Poetry Dowsing Self-Care Writing Course: A path to your creative well
If you’re a poet in need of a bit of renewal, self-care and inspiration then “Poetry Dowsing” may be just what you need to jump start your new year!
What is Dowsing?
St. Winefride’s Well sits nestled in the small town where I live, a little place affectionately billed as “The Lourdes of Wales”. For over 1300 years pilgrims have traveled to the waters that are said to be the source of miraculous cures. This town also lies just to the west side of the Dee Estuary, which I can see from my window as I write this article. If I lean out my window just a bit, I can see it emptying into the Irish Sea. Water speaks to me, it connects me. Water is an essential element in sustaining life. It is magical in its most basic form, bringing sustenance that cannot be replicated by any other human creation.
Dowsing is a type of divination employed in helping to find groundwater. It involves the use of a Y-shaped tool, which a dowser would hold as they walk over terrain. If the tool dipped toward the ground, the dowser would find water. Religious critics in the 16th century considered this a form of witchcraft, however it was widely practiced as people continued to seek out this important Earth element for survival.
What is “Poetry Dowsing”?
Sometimes writers experience a tremendous force of creative energy, if you were part of our Chapbook Challenge at Mookychick, you likely experienced some of that during the month of November when we challenged each other to write 30 poems devoted to chapbook manuscripts. But, creativity can be a fickle friend. Just as tides ebb and flow in nature, so too does our inspiration and ability to write at times.
I experienced my own writing drought for nearly ten years. A vast desert of uninspired depression stretched before me with no end. I struggled through that landscape and felt lucky to find a few resources along the way that offered me a bit of life support. Even as I began to discover creative streams again within myself, they weren’t related to writing. I was painting, sketching, playing music and reading books. I thought writing might be lost to me.
In fact, I ended up becoming a poet, which was the most unexpected surprise. I did this by looking for and ‘dowsing’ for my creative waters. To dowse for poetry is to unearth and discover the poetry beneath your surface, waiting for sustenance. To dowse for poetry is to find your creative well and begin to fill it with self-care and inspiration in mind.
How do I get started?
Poetry Dowsing is a 12 week program intended to help you uncover and begin to fill your creative well. For this program we will be using Julia Cameron’s book, Finding Water. You do NOT need this book to engage in our modified program, but I do recommend it if you are able to borrow or purchase it. I will be choosing one exercise each week and sharing it (and my own results) on Twitter. I hope that you’ll join me and share pieces of your journey, too!
It is important to note that this text also discusses spirituality as a part of the creative process. Though Cameron references “God” in the book she also says, “Some of us will call that [benevolent] force “God.” Others will call it “the Universe,” “the Higher Power,” “Spirit,” “the Tao,” “the Force,” or even, “the Muse.” It does not matter what we call it. What does matter is that we experience it…”
This journey is yours and should be tailored to your own belief system, please keep that in mind when you read the exercises or refer to the book.
Basic Tools You’ll Need:
In addition to the single exercise each week, there are three basic tools that Cameron recommends using every day during the 12 weeks. I have made slight modifications to allow for a more inclusive experience:
- Morning Pages- These are three pages of hand written stream of consciousness writings. They are to be done first thing in the morning and used as a brain dump, a way to untangle thoughts. No one will ever read them, in fact, it’s not even recommended that you read them until the end of the 12 weeks. These are truly private pages. My modifications are as follows:
- If you are not able to do handwritten work, use a document on your computer or even record your thoughts by voice.
- Most people say that 3 pages takes them 30-45 minutes, if you are unable to do that, aim for 15 minutes OR 3 pages. Consistency is key.
- Not a morning person? Don’t let that stop you. Let your thoughts go, put them down on the page.
- Artist Dates- Engage in an outing just for you, alone, once a week. They do not have to be expensive or complicated. They do not have to be ‘arty’. Take yourself somewhere and engage with your surroundings. I have done artist dates in places like museums, and also have poked around antique shops (not buying a thing!) and looked at things I love like coloured glass bottles, old postcards, photographs, etc.
- Not able to get out or have transportation? Take a virtual artist date online, many museums and historic sites have online versions of their galleries. Additionally, you can travel all kinds of places through documentaries that stream on devices. The key is to do something that feels like a treat. You want to trigger your mindset for exploration and curiosity.
- Walks- Walking allows us to interact with the world in a different way. Walk anywhere you’d like for 20 minutes to an hour, once a week. The key is to do it solo when possible and to use it as a time of reflection. Look around you as you walk and engage your senses. This is just one way to fill your artistic well.
- Unable to walk or go anywhere? Consider doing guided meditation, whether indoors or out. There are many free resources available online through YouTube. You can choose from a variety of guided places to go and you won’t even have to worry about the weather! The important thing is to get your mind moving and change your environment.
Important Things to Remember
- This process centers on recovery and self care in regard to your creative self. Be gentle!
- If any of the exercises presented are uncomfortable or triggering for you, do not engage with them.
- Make adjustments as needed, you know yourself best and your positive mental health is paramount.
- Though we participate through a community, everyone’s growth and experience is different. This is not a competition.
- No one is perfect, you may miss a day of morning pages. You might ditch your walk one week. This is OK! Keep pushing through and give yourself a break where needed.
- Many of the exercises may not be directly related to writing, keep in mind that searching for and finding your creative well of can lead to many forms of inspiration that will inform your writing, don’t give up!
How to Participate in our Creative Collective
- In order for me to see, follow and retweet your involvement, we’ll be using the tag: #PoetryDowsing. Make sure to use it on your posts!
- Attempt to use the basic tools listed above each day during the 12 weeks. Modify where necessary!
- Share excerpts of creative work, photos of where you went on your artist date, ideas for how you are engaging with your creative path– whatever you’re comfortable with. Chances are, you’ll inspire someone else.
- I’ll be posting the weekly exercise, inspirational quotes and sharing my own journey (yes, I’m doing this with you!) on my Twitter account @j_vandermolen
- If you’re motivated and you want to head up a Poetry Dowsing group on other social media channels, be my guest! The more Mooks, the merrier!
I’m going to be right here, alongside you on this journey and I can’t wait to see what we discover. Stay tuned on Twitter for the “role call” thread. Respond that you’re doing the program I will add you to my list so I can watch your feed and help support you. Take a breather during the month of December, enjoy the last month of the year and reflect on all the positive things you’ve done.
Poetry Dowsing starts 6 January 2020 and will run until 27 March 2020.