Where are you going in your writing?

Proust is a great winged creature often seen circling over Orr Road on Whidbey Island © Richard Pelletier

Tell me, what’s around the bend in your writing life? If you had wings, where would you fly to next? Are you satisfied? You ever think you could kick this thing up a notch or two? Where could you go with your writing if you could make it better by this much? Or that much? What might happen if you knew how a Shakespearean sonnet is made? What if you actually wrote one? And what if you began to fall head over heels with the whole heaving apparatus that is the English language? What would that be like?

Some of us have to write. Some of us want to write. The road that connects us is the sheer difficulty of the journey. Writing is bloody hard. But it’s not impossible to write well, or even beautifully. You just have to commit. And you have to read.

It also helps to find fellow travelers who have walked some of the trade routes and have come back with the spices and the silks, the sonnets and the similes.

So I’ve come here today to talk about the idea of writing as a deep, professional, creative, and spiritual pursuit. A beautiful, sacred undertaking that asks of you everything you’ve got and then asks for more. The pursuit of writing well gives life depth and meaning and a richness that is transcendent. It is fucking glorious to chase this mother down. There is nothing else like it. It is the hardest damn art form there is and it is better than cannabis or bourbon or chocolate. It is the closest thing to jazz.

“In love there are two things — bodies and words. ” ~ Joyce Carol Oates

I remember seeing Joseph Campbell in an interview with Bill Moyers once. The conversation meandered and Moyers said something about people wanting to know the meaning of life. And Campbell said no, he didn’t think that’s what people were after. He thought people were after an experience of life. Meaning was not the holy grail, experience was. I remember thinking this felt exactly right.

And so I want to tell you to seek experiences. Find ways to gather with other humans in the pursuit of writing beautifully. Ask yourself this question. What could possibly be more fun, more inspiring, more, I don’t know… fucking delicious, than meeting a bunch of strangers — all engaged in the dogged pursuit of writing well — and spending three or four days together writing and talking and writing and talking and writing? What if you were doing all this in a beautiful place? What could that do to your writing life? Maybe change it forever? It happened to me. And it’s happened to about 300 other writers, too. Published poets, screenwriters, corporate communications people, speechwriters, content marketers, novelists, copywriters. Writers of every stripe.

I speak of the magical, the wondrous, the steeped-in-kindness-and-fellowship-and-personal-connection Dark Angels writing workshops. There is nothing like it anywhere. It is the eighth wonder of the world. Now in our 15th year, the (UK based) Dark Angels operation has flown to New Zealand and to America. If I could clamber up to the top of the world’s tallest building and shout this story out, I would do it.

“Good writing isn’t a science. It’s an art, and the horizon is infinite. You can always get better. ~ David Foster Wallace

In Seattle, this June, Dark Angels will run a writing workshop aboard a 65' yacht. The De Anza III. Our captain and speaker, is a Dark Angels alumnus, Ted Leonhardt. Ted is a brilliant and provocative thinker, and a powerful creative force. He came to a workshop, did some great work and got his wings. He is a hell of a writer and evangelist.

I have the distinct privilege of running this American Foundation course with a hugely talented and big-hearted writer, Jamie Jauncey. Jamie and I ran a Dark Angels America workshop last year. We want you to join us this June on the waterways of Seattle. It promises to be amazing in so many ways.

Great writers are indecent people. They live unfairly, saving the best part for paper. Good human beings save the world so that bastards like me can keep creating, become immortal. If you read this after I am dead it means I made it. ~ Charles Bukowski

Allow me to revisit the photograph at the top of the page. I know of a great winged creature named Proust. Proust is normally found here, aloft on the southerly winds of Puget Sound making great big loops over Orr Road. Proust has been here forever, inspiring the artists who live on Whidbey. Lately, for reasons we suspect, but will never know for sure, Proust is often seen leaving Whidbey Island and heading out over the water to make a sweeping right turn where the mainland meets the water. Proust heads south and once she’s arrived over Ballard, Proust circles and circles and circles. We think this is because Proust knows in this place, soon, a group of storytellers will gather and she wants to be there. For you. Do not let Proust down.


“Attending a Dark Angels course was the single best thing I did for my career, and myself, last year. As I’ve changed roles and companies, one thing was constant — writing. I’m happiest in a role with lots of writing or communicating or editing and I put a high bar on business writing that sounds human and has a personality. And sometimes in business writing, you can lose sight of that human tone among all of the requests to write about fiscal goals and org changes and new processes. So, when I heard about the Dark Angels — a group of professional writers who stand for the power of words and writing, and for personal connection, kindness and fellowship — I couldn’t register fast enough. The candid tutors put me through my paces with thoughtful exercises that taught me if there’s no tears in the writer, there’s no tears in the reader. You don’t have to be a published writer to attend; you just have to be a human who wants to write good words that make people feel your message.”

Lacy Rohre — Director, Content and Communications | EA Customer Experience

“If you want to know how to use a semicolon correctly, or learn the difference between “who” and “whom”, Dark Angels is not the course for you. These are answers found easily inside a book. Instead, Dark Angels is an experience that gently coaxes you into finding something much more important inside yourself. You’ll unearth a genuine, deeply human voice that transforms the way you write everything. I’m sneaking up on 30 years as a professional writer and I astonished myself with some of the sentences that spilled from me over the course of the four days. I feel very privileged to have become part of the chorus.”

Mat Gorbutt, Senior Writer | Fenton Stevens

“Dark Angels was a life-changer. I’ve been an uneasy writer most of my adult life — not trusting my abilities to put on paper what I had in my mind. Dark Angels reminded me about the power of honesty and empathy. Since the course, as long as I feel that I am approaching my writing with those two qualities, I feel much more confident and free of doubt. Thank you for creating a course that spoke to me so beautifully.”

Lourdes Canizares-Bidwa, Associate Director — Marketing | EY LLP