But for now, let us celebrate Paul Auster, who said:
“Becoming a writer is not a ‘career decision’ like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don’t choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you’re not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.”
“I don’t know why I do what I do. If I did know, I probably wouldn’t feel the need to do it. … Surely it is an odd way to spend your life — sitting alone in a room with a pen in your hand, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, struggling to put words on pieces of paper in order to give birth to what does not exist — except in your head. Why on earth would anyone want to do such a thing? The only answer I have ever been able to come up with is: because you have to, because you have no choice.”
I think he’s trying to get us NOT to want to be writers, but his words just inspire me to sit down and write. And write. And write some more.
Although my craft at its highest will not, can not, touch the wizardry of City of Glass. No matter how many times I read it, I am at a loss for how words on the page create a world and then a world within that world, and then, well, no one really knows what else. Because at the end of the book you realize that you know NOTHING. Not who the character is, not where he is, or what he is, or if he is. Oh my. If you haven’t read City of Glass, horray for you. A great adventure awaits. Want a little champagne to go with that? Get the unbelievable graphic novel by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli. It was the first graphic novel I ever read and no graphic novel has touched it since. The two together are perfection in word and image.
All right, all you writers. And writer wanna-bes. A toast is in order to the master. Happy Birthday, Paul.
Following my usual Sunday ritual, I spent a couple hours this morning curled up in my favorite reading chair devouring french press coffee and the Sunday paper. I always find something that makes me think. Really think. The stimulus today was an article titled “What makes a great teacher” in the St Pete Times.
I felt drawn to read it for several reasons.
A. I was a teacher. Maybe not always a great one, but I did strive to make a difference. The year my profoundly gifted and profoundly deaf 9 year olds tested out reading at the high school level…,well, that was a proud moment indeed.
B. I’ve been frustrated to the n’th degree by the range of quality of teaching my son experienced in his education from pre-school to college from superb to god-awful.
C. I have a gut feeling my son will be a teacher of some kind some day.
And D. I still teach. I just teach deep soul writing and working in The Intersection instead of third grade.
So I read the article. As I read, I stumbled upon a paragraph that popped off the page. It spoke directly to me and to all writers, that is, all writers who are commited to being great. The paragraph distills Teach for America’s findings on what made teachers great. See what you think:
“…great teachers tended to set big goals…. They were also perpetually looking for ways to improve…. Great teachers constantly re-evalaute what they are doing.
Superstar teachers had four other tendencies in common: They avidely recruited students and their families into the process, they maintained focus…, they planned exhaustively and purposefully–for the next day or the year ahead–by working backward from the desired outcome; and they refused to surrender to the combined menaces of poverty, beaurocracy and budgetary shortfalls.”
What does that have to do with writers trying to write well and get published? Everything. When we work in The Intersection we are accessing the creative power of the universe, but that doesn’t mean that it flows to us without some effort and action on our part. The upcoming telecourse Plug In! The Intersection for Writers is about what actions to take to ensure endless access to that glorious creative flow.
In the last few blogs I talked about my real job for 2010. My job is to create the conditions that allow that flow to happen. And creating those conditions does take focus–relentless repeated focus. Every day we writers rise and renew our commitment to write and write well.
We do the same things Teach America, we
set big goals (getting published in todays world is a HUGE goal)
perpetually look for ways to improve
constantly reevaluate what we’re doing
recruit our friends and families into supporting our writing life
maintain focus (this shuold be number one)
plan how to get to what we want by working backward from it (to get a contract, I need an agent, to get an agent, I need a proposal, to write a proposal, I need….)
refuse to surrender to all the menaces around us
Are you a writer? Is this the year you create your writing life? Find your voice? Get published?
Whether you join Plug In! or not, take whatever wisdom you can from the Teach for America research. Are there any parts of it that resonate for you?
Here’s how I got LESS. I was writing on Jan 12th after a glorious inaugural booksigning at Wings Bookstore in St Pete, and I told DG that all Writing Down Your Soul needs is more Sharon Jebbens–the manager. What is Sharon? I asked, and immediately my hand wrote:
Loves the book
Embraces the practice
Sees the potential
Spreads the word
I laughed. All this book needs is LESS. (A whole new take on the adage “less is more,” don’t you think?)
Then I realized that Writing Down Your Soul’s readers are also LESS. So are all the guides, like coaches and therapists, who encourage people to start writing down their souls. Bottom line is everyone who falls in love with this book is LESS.
So the Voice and I were talking about getting more LESS. And the Power of Five showed up on the page. As soon as I saw the words, I knew what it meant:
If each person who reads this blog forwards it to five people…
If each person who gets the Writing Down Your Soul newsletter, forwards it to five people… (Don’t get it? Sign up here)
If each person who loves the book, tells five friends… Or gives it to five people as a gift… (You can get a signed copy at my website.)
If each bookseller tells five people who come into their store…
If each coach, therapist, hypnotist, acupunturist or other professional guide tells five clients…
Writing Down Your Soul would reach the hands and hearts of all who seek it–nevermind, make the NYT Bestseller Advice/How to list.
I know you have this power. I recently traced over 200 readers to one woman, Gwynn Kelley who came to a pre-publication Writing Down Your Soul workshop at Unity Church of Palm Harbor. She told a friend, Polly Memhard, in Riverside CT, who told her friend, Martha Howland. Between Polly and Martha over 150 people have been to Writing Down Your Soul workshops and events in CT. PLUS, Gwynn told her daughter who told a life coach in south Florida who called me to help her put together a women’s soul writing class.
I have story after story like this of one person who contacted another and another and suddenly a whole room full of people are reading Writing Down Your Soul.
I may have written the book, but you have the power to get it into people’s hands. Thank you for being the Power of Five. Five, by the way, represents change and anyone who engages in divine dialogue with their wise, loving, inner Voice is going to be guided to wise loving changes in his or her life.
Does the idea of having the power of five make you smile? Please start talking, forwarding, sharing, encouraging…spreading the word. I’m inviting everyone who demonstrates the Power of Five to contact me for a special invitation-only teleclass on Dec 29th to create the Soul Day that will call in a magical new year. Just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me how you are the Power of Five.
Want to learn more about Focused Attraction? I learned it from Rev Lauren McLaughlin of UnityNow.
Here is the third of four youtube videos produced by Bizz Buzz Video in conjunction with Jennifer Hill Robenalt of HooplaMedia when I was in Austin Texas. Man oh man, but they did a great job. Not only are the production values superb, but it was an effortless experience. When we were finished recording four of these, I said, “That’s it!?”
This video answers the question: What is the difference between journaling and writing down your soul? The answer in a nutshell: just about everything!
The chart I mention that compares traditional journaling and deep soul writing is on page 246 in Writing Down Your Soul. If you want it in color check out writingdownyoursoul.com.
The second question on this video is about the value of deep soul writing for professional writers. But it’s not just writers who love the flow that deep soul writing generates. All creatives love deep soul writing because the creative force of the universe is available in theta. I feel like a cheerleader for theta. Go theta!
How about you? What mysteries of the universe do you unlock in theta?
I didn’t learn writing down your soul. I didn’t read about it in a book or hear about it from a friend. I didn’t take a class or find it in a magazine article. I stumbled upon it–with a little help from Harley, my Great Dane puppy. Hey, as far as I can tell, heaven is always in on the act somewhere, guiding, supporting, and, OK, nudging when necessary. I just took a little more than the average nudging.
But I did finally respond. And just like everyone who makes a big “aha” discovery, I was where I needed to be, I followed my instincts, I took the plunge and tried something new, and then–this is important–I paid attention to the results. That’s how the process of deep soul writing was discovered.
But, so what? I mean, does that matter? Does that matter to anyone but me? I think so. I think it matters now more than ever. Because it seems that right now everyone has questions. Everyone is looking for answers. Everyone could use a little more wisdom, a little more direction, a little more love.
Could writing down your soul help you? See for yourself.
Ellen DeGeneres woke us all up. My last post, the one about her commencement address at Tulane, attracted a huge spike of readers. I think I know why. Ellen laid out a way — an incredibly simple way — to SEE your Life Around the Corner, by “seeing” it on the page in conversation with God. Ellen saw herself sitting next to Johnny Carson on the tonight show. Given Ellen’s situation at the time, that could have been labelled totally absurd, possibly delusional. But, guess what? It happened.
Her experience has really stuck with me. So, this morning, as I was saying my prayers, repeating my Covenant and my Writing Blessing, I closed my eyes and had a little chat with Spirit, or as Reverend Lauren McLaughlin, calls it, the Eternal Life Force — ELF. I was just saying something to the Elf, when I saw in my mind a bright white glowing light about the size of a basketball in my hands. Instinctively, I looked down into the white ball.
OH, I realized, this is how Ellen did it. She looked into the future, into her crystal ball, so to speak, or using my new favorite metaphor, into her spy binoculars and saw the Life Around the Corner. Clearly. She saw herself sitting next to Johnny Carson. Not wishing or hoping or “wouldn’t it be great if…” but saw it. Probably felt the chair beneath her. Felt the lights, saw his face close up. She simply was “there” inside her future experience. Did it happen because she experienced it a decade in advance or was it always going to happen and in that moment she simply got a peak? Interesting philosophical, metaphysical question there. And I don’t have the answer. Not an intellectual answer. And guess what? I don’t care how it works; I just want to have the experience.
So, looking into my white ball of light, I said, OK, I get it. I’ll sit down with my pen and have my own conversation with Spirit and SEE my future.
I asked on the page, “What is in my life around the corner?” Out gushed a bunch of things: Being on Ellen and talking about her experience, being on the Oprah Soul Series and on her TV show talking about deep soul writing, being interviewed by Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, shaking Neale Donald Walsch’s hand and hearing him say that deep soul writing is how he had his Conversations with God, and signing a half million dollar advance. All delightful. All powerful. All big.
But when I looked at the list, I said, “OK, I love them all and I DO see them all happening, but what ONE event, what ONE experience would be proof that all of this has transpired and more? What one experience sums up my Life Around the Corner?”
I knew immediately. I drew a bold dark blue ink square around the words: Walk into the New York city library and touch a shelf full of my books.
Even as I type that sentence, I feel tears. Tears are proof that this is THE apex experience I will have. I don’t know when. (When is not my job.) I don’t know how. (How is not my job.) Just know that it will happen. I am standing there right now, in my mind, in my white ball of light, smiling and reaching out and running my fingers slowly along the ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen books that I have written. I turn to my son and with tears in my eyes, say, “Here I am, permanently, in the New York city library. Guarded by the lions.”
Close your eyes, hold the white ball of divine light or the spy binoculars or become a hawk who flies ahead to see your Life Around the Corner. The image doesn’t matter. Just choose one that feels right to you and ask, “How will I know that I have achieved my Life Around the Corner?” Pick up a pen and start writing. See what images come through. No matter how wacky or amazing or unlikely or impossible — write them down.
Why? Because Ellen sat next to Johnny Carson. Because I will run my hands over my books in the main library in New York. (Oh, and be on Oprah and Ellen, and GMA!)
How about you? What are you doing in your Life Around the Corner?
So there I was yesterday, teaching small groups of school-weary teenagers what the theta brain wave state is and how to get into it through writing. After teaching the same thing for the third time, I was weary and wondered, “What am I doing here?” I could have gotten some sleep — and lord knows after teaching all weekend, I could use some sleep. I could have written a blog. I could have started my next newsletter… but here I am, talking to kids, most of whom don’t appear to want to do this anyway.
But there was one young woman who cried when she wrote. She didn’t say anything, just smiled sadly. She came back three hours later as I was leaving. I thrust my copy of Writing Down Your Soul in her hands. Last night, she emailed. She said she couldn’t put the book down. She was devouring it and underlining every other sentence. She said that that ten minute experience of deep soul writing awakened something. Now, she said, I want to “embrace a pen and never let it go.” When I read her email, I thought, oh, now I know why I said yes to Diana.
But it turns out I didn’t really know. Not fully. Jennifer Hill Robenalt, my heaven-sent media guru, sent me a video this morning with strict orders, “You have to watch this.” I watched.
I laughed for the first four minutes. Then, my eyes shot open and I burst into tears. Ellen found herself the same way the young woman at Blake is finding herself. The same way I found myself. The same way you are — or can — find yourself.
Your self is right there inside of you. Your vision, your purpose, your story — as it could be — no, as it will be. Ellen had a little chat with God on the page and found Ellen. And just look at what happened.
I needed a reminder today that Writing Down Your Soul matters. Here it is.
How did you (or are you) finding your self? I’d love to know. We’d all love to know.
This morning, it came to me that I’m just beginning to scratch the surface of the full meaning of “the life around the corner.” I was in the shower, which my original Conari editor called, “the phone booth to God.” The first time I heard her say that I burst out laughing. Oh yes, it’s the phone booth to God, alright, but there’s a big problem with this phone booth: there’s no place to take notes. I’ve learned to repeat out loud what I’m hearing/learning/seeing so it sticks in my head long enough to make it to a towel and then to paper.
Well, this morning in the phone booth, I realized that I had missed many of the rich details that make this story meaningful and important.
For example. The phrase “the life around the corner” came through on the page while I was whining about the low turnout for my workshop. As the class wrote their creative blessings, I barked on the page, “What’s the deal? You bring me to New York and then everyone stays home? How does this help the book? How does this keep me going? I trust you to shine the light, but this sure doesn’t look like a bright light to me!” (You should know by now that my relationship with the Voice is real. I bring the whole Janet to the conversation–warts, fears, irrational thinking and all.) Somewhere in the midst of my whining, that magical phrase popped on to the page.
The aha in the phone booth today was this: the phrase came through because I had a lousy turnout. If the room had been full, I’d have been writing, “thank you, thank you, thank you.” And “the life around the corner” would never have appeared. So odd as it sounds, I’m grateful, oh so grateful, that the workshop was a dud. This is a perfect example of that profound but often undigestible truth: nothing is happening to you; everything is happening for you.
But there’s more.
In the shower, I again saw myself walking up Lenox and remembered that it is also Malcolm X Blvd. Now think about that. Lenox = Malcolm X. To me, it’s obvious. Lenox sounds like the beautiful dream–the success, the beauty, the joy, the bounty. Lenox. Shoot, it sounds like an estate in the English countryside. But Malcolm X is the same street. For a few blocks, exactly where I was walking, Lenox is Malcolm X Blvd. What does Malcolm X represent? How about struggle. How about the fight to be heard, seen, recognized, and respected. How about standing up for your self, your dignity, your place in the world. I don’t think it’s an accident that out of all the streets in New York city, I was hiking up Lenox/Malcolm X a few hours after receiving the phrase, “the life around the corner.”
But wait, there’s more.
Where was I headed? 125th street. I love how numbers appear in my life, carrying nudges and messages and blessings. Well, 1 + 2 + 5 = 8. If you know anything about numerology, you know that 8 represents prosperity, abundance, success, money, power. So my life around the corner was on Abundance Street, so to speak.
My birth number is an 8. You get your birth number by adding up your birth date. Mine is 6 16 1948. Add up all those digits and you get 35. Then add the 3 +5 = 8. This is not a coincidence. Not in my book.
I’m sure I’ll uncover more about my adventure with “the life around the corner” when I write down my soul tomorrow or dream about it tonight or step into that mysterious phone booth again. But here’s what I’m sure about so far:
- The life around the corner is right there. I just can’t see it.
- I have a choice: I can duck into a safe doorway or I can walk bravely up the avenue holding my dream and honoring my struggle to achieve it.
- If I do that–dream and struggle, struggle and dream–while moving forward the whole time, I will reach my intersection. I will finally turn and see it: my life around the corner. I will step into the vision heaven is keeping for me. I just have to see it, believe it, and keep going.
I think I’ll start by getting back in the shower.
(Thank you to Jennifer at 2serenity on flickr for this fabulous photo.)
When you write down your soul, you never know when something profound is going to plop onto the page. Sometimes you think you can predict the Voice or control it by asking really good questions. But you are not in charge. When you write this way, you yield the pen to the Voice and the Voice takes it. The only thing I know for sure is that the Voice will speak. But even I, after twelve years of deep soul writing, cannot predict when a sweet dollop of grace will land on the page. I can only smile and say, “Thank you.” And, oh, one other thing: grab that wisdom and use it.
That’s what happened April 23rd. I was back in New York teaching “How to Write Your Creative Blessing” at the Alex Grey gallery upstairs from the wonderful bookstore in the Village, East West Living. I had taught the class what a Creative Blessing is and how to use it to induce effortless work. As the group picked up their pens to write their blessings, I picked up mine. But not to write a new blessing. I love my Writing Blessing and don’t want to change a word. So I just stepped into my normal conversation with the Voice. I talked about my packed weekend of events in New York and Connecticut and wondered what it all meant and where it was all going.
In the midst of a perfectly ordinary sentence, this appeared: The life around the corner. I took a breath. Oh. Quickly, I captured it on a fresh page. The life around the corner. I didn’t understand it, but I knew it was a blessing.
That night, I stayed with Victoria Moran, author of the brand new Living a Charmed Life. I had to be in Norwalk, Connecticut at Pymander Books the next day. Victoria gave me directions. She said to walk north on Lenox/Malcolm X Blvd 9 blocks and then turn right on 125th and walk across three avenues to the Metro North station. For a Floridian who typically walks 4 yards to the car, it seemed downright exotic. But at 9am the next morning, there I was hiking up Malcolm X.
As I walked, the phrase returned: the life around the corner. As I turned the corner at 125th, I got it. I said “thank you” out loud. A young woman passing with two young boys smiled at me. I grinned back.
Here’s my interpretation of the Voice’s message. There is a life around the corner. You can’t see it. But it is still there. Waiting. Waiting for you to walk toward it. But what do we do? We duck into the safe storefront of the safe job, the safe relationship, the safe decision, the safe amount of money in the bank. I hovered in those “safe” doorways for years — decades actually. While my real life waited. Waited for me to overcome my fear, step out, and start walking.
A week later, I met my media guru, Jennifer Hill Robenalt of Hoopla Media. Jennifer’s vision for me and for Writing Down Your Soul takes my breath away. Do you remember that nifty spy binocular toy that allowed you to see around corners and over fences? I loved that thing.
Well, Jennifer is my spy binocular. She sees what the Voice sees. We all need a Jennifer. We all need someone to see our potential and believe in our ability to achieve it. God love you if you have a Jennifer Hill Robenalt. But if you don’t, don’t worry. You have the Voice. And you have a life around the corner.
What is it?
Holidays drive a lot of us nuts.
The fantasy of the happy family around the table at Thanksgiving, the joyful family at Christmas (or whatever winter holiday you celebrate), the loving couple on Valentine’s day. Gaaak! For many of us–maybe most of us–these lovey-dovey holidays just make us feel less loved and less lovable.
Especially Mothers Day. For those of us who were not exactly the apple of our mothers’ eyes, the greeting card image of the devoted mother and child makes us wince. Yesterday I watched the adorable video of Kelly Corrigan’s mom rearranging Kelly’s books in her local Borders so no one can miss them. Kelly said, “That’s what mothers do.” I thought, “Oh yeah? Not my mother!”
I had a prize-winning mother. She scared the bejesus out of all my friends, especially boys. They would cower in the doorway feeling her frosty judgement from twenty feet away. They couldn’t get “Good night, Mrs Conner,” out fast enough.
But here I am approaching another Mothers Day feeling love–and nothing but love. Mind you, not because of anything my mother said. Not because of a deathbed declaration of devotion. (Never got that.) Not because of anything my mother did. I stand in a pool of love because of something I did.
When my mother began her death march through dementia, I picked up a pen and had the first of many long, intense, soulful conversations with the Voice about Laurene and about our feet-on-broken-glass relationship. I laid our story out on the page, episode after episode, wound after wound, slight after slight, asking hard questions as I went. One of the richest was “What gifts did I receive from my mother?”
Well, ask and ye shall receive, right? The page filled with an array of precious gifts from relentless focus (I can sit at the computer till midnight), to reliance on prayer (don’t get me started, I love prayer in all its forms), to the image of a woman as a writer. Although, I didn’t agree with a single word my mother wrote. (Her obsession was saving the Catholic Church from the evils of all that wasn’t orthodox. She even reviewed papal encyclicals for how well they toed the line.) But at seven, I watched her chain smoke and pound the typewriter, and that image of “woman as writer” (without the cigarettes, thank god!) cemented itself into a possibility–and eventually a reality–for me. And for this, I am eternally grateful.
So, if this Sunday, Mothers Day, is not your idea of a delightful holiday, if you shake your head when you think of your mother, if you dread the thought of another brunch of cold food and artificial smiles, tell the Voice. Tell the Voice in full-throated cry and three-dimensional color, but then, ask. Ask the hard questions. Ask the painful questions. And at some point, ask: “What gifts did I receive from my mother?”
Then, write fast. So fast that you can’t read what’s coming out. Let the words flow on their own. The gifts will cascade onto the page, even–or especially–the “bad” ones. From this rich soil, you grew. Perhaps, you had to grow yourself, but you grew.
And that, is your soul’s true story. You simply could not be who you are, where you are, and headed in the direction you’re headed without that wacky, cold, judgemental (pick an adjective!) woman. So, say Thank You!
For me, I say, Happy Mothers Day, Laurene! And thank you for your many, many gifts.
Want more? Here are two of the UPI columns I wrote about the gifts from my mother. If you want the whole series, send me an email at email@example.com.