it. Luckily, it didn’t work for me and I still like writing even though there were many a ridiculously horrible punishments using writing over the years. 

Part 2: Take a break on the page after this last part and think of someone you care about.

Imagine that person coming to you and saying they want to write.

Write what you would say to them if they said they wanted to write? Would you encourage them? I hope so. If so, how? Why? What would you say?

If you wouldn’t encourage them, why not? 

If you are saying No, you wouldn’t encourage them, but this is a person you care about, please ask yourself why you would have a hard time encouraging them to use their creativity and write about that.

Write what you say to yourself if you do these exercises or when you write? 

If it is negative, can you think of someone who truly cares about you and write about how they would encourage you. Write out a scene with them encouraging you to be creative, to write your butterflies.

WRAPPING UP THIS POST

This week, work on these exercises and in addition, see if you can write 3-4 times (or more) just noticing what is around you. Orienting. If you can do it every day, even better. But just write as many days out of the week as you can. You don’t have to spend a lot of time, just a few minutes even, but write. Ideally, you can gain a daily writing practice. This is part of self care. We’ll talk more about that next week. Enjoy spending time with your creative self. Enjoy your time writing! See you next Monday.

Published by lizawolfffrancis

Liza Wolff-Francis is a poet and writer with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Goddard College who is proud to have served two terms as a member of the Albuquerque Poet Laureate Program’s Selection Committee. She was co-director for the 2014 Austin International Poetry Festival and a member of the 2008 Albuquerque Poetry Slam Team. She has an ekphrastic poem posted in Austin’s Blanton Art Museum by El Anatsui’s sculpture “Seepage” and her work has most recently appeared in Steam Ticket, eMerge, Minute Magazine, Weaving the Terrain: 100 Word Southwestern Poems, Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems, Poetic Routes, Poetry Pacific, Edge, and on various blogs. She has a chapbook out called Language of Crossing (2015, Swimming with Elephant Publications), which is a collection of poems about the Mexico- U.S. border. She loves breakfast food, popcorn and dark chocolate.

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