Domestication and the Spontaneous Practice of Writing

By Christa Shivley September 14, 2016  |  Uncategorized  |  no responses

As I write this, the sun warms the back of my shoulders and neck. I am sprawled out in a wood lawn chair. My daughters, ages 2 and 7, are squealing from one corner of the yard in excitement over the tracking of a large beetle bug. “Let’s name him Alfonso!” I hear them say. I am sipping a cup of coffee, my third if I’m honest, though I did spill the last bit of the second one while distracted. These moments of wild exploration have been most recently relocated to our yard due in fact to my starting my first year of the MFA program. Our mountain/lake/river/road adventures are beginning to wind down for the season and our time is spoken for by scholastic enterprise.

The sun projects tree/rock/house shaped patterns along the landscape of our domesticated wilderness. A train sounds a block to the east. The preservation of my children’s wildness, their childhood in the form of explorative pursuits, is my ultimate maternal goal. The irony of this is that it comes in the form of a backyard in a suburb. Much the same, I see this with my learning. I desire to learn from experience, but at this time the experience comes in the form of a more formal education. Our wilderness feels domesticated in this way. Seasonal domestication if you will. I have noticed changes in my writing process since parenthood came into play.

Let me explain. My writing habits before I had children were a series of predictable bouts of romanticized and dedicated periods devoted to the art. Morning yoga, meditation, a bottle (or two) of wine, listening to my favorite albums on vinyl, traveling abroad, sitting by the banks of a river, you get the idea. Deliberate. My practice was deliberate in that I set aside time to do nothing but write. Actively writing meant ritual. It meant creating a somewhat superstitious practice or formula that in my mind would create an environment conducive to the creation of art. Writing was a trained experience.

What are my writing habits after kids? I write whenever, wherever, on whatever. I have poems scribbled out on coasters (I work at a bar); ideas jotted down on napkins with crayons or half dried markers (why is it so hard to put the cap back on?), pencil markings on the bathroom wall while I bathe kids. Sporadic. My process is sporadic. Much like patterns of sleep, my writing has become unpredictable and I am grateful when I can get it in. Between working and kids and school and my kid’s school I have realized, that the need for writing is very much the same as the need for sleep. Though it may not happen as often or as long as I want it to, it has to happen at some point throughout each day (sometimes every other day). The deprivation only makes the times when it does happen more efficient, more fruitful, more in depth, more free. Much like parenthood my writing has become an animalistic endeavor. With the taming of certain areas of my life I have seen my writing go feral. Primitive, emotional, sleep deprived, it has taken on a beautiful life of its own, which I look forward to exploring during my first year with the MFA.

Christa Shivley

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