For many many years, I’ve been fortunate enough to practice something called Wild Writing with Laurie Wagner. Each Friday morning when we’re in session I pack up my notebook and drive to Lauri’s house where myself and a cohort of other women gather around her dining room table and spend two hours in practice.
I wish every woman in every community had a regular Wild Writing group. It feeds such a potent mix of hungers. The hunger for connection, for truth, for hearing your own voice, for laughter, for space and slowing down, for time away from screens, for emotional release, for permission to be imperfect, for inspiration and new discovery. For me, it’s often been a powerful support to my mental health. I could go on and on.
For a long time I felt the call to lead my own group of this practice with my own spin and so last year I finally did.
I called it Sift: a writing practice for being human. Though the subtitle should probably be “a practice for being human together through writing” but that’s a mouthful and well, semantics!
And for six weeks in 2017, myself and a table full of brave women met weekly and let this practice feed us. Then I did it again and again!
I have now run four 6 – 8 weeks sessions of Sift and I’m hosting another 8-session in-person group in a few weeks.
Let’s start with an overview of what Sift is:
This is a practice. Like yoga or painting, it’s about showing up and being willing meet yourself where you are.
This is not for people who want to be better writers (though you can want that too), it’s not for professional writers (though you can be that too), it’s not really about the writing at all. It’s about what the practice helps us access and about doing it together. You need no prior experience to participate. Just a willingness to show up and be honest.
Personally, I practice to tell the truth, to be human with other humans, to hear my stories, to make sense of myself and the world around me, to make space for my contradictions, to find the words, to reveal, to relax, and to be a little messy.
The practice essentially goes like this:
You arrive. Settle in. We do a little warming up and then I read a poem and when I’m done I pick a line or two from the poem for us to use as our writing prompt.
Then we’ll write, unedited, pen to paper, not stopping for 10 to 20 minutes. We don’t try to sound smart. We don’t try to write well. This practice serves to help us get around our perfectionist and performer. This practice helps us tell the truth on the page so we can tell the truth in the rest of our lives.
When the time is up we go around the table (myself included) and read our writing. No feedback is given. We don’t discuss what’s written. We witness each other. Sometimes there is laughter. Sometimes there are tears. There are almost always nodding heads. It’s all welcome. Then we repeat.
If it sounds simple, it is, yet it’s also profound.
If it sounds exhilarating yet also scary. You’re not alone.
If it sounds fun and nourishing, it is!
If Sift calls to you, raise your hand.
What a few past participants had to say…
“Sitting at the table with a group of thoughtful women is my weekly retreat. And I mean that in the most sacred, spacious, nurturing way. Rachel offers a gentle invitation and I get to set aside my to-do lists, relentless perfectionism and over functioning ways to be guided into JUST BEING with words and the wisdom that pours onto the page. For two hours, I don’t need to control anything. I don’t need to be clever. I get to show up and be present to a circle of women who are present to me, too. When the time comes to return to the lists and obligations, I do so with a profound sense of restoration and renewal.”
“I signed up for Sift not knowing what to expect but with the intent to challenge myself (and with a dash of inner-critic fear). Rachel’s outline of the program doesn’t do justice to the experience of being in it. It’s like a weekly meeting with myself, sometimes a time to release and be playful, sometimes a line into something deeper. I enjoy the process, which naturally facilities presence, and it’s been an honor to sit in communion with other women and to hear the stories they choose to share. Perhaps the best thing about Sift is it’s without expectation and judgment, truly. I can flow into and float out of our weekly sessions.”
“I love Sift for bringing together an amazing group of women. The structure is helpful for introverts like me (not a lot of small talks). This group has been incredibly helpful and supportive for helping me process some difficult life events as well as finding my voice. Rachel is offering a beautiful gift to the world!”
How to Participate
Where: My home in Oakland, California near the Oakland Zoo.
Time: 10 am-noon on Wednesdays
Dates: June 27th, July 11th, July 18th, July 25th, August 1st, and August 8th.
Cost: $300, nonrefundable.
I have space for 3 women. Filled on a first-apply basis.
To join: Email me!
I’m not a writer. In fact, I’m a terrible writer, but I feel called to this practice. What should I do?
Let me reiterate that this is not a practice for people who identify as writers or ‘good’ writers, though they are welcome too. This is a practice that uses writing to support us in being more at ease being human and for that, you need no skill or title.
I’m traveling for some of the dates listed, can I still join?
Participants must pay in full but life happens and it’s okay to miss a session or two due to scheduling conflicts.
I have a question you didn’t answer on this page.
Please email me!