When I first started looking around at possible genres by which to tell my story about Alfie and Andrew in the novel The Will, I enrolled in a mentorship with Saskatoon poet Katherine Lawrence. At the time, I thought I was leaning toward creative nonfiction. By then, I had accumulated a lot of researched facts and artifacts on which to base the story, so the nonfiction part wasn’t the problem. It was the creative part I stumbled on. It stumped me as to how to weave those pieces of information into something beautiful and compelling. I remember telling Katherine that I wanted to write this story as a meaningful and artful whole. But all of the information that I’d collected just stretched and yawned and kept wanting to go back to sleep, lay there in a lump.
It was then that Katherine nudged me in the direction of poetry. At any other time, I would have preferred to watch paint dry but because of Katherine, I began to see poetry as a way of unlocking the creativity that I sought and then transferring it to prose. It was also during my mentorship with Katherine that I began to pay more attention to Annie’s copy of Narrative and Lyric Poems which I’d found in my great grandmother’s trunk. The book of poetry which had once belonged to my grand aunt ultimately became an integral part of the narrative.
Katherine also asked me if there was a way that I might be able to connect my riding to my writing. Did one complement the other? I realized after I got home from our meeting that day that there was. They did. I realized that riding, as in writing poetry or any type of creative writing, is best done with little “thinking.” I see that my best writing is done as with my riding, with “soft eyes”. This is a term used in riding which means not to look too sharply. Eva Tirstrup wrote an article entitled “Soft Eyes: More than a tool – A state of mind and body!” in the publication Centred Riding, that explains this much better than I think I can: “When you direct your soft eyes inward, you can start to feel. You can feel your own body and the movements of your horse, and how that energy moves through you. This opens your mind to the idea of softness. Through your soft eyes, you can access the tools you need to work with, and understand how the connection between your mind/body and your horse should feel.” While seeing the world through soft eyes and letting go of my inhibitions, I become a better rider. Similarly, by accessing such tools, giving voice to the subconscious and allowing intuition to rule, I became a better writer.
Katherine also became my ‘eyes on the ground.’ This is also a term used in riding where someone there in the arena with you isn’t necessarily there to give you instruction but guidance, instead, to be there as you feel your way through the ride. Just as I strove to become a better rider, Katherine was there as my eyes on the ground to help me become a better writer and feel my way through to the story I wanted and needed to write, The Will.
Thanks for reading. You may also enjoy my last post on how our childhood homes shape us and the ways we return to them, “Nests.”