Kith began in 2021 as a response to a question I was asking myself in my creative practice and in the ways I worked with other writers: ‘Does it enhance connection?
The journey to Kith
My vision of connection is one that includes radical generosity, and savours the abundance of life, even in challenging times. I’m convinced that we encounter such connection when we slow down and pay deep attention to our inner landscape and bodies and to those around us, human and non-human.
My mantra as we explore what it means to live in this moment as writers and as human beings, is: slow down, listen, connect — it is enough. And over the last year those who read the fortnightly blog here and those who have taken part in the kith community or mentoring groups, have collaborated in exploring this vision.
I began blogging in 2011, a period when my life was going through a huge transition and writing and publishing were anchors. It was occasional but slowly developed around issues of how our writing and our life inform each other and towards the end of 2016, when I published the first novel in the Casilda trilogy, This is the End of the Story, this coherence began to crystalise. This website, Becoming a Different Story, focussed on the sense of urgency around the stories we live and write in a world too easily given to fragmentation and harm.
As I shared my own writing process in the years following the Brexit vote, the blog became more regular, eventually weekly, and a community engaged in building daily rhythms that nurture and support living and writing deliberately, began to emerge. I wrote online courses, delivered some online workshops and the engagement with other writers was fruitful and inspiring, leading to the publication of Writing Down Deep, a book for writers who want to dive deeply into their creative flow and into the extraordinary power of writing to affect individuals and the world.
It was a huge labour of love over three years, launched in February 2020 to coincide with the launch of a year-long course for a community of writers, Transforming Your Story. It was the last live launch I did before the pandemic, which coloured much of my writing and work with that wonderful group of writers through 2020.
The graciousness of those I worked with, the urgency of the times we were living in and my own writing practices sharpened enormously during that year and led to the birth of kith: a dedicated space for writers to slow down, listen and connect, knowing it could be enough in this crazy but wonderful world.
The blogs have continued, building into an alphabet of kith over 2021 as I also worked with a community of writers as well as two small, talented groups of novelists and poets in intense mentoring that also included group workshops and an online residential.
Kith has become the heart of my writing life, a passionate way to express a vocation as both writer and mentor, and the soul of this website. At the core of this space is an invitation to slow down, listen, connect – knowing it is enough. And hence the shift in name:
Kith: for a different story
The values of Kith
We slow down because refusing to always live at a frenetic pace is:about finding ways of living that allow for attentiveness, permit moments to be savoured and make space for solacing pauses and time to simply be.
When we pause, new thoughts, new perspectives, new vision has the chance to enter our lives. When I slow down I come back to myself, to my humanity, to my ability to listen and connect.
This ability to listen, to pay attention – to our creativity, to our intuition and heart, to our bodies and to those around us, human, non-human and the earth … changes us. In a stressed society we spend so much of our time with half our mind doing a shopping list, thinking about the 101 tasks waiting to be completed or wondering what to cook for dinner when we should be listening attentively to the person talking to us or listening to our body or listening to the trees and river as we walk.
Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present, wrote Camus. The present can seem harsh at the moment, but we need to stay with it if we are to have any hope of transforming it. Together we hold the story of future humanity in our souls and imaginations, but only if we take the time to listen to the story that needs healing.
Listening, deeply and attentively, to what is within us and to what we are hearing in the world, makes sacred whatever we show that attention to. It is transformative and it enables us to connect; to live in fragments no longer.
Connection is what enables us to act from empathy and with compassion. It is what helps us to get out of our own way, setting ego aside so that we can both enter the wonderful flow states of writing and imagine what it is to have another skin.
Exploring the many layers of connection in our lives is vital to the artist’s practice because it moves us out of the fixed self-image that we may zealously guard in daily life, but which can prove more of a prison than a liberation when we want to soar with imagination and write from body and soul. We are who we are becoming, and this is an endless narrative with leaky boundaries.
Slowing down, listening, connecting – this is a life’s work – so surely enough, and also offers the assurance that each of us is enough. To have the courage and integrity to write is vital in a world crying out for new stories. But we can only do so if we are not driving ourselves wayward with constant thoughts that we are not ‘enough’.
As long as we stay feeling ‘not enough’ and ‘unworthy’, we stay prey to being no more than passive consumers of life, buying into the next product or lifestyle trend that will convince us once again that we’re not quite… Instead we can assert not that we are perfect but that we are enough – human, flawed, always becoming a different story, but enough – each of us and together, as kith.
A manifesto for Kith
What we have explored together in the last year of blog posts, is a manifesto for radical compassion and restorative kindness in an uncertain world. We live in a world where there are no easy answers, yet we can do the good that we can; the good that effects those in our reach and in so doing the world changes and the good multiplies when we do it together and when we do it in what we write. As my son, Rowan, wrote in one of their blog posts:
For me the best fiction does not tell us what is before our eyes, it excavates, scours, reveals. […] Even if the Mephistophelesian pact of modernity is our extinction, utopias insist that there was a chance at shared liberation, of collectively getting it right. It demands we project our values outward, realise them as something to be shared. […] utopia asks us to imagine the recreation of society as a whole and ourselves only within that context. […] …utopia is hope projected outwards.
Giving the world new stories is not a simplistic task with an obvious or guaranteed outcome. But as writers we witness to the need for these stories. New stories are born wherever there is connection. Whenever there is real attention paid and deep listening, things change. Whenever we take the time to listen to our hearts, to the earth, to others then we reimagine a different world that is possible.
Asserting that we are kith is a powerful story. I love writing. I love working with writers. Engaging with writers willing to dive deeply into their stories, gathering writers around my kitchen table (even if the gathering is virtual), being able to walk alongside and support writers in their process and journeys … these things are a delight and privilege.
New ventures in Kith
It took a decade for kith to evolve and I hope this slowness will continue to be part of its ruminative, attentive connections. I hope alos that you will find something here to nurture your own story. The blog will always remain free and accessible and I’d also love to share kith community, with fortnightly writing prompts, a writers’ forum and online workshops, with more of you. The 2022 programme starts at the end of this month so take a look here
And I’d also like to invite you to collaborate in launching a new kith venture: Kith Review will be a magazine with contributions from a range of writers and artists — perhaps you’ll be amongst them — with a subscription option for two beautiful issues each year. It will come out in an online version using gorgeous flipbook technology and as a hard copy version. We will be open for submissions (poetry, essay, fiction, memoir prose, land writing, explorations of creative practice…) from April and the first issue will be in the Autumn,
But we need your help to get this reader-funded magazine established and running. There are lots of ways to become one of our sponsors or founders simply by pre-ordering the magazine and we also hope to read lots of your work once we get going.
Here’s to the courage to slow down, listen, connect, knowing that we don’t have to do it all, that doing the good that we can, each of us and together, is enough.