Dancing With Skeletons

“One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–”
Mary Oliver, The Journey.

When I decided that I did want to write I took a Creative Writing Course at the university here in Wellington.  Looking back all those years, I wonder how it was that I didn’t recognise that I had always been writing.  My many notebooks attested to this fact but yet, I didn’t think of myself as being a writer.

So to the Creative Writing Course.  One task we were given early in the course was to “Write about your skeletons”.  We were told we all had them and if we could put them onto paper it would be a good place to start.  We were required to write them down, not type them into the computer.  The tutor reiterated the “known fact”  (well accepted fact) that transferring the words from your mind, through your hand to the page gave them power.

Note – Research has shown that hand-writing stimulates a bunch of cells at the base of the brain called the reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS acts as a filter for everything your brain needs to process, giving more importance to the stuff that you’re actively focusing on at the moment—the physical act of writing brings it to the forefront.  Author Henriette Anne Klauser who wrote Write It Down, Make It Happen, says that “Writing triggers the RAS, which in turn sends a signal to the cerebral cortex: ‘Wake up! Pay attention! Don’t miss this detail!’


Free Clipart

For me at least, this skeleton thing was something that I didn’t want to write about.  And then the thought of reading my words  out loud to others in the group  (and yes this was a requisite that we read our pieces to the others) made my skin cringe and my fingers curl.  But guess what, in putting this down on paper it lost a lot of its power over me.  It wasn’t a huge skeleton just something that I omitted to do when I was much younger, but it had ‘haunted’ me ever since.

In writing this  I was required to analyse what the problem was, how I felt about it and also what I could have done differently in that situation.  Written down I saw it for what it was,  simply a blip in the long road I have travelled.

This task has stood me in good stead over the years when I have been honing my ‘skill’ as a writer.  I now write every day as we all know that we must practice and practice whatever we want to be good at.  Remember Beethoven, Einstein, Edison, Colonel Sanders, Clint Eastwood and the Wright Brothers all worked at their craft regularly to perfect it.

So I shall continue to write.  Whether for my eyes only or in the hope that others may appreciate what I have written.  And when the words flow freely as they sometimes do I shall recall these lines but I don’t know where they came from.  Can anybody help please. **

And now
As the water cascades and tumbles
over the rocks in it’s rush
down to join the river
so my thoughts tumble around my brain
looking for an outlet
or a safe place to stop.

** Since writing this blog I have discovered these lines written in amongst my attempts at writing poetry and so unless anyone can tell me otherwise, I shall recognise this as my own words.



32 responses to “Dancing With Skeletons

  1. With a title like yours … I had to follow and read your site : )
    “I choose how I will spend the rest of my life” love it!!


  2. I googled the second line “As the water cascades and tumbles
    over the rocks” to see what came up … You did ! in your post “Oh for an original thought” on 23rd November 2011. 😀


  3. Interesting exercise in writing about skeletons. Writing about them is hard enough, but talking about them? I don’t know…I might have dropped the class at that point 🙂


    • Yes I saw that in an earlier post and don’t know where it came from. Maybe I did write it as I usually identify the writer. So maybe I am cleverer than I thought. Thanks for the comment. 🙂


    • Hi Janna. Writing about m,y skeleton was quite liberating but I felt a little foolish standing up in class and reading it out loud. Strangely the class members became more together after that exercise.


  4. What an interesting post Judith.
    I had no idea of the importance of writing.
    My problem is,since I became addicted to my computer,I can no longer READ my writing!


  5. Writing like this an important part in many therapy protocols and seems to have that liberating effect you describe. I tried it. I felt worse.


    • Well what effect we have from various protocols is very individual. I found that writing out the anger and grief after my husband died certainly helped me. Sorry it didn’t have the same liberating effect for you.


  6. Beautifully written Judith and you surely don’t need practice. The words just flow.


  7. I agree with the connection between writing things down. I am training a group of younger workers in my office and NONE of them do that until I insist. They think I am old, they think I am nuts, they roll their eyes. But now they write things down and the tasks get done.

    Writing every day does help. But now I use a computer because then I can just hit delete when the words aren’t as clever as I think I am :).


    • I rarely write with pen/pencil now, unless I am out and then it goes into my notebook. But as you, I find the computer so much easier. And those younger people in your office will thank you in years to come when they realise the important lesson you have taught them.


  8. You must be doing something right, Judith. 🙂


  9. Judith – the Six Word Saturday link is not working. Do you know how to fix it? I posted about creating those over in my resource blog at http://dogear6.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/adding-a-widget-to-your-sidebar/. You just need to add in the URL and be sure to save.

    If you have trouble with it, let me know. The problem is that Show My Face says if the link isn’t there, you’re removed from the list.


    P.S. I also love Henriette Klauser books. And they work too!


  10. You could teach a creative writing course instead of taking one!


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  12. Brilliance, Judith! I absolutely love this post!!!


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  14. Wonderful post, Judith. I was tickled to see my initials in it. (RAS)

    I just started a daily writing practice the first of this year, one with writing topics/prompts. Like you, writing is something I’ve always done, but I never thought of myself as a writer. It’s been a short time (only 10 days), but the daily practice has been a mind-opener for me, especially those topics I find difficult. I got so frustrated with one, thinking I don’t have the imagination for it, that I ended up turning the frustration into the very subject (the color of tears) mentioned in the prompt.


  15. Hi Robin. Good for you to start the daily writing practice. After a while it gets that you can’t go through the day without doing it. My daily practice is prompted by Judy Reeves – who is yours by?


    • Oh, me too, Judith! I’m using her Writer’s Book of Days. I’ve been dipping in for prompts, though, instead of following them day by day on the date. (Hope that makes sense.) Some days I have prompts of my own and just go with the flow. I don’t want to skip the topics so I’m not worrying about whether or not I use it on the correct date. Today it was “On the horizon” and I wrote for a long time, completely missing the timer.


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