Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

WRITING UPSIDE DOWN

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Non-writers are often curious about the creative process. “How can you spend all day writing?” they ask incredulously, as though it’s akin to sleeping on a bed of nails or standing naked in the rain for hours. Others want to know how I prepare for my day’s work. I tell them: by standing on my head.

Their smiles say they think I’m joking. I’m not. I start my writing day upside down. While a writer’s hands are important, the head is our main instrument. I do headstands each morning to get the blood flowing. For slumberous types like me, it’s a great waker-upper. Better than coffee. I follow with a bit of yoga to get in touch with my body. I need to know it’s awake, alert, and in a mood to serve me. It has to be, if I’m going to make it sit around in a dark corner all day while I try to produce the ineffable.

Then, because creation is a spiritual act, I make my oblations to the Four Directions. (You know, the usual ones—North, South, East and West.) South is for courage. (What writer doesn’t need courage to keep on writing in the face of adversity and constant obstacles to success?) East is for wisdom. (Who doesn’t need that?) North is for beauty and grace. (Of which we can’t get enough.) West is for virility. (Keeps us strong.) Once I’m done, I feel centred and grounded and ready to begin.

In Chiapas last year, I climbed to the top of the acropolis at some Mayan ruins in a place called Toniná. I was expecting to find silence and solitude, possibly a place to meditate. Instead, I came across a Shaman conducting a native ceremony very much like the one I do every morning. Small world! He invited the half-dozen of us up there to join in his chant in a regional Mayan language, helping conjure the spirits of the Four Directions. I didn’t write much that day, but I was certainly invigorated by the experience.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Jeffrey Round

Jeffrey Round is an award-winning writer and director. His most recent novel is The Honey Locust.

Go to Jeffrey Round’s Author Page