Repeat Repeat Write

Prompts Against Anxiety #29 | from Lewis Freedman, author of Residual Synonyms for the Name of God (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2016).


During this whatever we’ve disappeared into, I’ve been struggling a lot with concentrating fully on writing, have been feeling at the mercy of my distracted mind. Sometimes I’ve felt that my mind is simply held at bay elsewhere during this time, given to our shared unconscious in this moment of such suffering, unable to surface. I think sometimes of something I’d read many years ago from the compelling turn-of-the-19th-century visionary Rabbi Nachman of Breslov who suggests that disturbing and distracting thoughts which occur during prayer are in fact of great benefit to those prayers. “Without distracting thoughts,” Rabbi Nachman says, “prayer would be impossible.” Such thoughts, Rabbi Nachman claims, “disguise our prayers” on their travels “so that they are ignored” by larger malevolent forces and can reach their higher destination (Sichos HaRan #72). All this to claim a confusion, that I don’t know how to produce a writing prompt against anxiety that might not equally be a writing prompt that conjures anxiety, and perhaps even the arrival of such an anxiety conjured might be a useful protection from greater threats. 

In this spirit I offer a prompt adapted from something else I’d read in Rabbi Nachman. I’ve been using this practice with some regularity for the last 16 years or so. I think sometimes that, rather than words, it’s the substrata of ensuance active in the record of writing which structures a writing’s particular meaning, and I tend to use the practice described below to embellish my awareness of that active substrate, to release myself a little from the delusion of a diction as the content of writing—that is, it often grants me a little more time & space to my awareness of moving in the movement as it moves.

Step 1: Choose a word, it matters which word, it matters not which word.

Step 2: Repeat this word clearly and loudly in your mind for a set period of time (I do ten minutes, but that’s a very long time for me, anywhere upwards of three will probably suffice). Should it work better for you, you can also repeat this word out loud instead of in mind, some days it works better for me to do that.

Step 3: Immediately after you’ve finished the designated time of repetition, take a deep breath and take out your notebook or laptop or whatever and write. You need not move your writing towards or around or about the word you’ve been repeating, but know that if you feel a waning in your capacity to stay with the writing, you can return to this word in the writing and it will charge your sense of moving as and of the substrate anew.

Prompts Against Anxiety is sponsored by Milwaukee Public Library, an anchor institution that helps patrons read, learn, and connect—to our resources and our community. Now more than ever, stay connected, stay home, and stay safe. 

More from this series

Write in NaturePrompt #39—Oogie Push

Real FoodPrompt #38—Joan Kane

You Don't Need Proust to Smell GoodPrompt #37—Elizabeth Hoover

Find Your Own FormPrompt #36—Sawako Nakayasu


Preparation for the PromptPrompt #32—Lisa Fishman

Collage Your Own Writing PromptPrompt #31—Helen Hofling

Prepared StatementPrompt #30—Mike Hauser

Repeat Repeat WritePrompt #29— Lewis Freedman

Poetic CorrespondencePrompt #28—Eric Baus

EKPHRASIS YOURSELFPrompt #27—Jennifer Nelson

POETRY IS FOR THE PEOPLEPrompt #26—Angela Trudell Vasquez

MAIL ARTPrompt #25—Siwar Masannat

VISUAL POSTCARDSPrompt #24—Portia Cobb

A [LONGER-TERM] DEEP LISTENING PROMPTPrompt #23—Jibade-Khalil Huffman

Humor as Medicine for the SoulPrompt #22—Mauricio Kilwein Guevara

Personification: A Social Justice PromptPrompt #21—Derrick Harriell

Ponge ExercisePrompt #20—Tyrone Williams

Occult DocupoesisPrompt #19—Kimberly Alidio

Junk Drawer SongPrompt #18—Hoa Nguyen

TALK TO THE POETSPrompt #17—Stacy Szymaszek

Make-Do Origin Stories & Concrete FuturesPrompt #16—Ching-In Chen

The Family PhotographPrompt #15—Rosa Alcalá

Note(s) to SelfPrompt #13—Stacy Blint

Embracing ConfusionPrompt #12—Bryon Cherry

Writing/Playing the ArchivePrompt #11—Jay Besemer

CAPTURED & FREEDPrompt #10—Dasha Kelly Hamilton

Poetic Exit StrategiesPrompt #9—Ana Božičević

Proyecto ConbífPrompt #8—Erick "CK" Ledesma

TRILOGYPrompt #6—CA Conrad

Utopian CompromisePrompt #7—Paul Druecke

A Series of RoomsPrompt #5—Laura Solomon

Two Variations on N+7Prompt #4—Jenny Gropp

T H E A P A R T / TOGETHERPOEMPrompt #3—Margaret Rozga

An Exercise in WindowsPrompt #2—Marla Sanvick

Erasuring AnxietyPrompt #1—Peter Burzynski

We acknowledge that in Milwaukee we live and work on traditional Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk, and Menominee homelands along the southwest shores of Michigami, part of North America’s largest system of freshwater lakes, where the Milwaukee, Menominee, and Kinnickinnic rivers meet and the people of Wisconsin’s sovereign Anishinaabe, Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Oneida, and Mohican nations remain present. 

We further acknowledge the grave evil colonialism introduced to these lands ​through genocide as well as slavery, and also via racist and xenophobic ​beliefs, laws​, and practices that continue to inflict harm upon Black, brown, and Indigenous lives. We honor those who have lived—and do live, now—at these intersections of identity and experience, and are committed to the active dismantling of white supremacy.

Read our statement on racial justice

720 E. Locust Street
Milwaukee, WI 53212
Phone: 414 263 5001

Hours: Tues–Sun | 12-7 pm

Closed Mon

Building Accessibility: Despite the age of our physical location, and attendant limitations to access, Woodland Pattern is committed to making its programs and facilities available for as many as possible. Please call for more information.

Events Accessibility: Woodland Pattern is able to offer captioning services for its online events and with advanced notice can provide ASL interpretation for live events. Please contact us with accommodation requests and questions.

© Woodland Pattern 2024