The bright heat of yesterday has been replaced by sullen humidity, and now dull rain. My neighbours rush to get in laundry from the line (because here, yes, we dry clothes outside, on the vintage-ish “washing green”). I hope there will be sunshine for their trip south in a week’s time, when the Scottish schools break up for six weeks’ holiday.

Ironic that the rain starts when I was just devising a writing playsheet on the theme of festivals. Perhaps invoking: outdoor music festivals of much mud; festivals of carols (at a different Solstice, a half-year past); food festivals of flame and flavour; the Festival of Britain in 1951, reprised at the Millennium to a mixed reception…

Let’s hope for a better reception for writing our way whole, my writing-for-well-being workshops (playgroups?). Over four years of maturation around Cambridge, they’ve ripened for sharing in Sutherland.

When people hear that I am a writer, they ask me “so what do you write?” I might reply: (decades of) journallings; poems, essays, and life-tributes some published; to-do-lists (and to-woo-lusts); love-lettering (and not hate-mailing); mate-hailing and one-better-ing. Appreciations and gratitudes. Doggerel (and sometimes catterel), limericks; entries for The Dictionary of Mummish, The Encyclopedia of Worts; and worse. Oh and once – as K E Labrum – I wrote a large PhD dissertation that rejoiced under the name of: Investigations into the genetical control and development of resistance to yellow rust in wheat.

Perhaps I would find it easier to answer “Where do you write?”

And that’s an exercise you can try too, answering that question

Where do you write?

before you read what I have listed here:

…in exercise books, in long-hand, in bed; on my lamp-melted laptop (whoops) out of bed; in my A4 or A5 thoughtbooks; on backs of envelopes; under trees (but not in thunderstorms); on the bus – never on bicycles; in “blank-for-your-own-message” cards; in condensation on winter windows; at the breakfast-room table; on a few – not all – online petitions; in front of a large cappuccino-with-no-sprinkles; in the company of a small ebony elephant; on train journeys; on receipts; on purpose; without any purpose; on Saturdays; on rainy days and scorchy days and (rather rarely ) all night long.

et tu, Brute?

My writing practice has been inspired by the teachings of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way (1992); Natalie Goldberg’s Writing down the bones (1986) and Wild mind: living the writer’s life (1990); and Writing your way by Manjusvara (2002), Windhorse Publications, and I delight in their legacy.

I am also inspired and warmed by the output of my students and writing companions, some of which they have agreed to share – with me, sometimes in groups, and soon perhaps with you. (We like to get permission before sharing others’ work*.)

If you want a further flavour of some writing exercises, here are links:

https://writingpresence.com/2017/12/16/writing-presents/

https://writingpresence.com/2018/04/19/what-i-will-leave-behind-me/

Enjoy! Remember, you can leave a Like or a Comment when you Follow writing presence.

*Although writing our way whole is often therapeutic, we are not qualified as therapists. We expect members to be responsible for their own wellbeing. We undertake to support each other, in all writing our way whole groups, and to treat one another’s spoken or written output with respect and kindness. This includes not sharing confidences beyond that circle.

The following are extracts from the Facebook Closed Group ‘Writing Our Way Whole’

Kathy McVittie has written since she was five – stories, poems, essays, letters – and has journalled in “thoughtbooks” since the 1980s. She has facilitated creative groups since 2000, sometimes within a therapeutic setting.

Free-form writing – whether through journallng, guided exercises, or back-of-an-envelope lists – can help us to express our passing whims, our appreciation of the rich tapestry of life, our deepest heartfulness. Although Kathy is not a trained therapist, the practice can also help us to let go of what has burdened us.

We meet in small groups or one-to-one in community spaces, with home-visits available for older people. Prices start at £10 per person for a two-hour group session, with reduced rates available on request.

And here is a more recent writing exercise, prompted by a picture and a word:†

Word game for today – what words can you make out of the letters of this evocative word ‘psithurism’?

(Yes, even That Four-Letter Word.)

Try it now. If you get stuck there is a selection below **. Good on you, if you have found some of these, or further words, or none at all (not everyone can do this type of puzzle, even writers).

Sit and write in your journal for 5 or 10 minutes, using as many or as few of the found words as you like.

  • Feel free to write whatever comes out.
  • Keep the pencil moving, even if you put the same word over and over again.
  • Don’t edit, even if you miss word out or make mist-ache.
  • Sign and date your word-spit when your time is up (carrying on is allowed too)

You have now done your first piece of ‘writing our way whole’ – congratulations! And you have used over half of out “rules” (which aren’t rules anyway).

Feel free to share it, in the comments, or with yourself only. Just make sure you sign and date it, and keep it.

And no commenting on, nor explaining, nor justifying nor excusing your work at this stage. It is what it is.

Here are some words from the ten letters (h i i m p r s s t u) of psithurism

** pits imp rim sit mist piss stir him is push smut prim rump mush sum humps sup thump put us phut its muir

This exercise copyright Kathy McVittie 14 July 2019