Selected Works

On Yom Kippur, ten characters in synagogue, grappling with identity, meaning, repentance, forgiveness...
A contemporary Israeli-Palestinian conflict plays out against the backdrop of mythic Biblical rivalries.
A new book of poetry with an old soul, a stunning cartography of the heart.
Memoir in poetry and prose
“Stories and poetry so captivating, powerful, wise… An extraordinary achievement!"
–Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

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Write for Your Life

A virtual writing workshop and guide for a spiritual writing practice

To my great delight over many years I’ve helped people develop a spiritual writing practice – synagogue members from Portland to Portland; Afghan and Palestinian communal leaders lakeside at Seeds of Peace; women activists from across the FSU gathered together in Vitebsk; rabbis and rabbinical students of all stripes – and now you…

…Begin by buying yourself one of those old-fashioned hardcover black-and-white marbled composition notebooks at a twenty-first century version of the corner five-and-dime – the kind of notebook you remember from third grade, every fall walking to school, crunching the leaves under foot, your heart stirring at the hope of new beginnings…

The hard cover means you can sit with it on your lap anywhere, don’t need a desk, just sit and write – the original “laptop”! I also love these notebooks because they’re cheap and therefore not threatening – even for me, a well-published writer, those exquisitely beautiful journals people buy you as gifts I can find threatening – I can’t guarantee that what I write will be as wonderful as the notebook itself, I’m afraid of spoiling it, ruining it – an invitation to writer’s block! With a notebook I paid less than a buck for I feel comfortable, not intimidated.

So, journal in hand – and why write by hand? In my experience, it connects us much more deeply to the heart, to the authentic, to the unexpected. Computers are great because they go faster, faster; this writing though is all about slower, slower…

This journal is an opportunity, a possibility for opening, a way to record the journey of your days – days ordinary and days extraordinary. A way to better see and explore inner worlds. As often as you can, daily even, use it to give yourself the gift of quiet time, solitary time, time to find the silent places within and to listen carefully.

Listen to yourself as you listen to the people you most dearly love: with rapt attention and tenderness, curiosity, compassion. And then let the stories, your thoughts and feelings, tumble onto the page. Relax, and let the details of special moments return to you as you write. Above all, a writing practice is about process, the process of making a connection to yourself. As the process unfolds, you discover that developing a writing practice can offer the rich reward of feeling accompanied in precisely the ways we may otherwise feel painfully alone. Blessings to you on your journey!

I have developed various approaches or entrees to writing – some especially powerful ones can be found in my book A Spiritual Life: Exploring the Heart and Jewish Tradition (SUNY Press, revised edition 2007) in the last chapter, A Readers’ and Writers’ Guide. That chapter provides a way of writing by focusing on seven different themes of the poems and stories in the book – a very rich experience and one you can try on your own, in a formal adult ed class, or just informally with a group of friends for a special evening of intimate sharing.

The prompts provided here, Writing in the Paradigm of Prayer, offer a very different approach, focusing on the rhythms of your own inner life. They are organized in three categories indicated by the Hebrew and English words – morning, afternoon, evening. These are the three times a day a traditional Jew says fixed prayers. Because I do so much of my work with rabbinical students and rabbis, I am always looking for techniques that speak to their needs – that’s how this particular framework for writing originally evolved. It occurred to me that the times of day designated for fixed prayer were intuitively on target, each unique and each open to contemplation, each offering the opportunity to pause in the day to reflect, regroup. Further, it seemed to me each part of the day had its own feeling-tone, each had its own appropriate questions or writing prompts.

Find a quiet private place and arrange not to be disturbed. We’re all way too busy, but everyone has 10-minute pockets in the day that they can claim for themselves. You’ll be amazed how deep a 10-minute experience of writing can be…

© Merle Feld 2011. Writing for Your Life materials – All rights reserved.