What is Pen and Portal?


At the most basic level, Pen and Portal is a digital creative collaborative comprised of writing workshops and creative inspiration designed to support creative flow and personal reflection. Each workshop features weekly prompts and writing exercises that you are invited to complete at a comfortable pace, according to your schedule. But, what is Pen and Portal beyond the logistics?

Pen and portal is about writing and creative inspiration  but it’s also about thinking, and about opening to the possibilities, and to the Infinite. It’s a place that not only allows us to stop and think about the answers to the questions, but also a place where contemplation and creative expansion help us begin to understand for ourselves what the questions even are.

When we begin to fill in the blanks of our own lives, our own souls, our own journeys, we are expanded. We come into that space inside ourselves that has been waiting so long for the door to open. Even as a creative who has always loved to create, creative access for me has often been elusive. Some days, the words flow effortlessly onto the page. Or I feel nothing so much as the overwhelming urge to piece together a collage or play with a paintbrush, only to return some time later completely paralyzed, not remembering anything about what I had hoped to create.

I have always been aware of, and confounded by, those creative blackouts, and the contrasting “bleeding of words,” as my friend Deanna calls it. It feels like that sometimes - like there’s no stopping the stories, whether I like it or not. Except when they refuse to come. 

But what I came to understand over time, is that it’s always possible to get back to that originality and creativity. It takes one essential ingredient: intuition. We all have it. But accessing it does take some practice.

Pen and Portal originated with this idea: there is a portal that is always there, a doorway to intuition, to Spirit, the Divine, God, Creator, the Great Mystery or simply Truth. Call it by any name you choose. But it is in that connection, in accessing a deeper place inside - that knowing without fully understanding - where true creativity abides. 

Writing has always been second nature for me, but writing for others not so much. I had a lot of guilt and shame (See Brene Brown, author of “Daring Greatly” and “I thought it was just me (but it isn’t)”) around the fact that I had pursued a degree in journalism and communications and used it only loosely ever since. Don’t get me wrong, I always wrote, and I always worked. Work was my love language. Well, work and coffee, maybe. But on the side I always enjoyed reading, and writing classes and workshops. And while I’ve participated in book clubs and other circles of literati, I spent a couple of decades carrying a deep sense of unworthiness in actually calling myself a writer. I didn’t enter contests, or send pieces out for publication. 

But I knew that I leaned into my writing when I had something stir inside, or felt upset, or inspired. And I knew that certain things seemed to help contribute to the creative process, because I found myself feeling more capable of creative expression after some of these activities.

I tried various forms of yoga until I found the ones that worked best for me. I tried most types of meditation, created vision boards, acupuncture, did emdr to process trauma, as well as other things, which all helped pull back the veil that had covered over my creative riches for so long. The more I indulged my spiritual inclinations, the more available the flow became. 

And the first time I came into an AWA writing circle, I realized how different this was. There was no one critiquing. There were no questions. We wrote, shared that brand new work aloud, and offered comments on what we felt was successful in the piece. There were no explanations of what we thought about our own writing, no apologies made and no suggestions offered.

The AWA philosophy is that everyone has their own unique voice, that everyone who writes is a writer. Period. It has nothing to do with how many poems you’ve published, or how many novels completed. A degree in English isn’t required. In fact, English doesn’t even need to be the first language. And there was no pressure for me to come up with anything. A prompt was provided. We were given a few minutes to formulate a response, and then asked to share and listen. With that kind of subtle encouragement and casual ethos, I knew I had found my tribe.

In the years since, I have written with adults and children, both male and female, with physical handicaps, and various levels of education and ability to pay. Everyone wants to feel seen and heard, to know they are accepted just the way they are. And this is one way to experience that.

So at first pass, Pen and Portal is a writing website, a resource for reflections on selected passages and inspirational books, with thoughts on craft and lots of inspiration. But it’s also about the place inside us all where creativity lives, and some of the ways we can nurture it. 

Through the practices of intention and mindfulness, in addition to other physical and spiritual effort, it is possible to reach that sweet spot between inspiration and creativity, the place where intuition lives and art is born, where the pen becomes the portal.