This is the process I use at the beginning of each New Year. While the numbers in the center of the cluster change, the process does not. I wrote of this process two years ago and will sit down this evening to cluster 2015. I learned of clustering from “Writing the Natural Way” by Gabrielle Rico. It is now foundational in both my writing, journaling/dreaming/planning, and, as you experience, feeling centered. I now know to turn to clustering with any writing project, many journal entries, books, any especially situations where I feel overwhelmed and lost. Somehow the path appears.
For many of you this will be the first time you’ve received this piece. For those who received this two years ago, I hope you will have the same experience that I did when I read—a reminder of the deep rhythms and rituals that ground our lives.
As the time of one year draws to a close, and another begins, I hope that some of these ideas will open the paths to your own dreams and deadlines of 2015.
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As my family and I drove back from the ranch after Christmas this year, I thought of the New Year and pulled out my journal and scribbled initial ideas along the spectrum of absolute Must-Dos to Want-to-Creates. As the sun almost sets on this year, and we anticipate the sunrise of the new, many of us are in the midst of thinking, scribbling, planning, and dreaming. I toss these ideas I’ve stumbled upon along the way into our communal notebook. As you enter the near year, perhaps you’ll find something here for the sunrise.
Clustering, journals, and lists are the only way I get through life. (Well, those and running. And, coffee.) They are absolutely essential for my writing, planning, and dreaming. I am a paper and pen, textures person, so all of mine are in this form. If you’re an online person, all of these can be adapted, as I learned this semester from one of my students. I’ve explored, wrestled, and played with almost any format that I came across through the years. I’d say the most important thing that I learned is to just trust your instincts about what works for you. After severals years of exploring and wrestling, I’ve discovered this system—if something so intuitive, circular, and often messy—can be called that, works well for me. I hope you’ll find some things that work for you, too.
Notebooks and my Journals – whether they’re hardback, spiral-bound, lined, or blank pages, what I have found is to be very important is that they be inexpensive! – otherwise I feel the silencing weight that whatever I write must be worthy of such a beautiful journal. It never is and the journals sit unopened on the shelf.
I now stick with inexpensive bound books, lined or unlined. The first thing I do is decorate them with pages from magazines or cards and wide clear tape. Inexpensive and easy – otherwise it’ll never happen in my life. Quotes are often an aspect of the journey. This one reads, “No great thing is created suddenly. There must be time. Give your best and always be kind.” – Epictetus.
Clustering – I first learned about clustering in the book, “Writing the Natural Way” by Gabriele Rico. Ever since I read this book, all of my planning, dreaming, and writing begins with clustering. Start by writing whatever you want to cluster ideas around in the center of the page and draw a circle around it. Then, and the key here is to just go with whatever intuitively comes to you, write whatever comes around those ideas and circle, then whatever is associated around those ideas, and circle. Trust. Be messy. Be wild. Every essay, class or lesson, book, new project, dream, hope begins with this process.
In my experience, the unlinear aspect of this process that works so beautifully at this stage. This is where I seem to tap into ideas that never would’ve come to me had I begun with lists or narrative form.
Lists- Then, come the lists. My journals are full of them. In the morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is push the button to make coffee and sit with my journal by the light of a hurricane lantern. Absolutely and positively no electric lights. I write about whatever comes to mind, and then, inevitably, come the lists. I skim back through previous pages and there are many more lists there. Whatever hasn’t been crossed out, I’ll move forward to the list I’m working on. This is highly interactive. Over the years I’ve realized that if I hadn’t written these things down, they would’ve been lost to the busyness of life. So, half the journal page is writing and the other half is a list.
When I began writing Dewdrops, I started to keep a separate little journal in my purse with me always. Ideas for these pieces seem to come to me at the most inopportune times. I am always in the middle of something else. I’ve learned to grab my journal out of my purse and write a few key words that would be incoherent to anyone else, but instantly plop me back into that thought or idea when I read. I also happen to really, really believe in the quote on the front, “Some people dream of success, while others wake up and work hard at it.” Sometimes I need this little extra reminder at 4:00 am.
A collection of notebooks devoted to a future book “Raven’s Time: Wildness and Beauty,” help me save ideas that would be gone with the wind were they not written down somewhere.
Within these books are ideas, quotes, conversations, emails printed and glued in, images torn from magazines, titles of books, lyrics of songs, and lots of lists to follow-up on.
Sketching ideas and clustering in a 14″ X 17″ sketchbook often expand ideas, where the smaller notebooks sometimes feel as if they confine my thinking. Using the large sketchbook feels like the ideas grow. Often, using different media opens up ideas. In addition to the clusters in the sketchbook are some pieces with pastels and paper.
When I started the cluster around 2013, I had hazy (and often overwhelming) ideas about all of the deadlines and dreams going into 2013 – the proposal for the online Raven’s Time class, Women Writing the West Catalog responsibilities, application for the Ellen Meloy Desert Writers Fund, new fiction writing class course details, Writing Workshops on the ranch, outlines for Dewdrops, et. al. Through the clustering and resulting lists, the ground feels firmer under my feet. A much better feeling to start the new year – and each new day and project.
Kenna Rojdnan, puts together a Creation Box at the beginning of each new year. She writes, “This is my creation box. I’ve had it for many years. It holds all of my wishes for me. I simply lift the lid to the swirling, whirling Universe that’s inside and place a picture or a written description of my wish into the vortex of the Creative Force, then I forget about it. (I’ve got a pretty good imagination, so the inside of the box really does whirl and swirl for me.) Each year, I open the lid and pull out each piece of paper or picture to see what I have manifested that year. I am always amazed at how many things I’ve actually been able to create. I take the ones I’ve created out of the box, placing the all the others back in, and I do a gratitude ceremony for the ones I’ve received. Some are small wishes, some big, but each one is honored equally. This is a great idea to begin your new year with. It works beautifully for me!”
About organization – Never mistake me for one of those fastidiously organized people. Surely, nobody who lives with me or knows me will. When I walk into acutely neat houses, I always wonder if there is some eccentric aunt locked in the attic. My journals and books are piled all over the house, where ever I was last sitting or reading. And, I do love organization. My friend, Loran, introduced me to this wonderful organizational website recently: abowlfulloflemons.net. I will never, ever pull this off and bow to those who do. I do love the ideas for organizing the home office and planners. I’m going to incorporate some of these ideas into my own desk and planner. The colors and textures alone are worth it!
If you’re thinking about what you’d like to create in 2014, some possible ideas:
• Play with notebooks and journals in whatever form.
• Cluster around 2015 or around specific dreams/projects.
• Create the lists that compose what it will take to bring these aspects to life.
• Play with lists in notebooks the morning. Sit with a notebook and scribble ideas as they come. Often, they take a little while to emerge. sit and enjoy the candlelight and coffee/tea. Listen.
• Compose a Creation Box
I sit with a cup of Christmas Tea, my notebooks and journals spread out everywhere. There is something deeply, deeply comforting about this. Grounding.
Here’s wishing you a 2015 full of dreams, love, and wonder! Let’s create beauty and kindness in the world.
This is the process I use at the beginning of each New Year. While the numbers in the center of the cluster change, the process does not. I wrote of this process last year and will sit down this evening to cluster 2014. I learned of clustering from “Writing the Natural Way” by Gabrielle Rico. It is now foundational in both my writing, journaling/dreaming/planning, and, as you experience, feeling centered. I now know to turn to clustering with any writing project, many journal entries, books, any especially situations where I feel overwhelmed and lost. Somehow the path appears.
For many of you this will be the first time you’ve received this piece. For those who received this last year, I hope you will have the same experience that I did when I read—a reminder of the deep…
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