“Earth Joy Writing is about finding joy when we align our creative practices with natural principles,” writes author Cassie Premo Steele. “It is about committing to a mindfully creative life in collaboration with nature and, in the process, healing both ourselves and the earth.” In this interview, Cassie talks about the ways in which Earth Joy Writing can help writers foster a greater connection between the natural world and their own creativity — and why connecting with nature is so important for not only writers and artists but all of us.
Q: Why is a book about both writing and the earth so important right now?
A: We are living in a time when many people feel increasingly worried about the environment — we can see the effects of climate change in our own neighborhoods as more people experience floods, storms, fires, and droughts that affect their homes, jobs, and lives.
At the same time, people are seeing the need to take care of themselves in creative ways in order to deal with such anxiety and stress.
Writing is a great way to do that — and the reflections and exercises in Earth Joy Writingprovide practical suggestions to get started.
Q: In what ways can thinking about the planet help writers with their process and their creativity?
A: While we often think of the planet as a “thing,” an object apart from us, one of the first lessons in Earth Joy Writing is that “a thing is not a thing.”
Writers know that each leaf and spiderweb and bird can hold a message — perhaps as a metaphor for a feeling, or as a teacher with a lesson, or simply as a spot of beauty in an otherwise harried day.
The lessons in Earth Joy Writing build upon this inner wisdom that writers already possess and allow them to go deeper through focused prompts, exercises, and reflections that they can use in their current writing projects.
Q: Do you have any advice for writers who find themselves rather addicted to their devices and/or social media? In what ways can disconnecting be helpful for writers?
A: I completely understand the desire to be connected to the world through these ways! Especially when so often it seems there is another crisis on a regular basis, it can be nerve-wracking not to know what’s going on.
But it is for this reason that it’s vitally important to take time out.
The natural world holds a very different rhythm than our digital communications do. It is slower, more subtle. If you aren’t paying close attention, you’ll miss it.
I find that simply leaving my phone in the house when I go outside to fill the bird feeders in the morning is a nice way to start the day in rhythm with the world around me. That cardinal’s chip-chip-chips, the wren’s bob and weave, the hummingbird’s sips in the purple Rose of Sharon tree — I’d miss these if I weren’t paying attention. It sets the tone for the whole day.
And I regularly try to sit outside at night without a device nearby. The starlight, the moon, the shadows in the trees and sounds of crickets — this can be just what we need to unwind and sleep better at night.
In all these little ways — which don’t take much time, maybe 10 minutes here and there — we are priming ourselves as writers to be mindful, and patient, and more aware of our inner and outer worlds.
Q: How can writers who live in cities connect with nature from where they live?
A: First, look out the window. There is always light and dark, sometimes rain, sometimes sun, sometimes moon — just looking at the sky can be a way of simultaneously getting grounded to the here and now and gaining a higher, wider perspective.
Second, nurture a plant. Many people enjoy succulents because they are easy to care for. But no matter what plant you choose, the process itself of caring for something with water and light can help us remember that we, too, are alive, and part of nature, and need nurturing.
Finally, stay alert. The next time you’re walking down a city street, allow yourself to keep watch — not for danger, but for nature. Can you hear birdsong? Is there a tree nearby? What plants are growing? Maybe an architect has modeled a design after something from the natural world. Maybe you can see water in a river or a puddle. Every “thing” is nature, even in the busiest of urban areas. And remember: a thing is not a thing.
Q: Can you share one of your favorite Earth Joy Writing prompts?
A: Since we’re in back-to-school season, I’ll share this one because often as adults, we forget to play. Especially if you’re a parent with a child returning to school, this might be something fun to do for yourself as you celebrate another year of parenting.
Play with this …
Choose one of the activities you remember doing as a child
and try doing it now. When I gave the participants in one of
my Earth Joy Writing workshops the opportunity to do this,
one woman climbed a tree, and from that vantage point, she
gained a higher perspective on her life, her marriage, and the
changes she wanted to make. What happens when you let
your body play in nature? What do you remember? What do
you realize when you let yourself play?
Q: Where can readers/writers learn more about you and Earth Joy Writing?
A: I encourage people to check out the audio reflections and video workshops I created that are on the book’s website at www.earthjoywriting.com— this will greatly enhance their experience with the book.
They can also visit my website at www.cassiepremosteele.comto learn about my other books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction; watch my TEDx Talk on “Writing as a Way of Calming, Centering and Making Meaning”; and learn about my new audio program, JOYWORK. They can also sign up to get 6 free poetry and meditation audios there.
Cassie Premo Steele, Ph.D., is a poet and the author of sixteen books and audio programs on the themes of creativity, healing, and our connection to the natural world. She works as a writing coach with clients internationally.