Jess Morrow: Writing From the Center of Self

Today, I am delighted– thrilled beyond words!– to share energetic space with Jess Morrow.

I tend to color my world with bold, daring strokes; to connect through vulnerability; to gently stretch beyond my own self-imposed limitations.  Jess is one of the few whom I know in life that inspires me.  Something about her style, manner, and her talent with words and prompts allows me to trust her to guide me to something that at first feels a bit scary but when I invest my energy feels most exhilarating.  When I create from what Jess shares, the result is that I try something more daring, journey to a new depth, and my heart soars!

 

Jess Morrow is a poet, teacher, & renegade dreamer who lives, writes, plays the piano & indulges her love of words in and around the city of Detroit. Her blog, Invincible Summer  is dedicated to helping women discover their voices through writing as they learn to live each day as a work of art. She runs online creative writing ecourses for women. Jess frequently indulges her love of chocolate, shoes, stray dogs, and stacks of books she never has time to read.

Thank you, Jess, for the gift of your presence!

Joy: The name of your site is Invincible Summer.  May you share with us a little about the meaning of these words and your vision for your site?

Jess: Several years ago I found a quote in a book by the 20th-century French philosopher and author, Albert Camus. Translated from French, the complete sentence reads, “In the depths of winter, I finally found that there was, in me, an invincible summer.” Besides the fact that the quote rang with poetry, it also came to me at a time when I was in the depths of my own personal winter. For years, the quote stayed with me. I began copying it into the front cover of every new journal I started and made it my email signature. For a long time, they were “just” words that inspired me to keep moving forward during times when life was hard. But eventually, along my journey, the words took on a deeper meaning. I found the courage to really get to know myself, through meditating and writing. I believe that we all have this “summer” at our core—I see it as a light in every human being that burns brightly and never goes out—it just gets obscured, sometimes, like the sun hiding behind clouds. I found my voice through writing, and that’s how I found that the “invincible summer” of which Camus wrote was something invincible, beautiful, and accessible that exists in each of us.

My site’s vision, in short, is to help people (writers, artists, and those who don’t see that they’re artists yet!) find their way through the winter—all the experiences and ideas that have clogged up our self-understanding—and into their core selves. I work to guide people into this self-awareness through the process of writing, because it’s the process I know best.

Joy: Your  “Invincible Summer e-course offers many tools to allow women to not only access their voice, but to listen to and create from that voice.  May you share a bit about that e-course with us?

Jess: Absolutely! The course is designed to be both a personal journey for each participant, and a shared journey we’ll be taking as a group, supporting our fellow participants either through helping each other workshop our writing, or simply through sharing (in a private Facebook group) our experiences of the journey.

The journey itself consists of six progressive ebooks, which I prefer to call “journey maps.” Each week’s journey suggests writing exercises that ask participants to look deeply at themselves—what they believe, who they are, where they come from, where they want to go.

In order to facilitate the journey, each week presents participants with a number of exercises designed to help balance the hemispheres of the brain and to awaken our innate intuition. There are guided meditations and multiple suggested writing prompts and other innovative methods, all suggested as possible “warmups” to be used before writing, so that you can write straight from that intuitive center.

(Note from Joy: To share with you, dear reader, it is my pleasure to be presenting a segment for this e-course based upon the life lessons found in building yoga rock sculptures. I am also completely thrilled to be a student in this class.  I absolutely love Jess’ style and methods!).

Joy: May you share with us a little about your philosophy; how did you find your voice and how did you learn to create so confidently with it?

Jess: Well, there could be a lot of very long answers to this question. But essentially, I spent a lot of my life not really knowing who I was and not doing really what I wanted (e.g. being in the wrong job, the wrong relationship, the wrong college major, etc). But over all these years, writing has been a constant. I was lucky enough to be nourished by a wonderful writing mentor for 8 years, and she was the first person who told me that I had a distinct voice in my writing. She constantly encouraged me (and all of her students) to break conventional writing rules and to follow our intuition while writing.

I also have to credit the yoga retreats and teacher trainings in which I’ve participated over the years. Crafting a yoga class or a meditation is as much an act of artistic creation as writing a poem, and I’m lucky to have studied with some very gifted spiritual teachers who have also consistently reminded me to remain true to myself and my vision.

As far as creating confidently with it—I’ll admit that every time I publish anything, anywhere, I experience a mild panic that it “wasn’t good enough.” I’ve struggled with having confidence in my work, and I still do struggle, but I’ve learned to roll with the punches a little better, and to remember that for every person who doesn’t care for my work, there is likely another person who does—so I stay true to my vision and let the cards fall where they may.

(Note from Joy: Speaking of finding your voice, Jess was a contributor to my complimentary ebook “Cultivating Your Voice”.  Please click the ebook title to download your complimentary copy).

 Joy: If I may ask, what would you consider is the source of your power?

Jess: That’s a tough one. I believe in the power of symbols and of naming, and I call the source different things at different times—mostly I just think of it as the divine, as the universe moving through me. (That’s when I choose to align with the universe, and to listen to it—we all have access to the same source. We just need to figure out how to tap into it).

Joy: In your introductory guide to the Invincible Summer e-course, you state:

“I am an unorthodox teacher.  [..] Don’t be scared to get your hands dirty.  Or inky.  Or both.” 

You know that I absolutely love this invitation!  This is exactly why I am looking forward to participating in this class as a student.  May you share a little with us about what we may expect as we allow you to guide us through this exploration?

Jess: Well, without spoiling too many surprises, I’ll just say that the course includes a number of activities that I use as methods to “turn on” my intuition and get me in the right frame of mind for writing. So one week, we might have a painting activity or some other visual art project, or find ourselves using music/rhythm/sound to awaken our voices. Not only am I using activities that are scientifically proven to balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain (which makes for wonderful writing), but I’m also trying to get students to shake up their thinking and get out of their comfort zones so that they may return to writing with a refreshed point of view.

Joy: Also in the introductory guide you state: “I hope that you will have learned something vital about you”.  May you share with us, what is something vital you have learned about yourself through the creation of this ecourse?

Jess: You know, I’m still learning as I create! At this moment, I think that what I’m learning is that I have this whole store of wisdom on the creative process. As I put together each week’s materials, I’m finding that the material comes to me very naturally. So I’m learning that I know a lot more than I thought I did.

I’m also planning to take the journey with the course participants—I’ll be working on the writing projects and other exercises myself over the weeks, so that I can be experientially in the same place as the rest of the group. I’m sure I’ll learn many more things about myself through this process.

Joy: Also in the introductory guide, you write: “There is poetry in typos.  Trust that.”  I love this concept in general, because there is this myth of perfectionism that many of us allow to restrict our creative expressions.  When we release this myth, we find freedom to explore and expand.  May you share with us an example of a “typo”  (in life) that you might have wished you could use backspace for, but allowed to remain as is..and where did that allowing for eventually lead?

Jess: Now, this sent me digging through old papers for an answer. There have been many times that I’ve typed the ”wrong word,” left it, and then found that the “mistake” that didn’t seem to fit was actually the missing piece that made everything complete.

I couldn’t remember an example off the top of my head, but I went into some very old papers and found a short poem I wrote about my home city of Detroit. When I originally wrote the poem by hand, I’d written that there was “a dock on a lake north of the city.” Because my handwriting is hard to decipher, when I showed the poem to a writing buddy, the “d” in dock looked to her like a c and an l (turning the word into “clock.”) And she said, “Wow, a clock on a lake north of the city. What’s it counting down to?”

And I instantly saw that putting a clock on the lake made the poem better. Additionally, my friend’s question about what the clock was counting down to led me to write a whole slew of poems about this city.

If it weren’t for my sloppy d’s, my friend would never have read “dock” as “clock,” and the poem would have stayed as it was (a static scene describing a lake removed from a city—when really, I had so much more to say about the city than I’d thought).

Joy: It has been an honor to share energy with you in this space, thank you for allowing us a glimpse into your world. In closing, is there anything you would like us to know about you, your vision, your voice?

Jess: A huge part of my central vision lies in knowing that even though we human beings share much more in common than we think, we are also each unique expressions of the divine (or whatever you choose to call it). I truly believe that every writer has a story to tell that is totally, completely unique, and a way of telling it (i.e. a voice) that doesn’t sound like anyone else’s. If you know you’re speaking from your center, don’t let anyone steer you from your path. If someone doesn’t “get” your message, let that be, and let it be okay. As long as you’re in touch with your center, then you can’t go wrong—and there are people who need to hear your message.

Jess has so generously gifted this site with one complimentary session of her upcoming ecourse, beginning June 1, 2012.

Each reader who leaves a comment addressing the question below will be entered into a drawing.  The winner will be randomly chosen Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 9pm (PST) and contacted through email.  *The winner of the random drawing is Elisa Hordon* May 31, 2012.

Think of whatever art form or creative medium is your favorite means of creation. Can you define what separates your voice/sound/vision/message from those of other artists? One fun way to start figuring this out is to start writing down all the words you can think of that define your style. Pick 3 or 4 words that best describe your personal artistic style, and post them in the comments.

Thank you, Jess! Thank you, dear reader! *Excellent* indeed:)

Much peace and abundant love,

Joy

Reminder: Experiment. Explore.  Experience.

PS.  5-30-2012 Jess was offering an affiliate program, and I wished to participate, but my mind came up with many excuses–one of which is I want you to know and love Jess a she is and not be influenced by my endorsement.  However, my heart said, yes, please: for Jess work inspires my own and her style resonates well.  So, as of today, I signed up for her affiliate program (the link is on my sidebar and if you click the photo below).  Thank you.

Click the photo to visit Invincible Summer.

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Comments on: "Jess Morrow: Writing From the Center of Self" (18)

  1. I really enjoyed this interview!
    I love: “There is poetry in typos. Trust that.” I may have to quote you on that AND a reminder of one of my favorite quotes: “In the depths of winter, I finally found that there was, in me, an invincible summer.”

    I find my artistic style in my photography and matching quotes to my photography. Come by my facebook page to see more! (zen-mama)

    Thanks Joy and Jess!

    • Betsy,

      Thank you for the kind words! And I’m so glad you were reminded of that beautiful quote. I have heard other translations from the French, but that one is my all-time favorite. :)

      • Hi Betsy,

        That quote is what originally drew me to Jess’ work. I am glad that it speaks to you as well:)

        I love the idea of allowing “typos” to guide our creations…to see the beauty, and feel gratitude instead of frustration :)

        I am glad that you are allowing your creative expression full reign :)

  2. Elisa Hordon said:

    AWESOME Interview it truly sang with creative joy and wonder thank you so much for sharing you are absolutley amazing xoxo

  3. jean sampson said:

    Joy and Jess, you two would be so much fun to play with! I think what separates my painting from a lot of other people’s is that I have no idea of what I am going to paint when I start, and making a mess is really the start of making a paintinig! When students ask what they need to do to prepare for my class, I tell them to make a lot of messes and enjoy making them and exploring them! Heck, everything in the Universe was created out of chaos, so I always begin creating something by first welcoming the creation of chaos! It is so rich in energy and possibilities! And messes are such fun to muck around in! Eventually, I find my way to something very beautiful——but the underlying energy is that wonderful chaos, my good friend! And I have no time limits on my work, so I never varnish anything because that would mean my painting would not be able to experience future growth when I grow!
    Great interview!

    • Jean,

      Yes, yes, and YES! I think all the greatest works have to start in chaos–that’s why free-writing is how I try to start nearly any piece that I write. It sounds like you do the same with your painting.

      :)
      Jess

      • And Yes!…we would have a blast playing together :)

        Your painting process, Jean, sounds like my way of life…there is ample time, sometimes quite a mess but lots of joy and delight and the wonder is in the process of crafting..the result is truly secondary…I rarely know the exact “what” or “how” (my vision is the overall feeling) but the experience always fills me with gratitude…

        :)

  4. Being a watchmaker I appreciate the poetry of the universe.

    My words:

    Discipline
    Irregular
    Detail
    Flexible
    Gracious
    Irreverent
    Conform
    Contradiction

    Fear – Suffering – Loss are but three colors to choose from our soul’s color box. If out of all the assortment of colors one cannot express the light of a summer day, then one must mix from primal core pigment.

    J. 581

    I found the phrase to every
          thought
    I ever had, but one;
    And that defies me
    As a hand did try to chalk the
             sun.

    To  races  nurtured  in   the
             dark;–
    How would your own begin?
    Can blaze be done in cochineal,
    Or noon in mazarine?

    —————–

    It was not until the twentieth century that Emily Dickinson could be understood. Should one really even be concerned with publication? 

    Acceptance fits if the soul is being understood.

    Publication means nothing otherwise…

    • Beautiful comment … so rich with glowing words & beauty & energy.

      Thank you for replying.

      Emily Dickinson is one of my greatest inspirations, and I totally agree with you–publication isn’t really the point of writing, at all. It’s the act of writing that frees us.

      • Thank you for sharing, Rand.

        And, Jess, I love your reply: rich with glowing words…what a beautiful affirmation for life! Rich with glowing words which reflect the life experienced…for me, it is absolutely the process…which differs daily…and the result often astounds me…(when I am in flow, it is almost a form of channeling when I write or paint or create something tangible).

  5. Excellent, indeed! I loved the interview – and I especially loved that you said you are an “unorthodox teacher” Jess – that’s the best kind, I think. My Mom was a teacher and very innovative.

    I am positive, compassionate and personal. Writing and photography are my medium. How am I different? I believe in finding joy in the little things, in my routine.

    The ecourse sounds exciting.

    Right now I am grateful I had the privilege to read this interview. Thank you, Joy and Jess.

    • Hi Vidya,

      *This* is why I love you: I believe in finding joy in the little things, too..it allows my life to be truly magical…there are no chores or obligations, simply the joy of presence.

      I am grateful for your presence…all that you reflect is a wonderful gift to receive!

  6. Ohhh this sounds like so much fun! Thanks for this opportunity! :)

    My words: Dreaming, expression, balance, organic. I’ve just took the first words which came up, LOL.
    I think my art is a combination of poetry, dreams and symbols… that’s why I love mixed media so much, endless possibilities (combinations) to create art. :)

    • Hi Lindsay,

      Your comment is a wonderful affirmation for creation in life: dreaming, expression, balance, organic…may each moment be full of such abundance! I can only imagine how magical your life must be!

      I, too, love mixed media because I am able to honor each facet of my essence through all different kinds of expressions! Thank you for reminding us of the fun, pleasure, joy, delight in creating:)

  7. Brilliant Interview , great questions from you Joy and inspiring and challenging reflection from Jess. Jess love that you sing with Creativity and Joy every day. :)

    Having a Central Vision and staying with it is something i am working on right now- challenging and this really resonated with me :” If you know you’re speaking from your center, don’t let anyone steer you from your path. If someone doesn’t “get” your message, let that be, and let it be okay. As long as you’re in touch with your center, then you can’t go wrong—and there are people who need to hear your message.” Joy I am getting the message :)
    What defines my style? I was surprised I wrote a long list
    and these jumped out Inspirational, (in spirit), layered, heart whispers, empowering

    Wonderful to meet you Tess
    namaste
    Suzie

    • Hi Suzie,

      Thank you for sharing! Inspirational, spirit, heart whispers, empowering…wonderful words to capture the essence of your center…beautifully descriptive of your paintings and your energy! All that you reflect is truly a wonderful gift to receive…a delight, because I never know what to “expect” :)

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