Writing the Sacred

December 23, 2015 – It is said that a shaman often will not reveal the identity of the true power animal or helping spirits which he or she relies upon for healing work. The power and relationship between shaman and spirits is sacred. In the same manner, if an experience happens in our life which touches us profoundly and changes us forever, it too is sacred. Spiritual experiences are often not to be shared, but to be held close and allowed to deepen and grow within us. When we begin to write with the intention of using our experience and learnings to help others, we are likely to be faced with difficult questions of what to share, how much detail to provide, and what to keep to ourselves. There are three guidelines I follow when trying to wend my way through sacred space in my written work: Share as much as necessary to meet the healing intention of my writing. When I consider whether or not to share a spiritual experience in my writing, I focus first on the reason I am sharing the story. I tend to share many journeys and experiences which others keep private because I have known….

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Closing the Door

December 18, 2015 – When I was a teenager, I used to love to talk on the phone with my sister, who was several years older than I and had already moved out of the house. When we were alone together on the telephone I could say anything I wanted to her, and I came away enriched and knowing I had been heard. But sometimes I would get stuck on a “family call,” where everyone was on a different extension and we would all talk as a group. At those times, I had nothing to say, and I would come away empty and unheard. I believe writing is the same way. In his book On Writing, Steven King speaks about writing with the door closed and with the door open. He would spend several months – and drafts – writing his books in secret, sharing them with no one, and only after he had them just the way he wanted them, would he seek outside editing and critique. He wrote “with the door closed” until he had created his own vision. He then wrote “with the door open,” taking advice from others on how to make his vision more accessible or powerful for….

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Self-Editing Tips and Tricks (revisited)

December 10, 2015 – This is a repost of a popular article from about two years ago. It’s wisdom and guidance are still worthy today. Enjoy! An editor can be an invaluable resource for adding clarity, impact, and saleability to our written work, but many of us don’t always have an editor at our disposal. When we do choose to hire one, we want our work to be as strong as possible going into the editing process. Here are some things you can do yourself to add impact to your own writing: 1) Review your goal. Do you know why are you writing this piece? Can you state it succinctly in one short sentence? 2) Look at your organization. Does your piece take the reader logically, step-by-step, from where they are to where you want them to be? 3) Check the focus. Does every paragraph, every sentence, every word move the reader toward your goal? 4) Make sure you have a container. Does your opening paragraph set an expectation for the reader? Does your closing paragraph remind them of how that expectation was met? 5) Read for interest. Does your piece contain stories, examples, metaphors, humor – a little bit of….

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When You Can’t Write… Speak!

December 3, 2015 – As a book coach, I have had clients come to me who want to write their life stories, but they have difficulty with the writing itself. Some actually write quite well, and all they need is good editing and an outside perspective. Others have great difficulty writing at all. I have found, as a rule, that this second group has no trouble telling me their stories orally at length…. It should come as no surprise, then, that the best way for them to “write” is to draw on their strength and speak their story into a recorder. Once it is transcribed, it can easily be edited and focused just as if they had handed me a written rough draft. What has been surprising to me – and delightful – has been to hear these budding authors exclaim, “This manuscript captures my thoughts exactly!” as if I had worked some kind of creative magic, rather than simply making a few tweaks to their own recorded words. They don’t realize the power of their own expression until they see themselves in print. In some ways, books written in this way are, I believe, more powerful than the ones created on….

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Self-Publishing for the Right Side of your Brain

November 25, 2015 – If you are like most right-brained, highly creative people, you are much more interested in the look and feel of your book and its message than you are in the rules of grammar, details of print and digital formatting, or technical specifications for clear, crisp images on the page. In days gone by, publishing houses took care of all these details and even went out of their way to provide their most popular and finicky authors with stipends and secluded retreats to nurture their creative sensibilities. Writers wrote, and the publishers took care of the rest. These days, as the world of book publishing shifts like sand beneath our feet, many writers are choosing to step into the business of publishing themselves, and even successful mainstream authors are leaving traditional publishing houses in order to self-publish. What does this process of self-publishing mean for the right-brained among us? There are five main functions performed by the traditional publishing house which self-publishing authors have to pick up – or hire someone to do – themselves: manuscript editing, document formatting, book cover design and formatting, “galley” proofing, and the “business” end of copyright/Library of Congress filing, determining sales….

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Holding Energy

November 20, 2015 – I was teaching a workshop several years ago, playing a drum in sacred space, when a furry little animal appeared in my mind’s eye. It poked its head out of a hole in the ground, ran across a strip of grass, and disappeared as suddenly as it had arrived, down another hole. Soon it popped up again, and as I watched, it ran from hole to hole in the grass, jumping into the earth and popping up again only to disappear somewhere else. After several minutes of this, it stopped and looked at me and said, “What’s important is knowing which hole you are jumping into.” This message has stayed with me ever since as a wonderful reminder of the importance of intention in everything we do. I have written about the idea of moving away from journaling as a form of writing practice because without an audience it is so easy to get caught up in the “dream.” By using a blog, newsletter, or short story format, we get to build muscle, instead, which takes us from that dream into a creative expression of our thoughts and feelings in a way that is understandable to….

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Making the Shift from Clarity to Action

November 12, 2015 – I woke up this morning into a place of pure bliss. The bed covers were cozy, my body was relaxed, and my mind was safe. It was an hour yet before I had to start my day, and I was in no hurry to push it. As I lay there, simply noticing the peacefulness in myself, thoughts began to emerge with astounding clarity. They brought with them a richness of details, images, patterns, examples, and a kind of whole-body “knowing” in a way that is rarely accessible to me. I was in a state of pure creativity. I have been here before, and I knew I wouldn’t make it to my coffee cup before 99% of this was gone. Capturing the clarity of moments like these is an ongoing challenge, even with time and bedside pen and paper. Like a child at Christmas, it is so easy to move in the dream from one enlightenment to the next, to feel it and know it and keep following the threads until it is too much for my mind to hold. It is so easy to get lost in a dream state and travel through it all until….

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Do the Job You Want to Have

November 7, 2015 – There is a saying for getting ahead in the corporate world: Do the job you want to have. Or perhaps you know this version from the world of healers and spiritual growth: Be the change you want to see. Buddhist author Leo Babauta puts it yet another way: If you want to be a writer, write! What these three bits of advice share, each in its own way, is that if you have a goal or vision for yourself, don’t wait! Do whatever you can right now to start living that goal. If you want to be a farmer, don’t wait until you can afford to buy a farm. Farm your back yard, farm your patio in pots, work as a farmhand, or volunteer on a community farm. Find a forum in which to speak to the experience you are creating for yourself in the agricultural world and express your views on subjects that are in the forefront of agriculture. In other words, wherever you are, whatever you have – big or small – use it to be a farmer. A colleague of mine is conducting a four-year study of the “possible human,” which includes interviewing….

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Flow and the Dark Side of Journaling

November 3, 2015 – Would-be authors are often advised to practice their craft by journaling every day. This can be a helpful tool, particularly if the focus is on playing with specific writing styles or techniques. Simply recording facts, experiences, or ideas from the day, however, can quickly lead us into the “dark side of journaling.” I was lucky with my first book, which was a memoir, because much of the experience I was writing about had been recorded in an Internet work space at the time it happened. Later, when I went to write the book, it was all there waiting for me. It doesn’t get much better than that. I was also aware that I would be writing a sequel one day, so I began trying to capture that same level of detail in my on-going life through journaling – and that was when the dark side began to get its hold on me. Journaling about our life experiences, it turns out, can have some real drawbacks. First of all, it can keep us stuck on stuff that maybe would be better let go of in the moment. What we give attention to, we give life to, and….

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