First thing in the morning. In bed or at my desk. After just leaving the dream state. Before the distractions of the day interrupt fresh-brained consciousness. Before turning on the internet, mobile phone, email, “social” media. Before turning on the news… Over the years this has proved my peak productive writing time. Attempting to implement this regimen for at least one day a week I have organised a dedicated writing space, negotiated home-life, juggled paid commitments into afternoon and evening slots – and learnt to thrive on a relative lack of income. At my most prolific, being able to blast out a couple of thousand words a day.
This deliberate, calculated routine is now interrupted: we have kids. Full nights of slumber in our household are thankfully now the norm (following many months of some colic/reflux/still-as-yet-undiagnosed sleep-depriving annoyance) but early morning wake ups, school/nursery drop-offs/pick-ups, and other such parental duties and distractions remain. These are of course necessary, usually a joy, and often provide a poignant reminder of life priorities. But still, I do yearn and hunger for that writing time and head space. A militant restructuring of my days has thus been necessary and I have had to become much more discriminating in accepting commissions and in saying no to opportunities outside of my immediate focus.
I began the year, then, with a needed investment in my creative practice on the Numbi artists retreat in The Gambia. This proved the richly fulfilling and rejuvenating experience I had hoped: an opportunity to collaborate with other artists from the diaspora and on the continent, and to connect with heritage, global family, the land, and people. This valuable connecting, thinking and writing time was also supplemented by workshops and lectures in Kemetic Yoga with master instructor Yirser Ra Hotep bringing original research into the Afrikan and Ancient Egyptian origins of yoga. This proved revelatory in many ways and on many chakra/spiritual levels.
A fourteen-hour road trip to Senegal squashed in the back of a minibus provided further opportunity for meditation and Zen focus, but such trials were always placed into sharp relief when talking with Senegambians about their everyday struggle. The privilege of even being able to travel between the two colonially-carved countries was something many had never experienced and as Lamin (friend, yogi, storyteller, dancer, masseur, juice hut entrepreneur) detailed in one of our Ninki Nanka peanut butter infused midnight beach fire chats: an increasing number of desperate people are attempting to escape the harsh rainy season, making harrowing journeys North and ending in European detention camps. Or worse.
We are all connected to – and variously removed from – the Motherland, and this trip provoked reflection into what has been forgotten, what needs repair, and what we must now re-learn. As we visited Gorée Island “House of Slaves” and one of the Doors of No Return, thoughts of Audre Lorde’s “Litany for Survival” were paramount: “we were never meant to survive”, yet despite the continuing Maangamizi certain energies have allowed us to be here and to re-connect, in this time. Taking a quiet moment to climb inside the “cellule des recalcitrants” impressed how the principles of “yoga”, this ancient Afrikan manipulation of breath and body, must have been a vital tool – alongside rhythm, music – to survive this journey of horror, terror, confinement.
Back in the UK, I joined the hundreds of others who participated in a solidarity fast to help raise awareness of the “morally bankrupt fundamentally offensive prejudiced not fit for purpose rogue” Home Office treatment of women imprisoned in Yarl’s Wood detention centre. Foregoing food for 24 hours in light of their courageous hunger strike and ongoing struggle was again a vivid illustration of the distinct privilege I enjoy, as well as a reminder of the need for these voices to be heard and supported, and the responsibility of how we use our own voices when others are silenced.
As a facilitator on Voices that Shake!, fostering an embodied sense of knowledge and knowledge of our bodies is seen as an integral part of the creative process of writing, art-making, and film. Ubuntu: “I am because we are” as opposed to Descartes’ “I think therefore I am” separation of mind and body. As the Healing Justice London founders often remind: in a world that is hostile to Black and brown bodies we can use yoga to find space in our own body. Jonelle Lewis, a frequent practitioner on Shake!, also emphasises a decolonised radical version of yoga – one that can be done without mats, without sun, anywhere. And so it is with writing, as illustrated by one of the quotes compiled for a recent workshop on Writing and Repair:
Forget the room of one’s own–write in the kitchen, lock yourself up in the bathroom. Write on the bus or the welfare line, on the job or during meals, between sleeping and waking… while sitting on the john.
– Gloria E. Anzaldúa.
A class and race perspective to Virginia Woolf’s “A Room Of One’s Own” is also offered by Alice Walker in the example of Phillis Wheatley – people have indeed written in, and under, all conditions of duress and I am reminded of many prison memoirs as well as Jean-Dominique Bauby’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”.
Jackee Holder’s recent workshop at the Inscribe gathering brought yet another refresher of the value of “morning pages” and how liminal time (the magical period between dawn and break of day) has throughout cultures been valued as conducive to writing. The Ancient Egyptians in their kneeling scribe yoga poses would, I’m sure, agree.
I have left myself little room… for excuses. I feel Jacob Ross’s urgency and recognise Nana Essi Casely-Hayford’s desire to re-capture and tap into ancient wisdoms. The unseasonal March snow is melted. The clocks have gone forward. The days are lighter. Spring is coming. Tomorrow is the perfect time to wake up early and write. To begin a daily Kemetic Yoga practice. And if the children are up, they can join in too.
Original blog post written for Inscribe: http://www.peepaltreepress.com/blog/inscribe/time-write-making-room-moving-body