Reflections on Sense Writing's One-on-One Training

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The Key to Unlocking the Story Inside of Me

Jenna Maio is an attorney. As an undergraduate, she majored in Creative Writing. Here she writes about what makes Sense Writing different.

Jenna Maio is an attorney. As an undergraduate, she majored in Creative Writing.

Here she writes about what makes Sense Writing different.

What if I told you that I learned more about creative writing in an eight-week one-on-one program than in four years at a top university for creative writing?

As an English and Creative Writing major, I was used to an environment of teacher as authority with the emphasis on the writing product. Process was hardly discussed in a real, practical way. Instead, the professors taught their concepts of what good writing was and it was our job to get there. These "Frankensteins" sought strict conformity to certain writing styles and principles. With high expectations and little practical guidance, I would sit at my desk filled with anxiety. Writing was something I had to fight my way through. As a result, I soon found myself taking classes with professors at the opposite extreme, "Total Free Children," for whom almost anything went.  But these classes still didn't provide the process-oriented instruction I needed and the prospect of "anything goes" left me feeling overwhelmed with creative decisions. 

Madelyn Kent's Sense Writing program is a dramatic departure from the frustrating paradigm I experienced in university. Her refreshing, holistic technique is largely influenced by Somatic Education, especially the Feldenkrais Method, and focuses on the process of writing. 

At the beginning of my one-on-one weekly Skype sessions with Madelyn, I sat in my chair with my eyes closed. She instructed me to focus on my breath, but this wasn't just any other meditation. Rather, Madelyn directed my focus to different parts of my body and how I imagined the spatial relation between them. Through "bodymapping," and other light physical sequences, I provided simple information to my nervous system. When I opened my eyes and began my first writing exercise a few minutes later, I felt calm, focused, and alert. After years of struggling in my writing, I experienced a flow of writing that was fun, easy, and true to my voice. 

Through bodymapping and light physical sequences, Madelyn showed me how the nervous system is adaptable and can be taught and re-taught to work for us. Instead of ignoring it and fighting it in an attempt to write, we should acknowledge and engage it. Similarly, rather than "letting go" of my thoughts and feelings, Madelyn's exercises enabled me to harness my ability to think, feel, and make judgments while reducing cognitive noise. In other words, she enabled me to let go of my mind to use my mind.

Madelyn's physical exercises provided the foundation for the writing exercises. By beginning with physical sequences, Madelyn had me start in a pre-language place and linger there, developing a sensual, kinesthetic dialogue with myself that was more articulate (without words). As a result, when the writing began, it was a process that came through a deep intimate connection with myself. 

Through Madelyn's writing exercises, I acquired a whole new toolbox of writing approaches, which increased my confidence as a writer and subsequently reduced my writing anxiety. Suddenly, I didn't have to choose between strict conformity to creative principles and no creative framework at all.  Rather, I was given the tools to be able to make real, personal creative decisions. 

In between Skype meetings, Madelyn provided me with recordings that led me through various sequences that included bodymapping and other physical and writing exercises- each integrated yet connected. These sequences helped me to engage my whole self to reduce cognitive noise and then trick myself into new creative habits. Afterwards, she had me post my reflections for her review. Madelyn empowers the student to learn on his own through gentle guidance, curiosity, playfulness, and awareness. The creative techniques and principles she teaches weren't merely explained; rather, I was able to experience them myself through personalized sequences which embodied them. In this way, Madelyn helped me to unlearn my bad writing habits and enjoy a richer creative process of discovery.

The methodology might sound a bit elusive, and in some ways, it is. But part of Sense Writing is that we should make our own connections in learning. I found myself making several interesting and deep connections between the physical work we did and the creative work. By the end of the sessions, I felt that I had really integrated the Sense Writing principles into my writing practice. Yet weeks later I find myself making new connections and achieving new levels of understanding. Madelyn's one-on-one course provided the foundation that sparked my own independent process of discovery.

Through Sense Writing one-on-one, I achieved many things: I felt more comfortable as a writer, developed my voice, learned how to approach writing through various techniques and angles, redefined the concept of rewriting, and learned how to let go of my mind while using my mind. More broadly, I learned how to actually learn.  Paradoxically, by simply doing the work with her, but not trying to perform well - a central Sense Writing principle - I found myself enjoying writing and more pleased with my writing products than ever before. I used to approach writing for class feeling anxious and with a tense body; now I look forward to writing with a calm body and a focused mind. 

In a subtle yet profound way, Sense Writing has exposed me to the most deeply transformational writing principles and creative experiences that I have ever known. Working with Madelyn has proved to be an invaluable experience for both my writing career and life.