Before holding my weekly writing group last Friday, whilst doing my morning pages (follow links below for more information about this practice) I found myself exploring my personal understanding of the words routine and rhythm, and the distinctly different ways I respond to these two words.
In brief I wanted to reinstate some daily routines I know serve me well (morning pages among them) but it felt too ‘shouldy’. Cultivating them as part of a natural personal rhythm, on the other hand, felt playful, responsive and a joy.
I often make use of what’s alive in me when preparing these sessions, so we began with a three minute warm up, where I invited participants to write freely in response to the phrase ‘a break in the routine’. There was palpable joy, rebellion, freedom and relief among the responses.
Later, I gave each writer three small pieces of paper, and asked them to write on each one an example of a natural rhythm being broken or interrupted. We folded these up, placing them in the centre of the circle, and then we wrote for three minutes on what it feels like when a natural rhythm is broken or interrupted. This piece was not shared, rather it was intended to feed into the main focus of this prompt – to write a story inspired by one of the examples written on the pieces of paper in the centre.
I was very moved by the powerful narratives that grew from these humble beginnings, the imagination on display was truly impressive. However, for now, I have only my own response to share. When I opened the little piece of paper I’d picked it said ‘a guitarist breaks a string’ (written in just 10 minutes, raw and unedited!)
The silence was like friendly walls, keeping the world out and the drama in. Breath was held and the dancer stood; bold, beautiful, staring out at somewhere or something nobody else could see, except through her. The audience anticipated seeing the story stamped out before them, and waited for the opening line.
The guitarist and the dancer exchanged a nod, and the silence went darker, deeper still. The story began, music and movement joined by the lightest, tightest of threads, each giving the other full freedom and full support. It was a story of love, betrayal, strength; stamped out and strummed out, sending this world within walls spinning.
A guitar string breaks, the sound alters, missing a thread. The dance continues. As the guitar goes silent and still, someone begins to clap, another to sing. The dancer has not missed a beat, and the broken string has spun a larger thread that binds the audience into its own living, breathing musical instrument of many parts. They take their cue from each other, and from the dancer, finding and creating the melody in each magic moment.
Another guitar has been found, and the guitarist picks up the story again, but the audience continue to feed their music into its phrases. The collaboration is fed by all the lives lived, hearts beating together, woven through with their own stories of love and betrayal and strength. The dancer opens her body to let her feet find the rhythm of it all; the rich, full mess of the every life.
A final strum, stamp, clap. The silence is back, like the closing of a book, and each audience member carries a volume away with them, but each story has a different title, and the events within are unique too, bound only by the threads of love, drama and life’s dance.
That afternoon, at home after the session, I searched for local Flamenco classes. Sometimes writing has a very direct impact on my life, and the choices I make and adventures I have…
If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here: