Writing Wild: Forming a Creative Partnership with Nature
by Tina Welling

New World Library, 2014. ISBN 978-1-608-68286-7.
Reviewed by Mary Ann Moore
Posted on 06/07/2014

Nonfiction: Creative Life; Nonfiction: Nature/Place/Environment

Tina Welling wrote for many years before declaring to herself and to her family that she was giving writing a prominent place in her life. She had once been "an indecisive, dependent woman who leaned excessively on her husband." It was the process of writing that "continually threw me back into myself, because only I could decide what to write."

The process of writing is important to Welling, much more so than publication. To find recognition, exchange and acceptance, though, Welling knows writers need to take writing from the private to the public realm. That can be done by attending workshops, conferences, open-mike readings, and by forming one's own writing group.

I'm sure readers will relate to Welling's journey and the courage it takes to make writing a priority. I definitely did.

The author's three-step process, called a Spirit Walk, was inspired by Penney Pierce's The Intuitive Way. Instinct, emotion and language—all part of a mental pathway—became the three-part formula of the Spirit Walk that Welling describes: naming, describing, interacting.

First, you name the information your senses bring you from the natural world. "Our five senses are our doorways into a fuller experience of our bodies, our writing, and our planet," Welling writes.

Second, detail one thing in the outdoors with which to create a relationship.

Third, interact with your outdoor surroundings to allow your awareness of nature and your presence in it to bring your emotions into consciousness. Write down the responses that occur in your body. Allow your memories, hopes, fears, and dreams to arise. According to the author, "In this alerted, awakened state, our stories rise from the unconscious to the conscious. These stories are used for our creative writing or for our personal healing."

I felt as if this is a process we may intuitively follow but haven't articulated. Welling believes the three-step process of a Spirit Walk carries us into "an awakening of self and place." She proposes writing what we want to know. "That draws us into following our curiosity. Creative people need nature, a relationship with wildness. The link between the creative mind and nature is the body." Later, she writes about linking creativity to the four elements. "Our bodies are our link to the earth. Our senses are our power lines."

While Welling's lessons are from the natural world, they are also from her own experience. I want to make up a deck of inspirational cards for myself with phrases like: "Writers and artists perform the duties that a wise woman or medicine man does in aboriginal societies. It is our job to be 'first aware,' to interpret, make connections, detect patterns, and notify the others."

Welling has learned to simplify in order to make time for her writing. She's also learned to lower her standards. (That's advice from poet William Stafford, who stayed in the creative flow by lowering expectations.) She dresses simply, freezes batches of food for future meals when she's deep into her writing, and cuts back on social obligations. She remembers that she doesn't have to be everything to everybody and advises, "We just need to be somebody to ourselves."

The journey Tina Welling has been undertaking and encourages others to take is based in the body and rooted in nature. Beyond observation and recording of "scene and activity," creative writers can "create a brand-new event out of it with our experience and our use of language. This is the process of a Spirit Walk. This is writing wild."

Writing Wild is a book to read over and over again. Wise and down-to-earth, literally.

Tina Welling is the author of Cowboys Never Cry and two other novels. Her nonfiction has appeared in Shambhala Sun, Body & Soul, and a variety of anthologies. She lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Visit her website.

(See another review of this book, here)

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