Most of my writing is automatic writing. To me that’s what journaling is about. Even when I’m writing for a book (with the exception of the Latino Writers and Journalist book, which wrung out my brain like a wet broom skirt), I write without thinking too much. I set a goal then I write under that topic. I was recently told that it would be good for me to write out all the things that are frustrating and annoying me. I was not to check for punctuation or spelling. Fine. I could handle that - don’t really care for grammar and I’m usually a good speller. I was not to edit. Even better, not fond of critiques lately. I would then destroy the paper, tear it, burn it.
Been then done that, have the t-shirt. I can’t count how many bowl burnings I’ve done under the full moon, new moon, eclipsed moon, whatever. I didn’t really see how this was going to help some of the anxiety I was feeling. This process hadn’t ever done me that much good before. Though I heard it would, which is why I have tried it many times and even suggest it to others. It had usually served the purpose of making clear what I was irritated about, but beyond that, I only felt the slimmest change in attitude, sometimes I’d be angrier than before. Then my friend Dana pointed out that I was also not to reread what I wrote.
Huh? I always reread my angry letters (the ones that I write to people but don’t send out) or diary entries in which I explicitly review all the reasons I’m right and they’re wrong or how I’ve been treated unfairly by life or another person. “No,” she said. “When you reread the letter, it’s like you’re taking all that information back in to your body, mind, and soul.” I got the image of eating vomit, because pretty much that’s what it’s like. Oh. Well, maybe I’ll try that. Not reading that is.
Later that night my boys wanted to light a fire and sit by it and read. After they went to bed, the fire refused to go out, even after I turned down the gas. Then I remembered I was supposed to do my automatic writing. I turned off the lights, which made it seem more magical and wrote by the light of the fire. It was weird not reading what I wrote. I usually want to make sure I got those feelings down just right. I realized that whereas I might not be critiquing the grammar I had, in the past, critiqued the content.
At first I tried to make sure I was writing within the lines of my paper. Then the fire dimmed and I could no longer see the lines or the words. I wasn’t supposed to read it at all - to not even be tempted. I kept writing, over what I had written, under it, in the margins, diagonally, it didn’t matter. I repeated sentences that had a lot of power and set off all kinds of buttons and reactions within me. I wrote until I was empty. Then I crumpled up the piece of paper and threw it into the fire. As I watched the paper burn and shrivel, I very firmly said, “What will be no more.”
I can’t remember most of what I wrote, except for one powerful sentence; the rest is lost to oblivion. It is no longer part of me. I can’t regurgitate what I released. Later I’ll take those ashes and give them to my rose bushes. I like to see something ugly turn into something beautiful.
One of my favorite sayings comes from The Course in Miracles, "The holiest of all spots on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love."