Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2016  Vol. 15 No. 1
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back LARRY PALMER

Dream Walker

I’ve always been an early morning writer. When I began to write literary nonfiction five years ago, I kept the discipline of setting aside time to write five days a week, a habit that I had developed as a law professor, writing two books on law and medicine. In order to flourish as a memoir writer, I discovered I needed something that nudged me closer to the ravines of the deeper joys, hurts, and truths of my life, and I added the practice of reading a poem each morning before writing.

My path of becoming a dream walker began while reading the late Claudia Emerson’s collection, Secure the Shadow, three years ago. The rhythms and imagery of the language of other poets, many of whom I had never heard of, are now the opening acts before I strike the first key of the computer or slide my fountain pen over the page in my journal.

The former athlete in me has long known that four or five hours of continuous sitting isn’t good for my body, so periodic breaks to stretch out my back or get a cup of coffee are a necessary part of my writing process. But memoir writing has made me more systematic about my breaks, which now include walking. I set the alarm on my smartphone so I’m sure to stop after two hours, take a mile-long walk, and allow myself to listen to the ruminations of my heart and mind. These breaks are particularly important when I’ve been working on parts of my life that make me sad or bring tears of joy to my eyes. After my walk, I return to my study for another two hours of writing and listening to the earworms, the whispers, the shouts within me that are trying to form a pattern of words that will resonate for a reader.

A friend I encountered on a recent walk noted that I don’t cross against red lights, even when no visible traffic is coming. Waiting for the walk-light is my protection that allows me to be a dream walker.  


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