May 6, 2016 – For me, writing is like taking a shamanic journey. If I try to fully direct and control it, especially with a specific outcome in mind, nothing (worthwhile) happens. If I start with a blank mind, fully open to receive, nothing happens! As in life, the process has to be give and take. For example, we may go to the grocery store knowing what we want, but we don’t control what the grocery store has in stock. We look at what they have and choose what to buy. In writing, we set our intention, or topic, and see what flows. We write what we think or feel. Then we see what we have and what we can do with it. For our writing to make sense for an audience, we need both the “unconscious” piece and the larger container, the intention of our manuscript. We need the passion and flow as well as something to focus and contain the flow to give it meaning. Containers are important. We all have different views of the world based on our life experiences. As an author, sometimes our intention might be to leave the interpretation of a moment in time….
April 30, 2016 – Unconscious writing is writing from your heart, or from the depths of your soul, without conscious direction, except perhaps a general intention for the piece. Here are two examples. Sample 1: Blooming I sat huddled on the floor, child’s pose, my legs tucked under me, arms pulled in tight, forehead on the ground. I was a seed, safe within my shell, under the earth. I was being held. I felt the warmth of the sun in the soil around me, and the urge to grow stretched one arm out toward the sky and a leg snaking downward in search of minerals and water. Soon another arm shot up followed by shoots and branches everywhere, twigs ending in fingers of tiny leaves and buds. I was rooted in the ground now, and my branches swayed in the wind. My stems were covered with thorns; I was a wild rose. I grew strong and bold and proud. Tiny pink buds began to form at my fingertips. I held on to them tight. Soon they would grow and bloom in all their splendor, showing my glory for the world to see! Reluctantly, one by one, I let them open,….
April 25, 2016 – Recently, I have found conversations turning to the idea of “unconscious writing” – where structure, grammar, focus, and even content of the piece isn’t consciously or analytically mapped out. It simply flows, and we write down what we hear. What flows is usually the stuff of self-expression – memoir, journaling, passion, and exploration of who we are and what it is that drives us forward. Encounters with unconscious writing can leave authors amazed (“It wasn’t me who wrote my book!”), enticed (“My conscious life seems so normal, but then I learn otherwise in my writing and in my dreams…”), or frustrated (“I can write technical and factual information very well, but when I try to write from my heart, it comes out stilted or my mind goes blank.”) Often, unconscious writing, or journaling, is used as a way to gain access to hidden aspects of our soul. It is also the “juice” that makes the difference between an ordinary and extraordinary story. One way to achieve unconscious writing is by employing ritual. Writers are known for their rituals. In order for creativity to flow, they must have the right pen (or keyboard), sit in the right….
“Where have they gone? I must find them, for I am their leader.” – Poster on the wall of the best boss I have ever had April 8, 2016 – The most frequent and powerful edits I find myself making in the “tweaking” phase of writing is in what might be called “leadership.” Say I have already written what I wanted to say; now I am editing to make my ideas accessible to my audience. As in any leadership or teaching role, it is important to start where your readership is. For example, if you are teaching someone how to find the area of a circle, it isn’t helpful to tell them to use the formula A = πr2 if they don’t know what area means, have never heard of radius, have no idea what the symbols in the formula are, and are completely stumped on the idea of doing math with letters! This may seem obvious, but all too often we are so comfortable with our language and level of knowledge we forget our readers may not be starting in the same place we are. We can write the most eloquent piece on powerful shamanic healing practices, only to….
A sampling of a book I have underway – The Eagle and the Inchworm: Face-to-Face with Trauma and Shamanic Healing. The power of a journey circle, where several people who practice shamanism come together to journey as a group, is that the more people who compassionately give of themselves, the more strongly the spirits become engaged. A journey circle is a powerful place to take a request for healing or wisdom. Once in a while, a group comes together but no one has a healing request. This happened in one of my groups along the way, and when no one else had a request, I piped up and said, “I’ll always take a healing!” The group members all journeyed for me, and the end result was that no one, in fact, saw any pain or imbalance in me. They saw no need for healing. They saw light, radiance, dancing, gifts, and me being carried in some kind of procession! For my part, I saw myself being drawn by two sleek horses, one white and one black. They were both powerful and full of beauty, yet they were very slightly out of balance. As I rode with them, they gently shifted….
March 23, 2016 – What writer hasn’t heard the words of wisdom, engraved in stone, that we have to know our audience and write for them? We have to start where they are, give them what they need, and speak the language they understand. I think the hardest part of writing may very well be defining our audience! I spent at least two years after Finding Eagle was technically done trying to figure out who would read the book (and why I couldn’t push the “publish” button). My breakthrough came when I happened to read the standard question in a book for authors: “Who will read your book?” It was then followed by another question that hit the nail right on the head: “And why will they love it?” The “Why will they love it?” addition takes the question of audience out of the intellectual realm and puts it squarely in the emotional arena where we can process it more authentically. For my part, I immediately saw what was missing in my book, added two chapters, and pressed “Publish.” This is a step forward, but I contend there is still another obfuscating factor in writing for our audience and what they….
February 16, 2016 – If I were to pick one element as the most critical to master for effective writing, it would be focus. We know this concept in shamanic work as “intention” and the often-repeated phrase, “One journey, one intention.” Everything that happens in a shamanic journey is related to its intention. If we have more than one intention, we don’t clearly know which one each part of the journey is addressing, and the journey loses its power. It’s the same way with writing. If we don’t have a single, clear intention – or focus – in our writing, it is much more difficult for the reader to pick up on the true power of our words. In recent years, I have spent quite a bit of time writing and editing K-12 science lessons to meet New Generation Science Standards. Often, part of my job has been to write or answer discussion questions for teachers to use at the end of the lesson. I discovered this was quite an effective tool for seeing where the lessons were focused or not focused. It forced me to ask, “Where will students find the answer to this question in the lesson? How….
January 31, 2016 – I have come to believe that the first step in writing – or any form of personal, public expression – is NOT to ask, “What is my message,” “Who is my audience,” or “Why am I writing this book?” Instead, it is to ask, “Where is the goodness in my life?” Several years ago, I was given a healing song which included the words, “Life goes on…” These words have come back to me in recent days as I watch myself gravitate toward sharing jokes and puns and silly stuff, human stuff, in postings and on social media. I shy away now from the sober stuff because I am refusing to get caught up any more in the fear and drama of politics, climate change, government and corporate abuse of power, and all that I see going on right now around me. “Life goes on.” This is not to be frivolous. It is to take responsibility to vote, to speak and act intelligently with friends and community; to make choices with my pocketbook; to take opportunities to teach and model critical thinking, compassion, resourcefulness, and self-determination; to craft my own life and way of being the….
January 12, 2016 – A time comes in most people’s lives – usually around a mid-life birthday, a New Year, or a time when someone close to us dies – when we make a bucket list, things we want to do before we “kick the bucket.” When I have done this in the past, I have focused largely on new ideas: “What would be fun to do before I go? Visit Machu Pichu? Learn to surf? Build a house off the grid (but close to town)?” But what about looking back? When I was 16, I watched my mother trying to bring new purpose to her later life, and failing. I made a vow then never to stop growing and never to live my life with regrets. Being human, regrets still slip in from time to time, just to say hello. This last time around, I discovered that the mere act of making a bucket list can be a powerful way to dispel regrets quickly and easily. Here’s the twist… In shamanic practice we know that nightmares and recurring dreams can be dispelled by “dreaming a better ending.” We finish in an authentic way what the dream began. The same….