Friends: This magical week in our December Plan culminates today and tomorrow with two delightful activities. Today, you give 2010 a name. Names have resonance. Names have power. In this post originally written for UPI on Jan 1, 2008, you’ll learn why naming your year has such magical power. Then, tomorrow, we wrap up the week with a delightful final touch. The bow on top so to speak.)
On Jan. 1, while others are nursing hangovers, cooking beans, watching the parade, or preparing for a football fest, I sit for a few hours in complete silence in my writing chair and create my year. New Year’s Day is my Soul Day. (Soul Days are described at length in Writing Down Your Soul on p 230-237) Soul Days are always profound experiences, but this Jan. 1 was special.
I woke early, threw on a comfy robe, and headed downstairs to turn on the Christmas tree lights. I made a pot of strong French press coffee with hot cream and frothed milk and cut two thin slices of Lindsey Hart’s to-die-for pound cake (available only at Christmas and only for her devoted clients) and settled into my chair. There, I did what I do every New Year’s Soul Day: I reviewed the year before, acknowledged the wealth of blessings received, felt deep gratitude for every gift, and discussed the possibilities for 2008 with the Voice of Spirit.
Then I did a few devotional readings and queried my favorite card sets, prayerfully asking Spirit to show me what I need to know about the coming 12 months. I studied every piece of guidance and distilled them into my “prayer sandwich” for 2008 — a six-line prayer I will repeat every morning and every evening for 365 days. (p. 188-199 in Writing Down Your Soul) Each line is carefully constructed to define, declare and attract my six sacred intentions for the year. I’ve done a Soul Day process like this for years, and the experience always fills me with hope — and confidence that that hope is heard and embraced by a divine chorus who believe in and support my soul’s evolution.
But this year I did something more. I named my year. First. Before I said one prayer or read one card, I named my year. As far as I know, no one does this. No one names the next 12 months. No one writes the title of their year as though it were the title of a movie or book or painting. But naming your year is, I think, the missing link, the extra ingredient, the key that unlocks the future you want.
I got the idea from Jan Johnson, my publisher at Conari Press. Mind you, she doesn’t know I got the idea from her, and if you asked her about “naming your year,” she’d probably look at you oddly, but it came from her nonetheless.
Back in the fall of 2006, Conari Press asked me for a proposal on how to journal to access divine wisdom. I’ve taught people how to access the voice of the divine within for years. I called my classes “Dear God,” because when I write in my journal, I begin my conversations that way. But I tell my students to use any salutation they like. The power isn’t in the name, I always tell them, it’s in your intention. So use the name for the divine that speaks to you.
I wrote my proposal and submitted it under the title “Dear God.” Despite my editor’s admonition that I might not hear for 90 days, I got an email the very next week: We love it! Yes, we’ll publish it. Except for one little detail: Jan Johnson, our president, doesn’t like the title. She thinks the word “God” is too limiting or off-putting for a lot of people. Think about a different, more inclusive name for the book.
Huh? A different title? My classes are called “Dear God.” My company is Dear God & Company! I’ve had the domain name deargod.com for a decade, and I’ll finally be able to use it. What do you mean, “find another name”? I fussed alone in my office for a day, but then I stopped. After all, Conari is a really good publisher, and they sell lots and lots of spiritual books. If they think “Dear God” is not the right title, then maybe it’s not. But I was so in love with my title, and so accustomed to using it, that I couldn’t think of anything else. So I asked for help. I sent an email to everyone who had taken a Dear God class in the past year. “What do you call God when you write?” I asked.
Well, I was taken aback by the response. Jan Johnson was right! Almost no one used the term “God” when addressing the divine. Two people explained why: They’d had dreadful experiences as children at fundamental churches where the minister heavily preached about God. My fellow writers suggested 27 other names for the divine. So much for calling my book “Dear God”!
I went back to the drawing board. I came up with several new titles and sent them off. They didn’t like any of them. I tried again. I read up on creativity and tried a process developed by Win Wenger, who has studied all the great creative geniuses. New ideas came through, but they were all rejected by Conari. “What do you want?” I begged. The answer was completely frustrating, “We don’t know, but we’ll recognize it when we see it.”
I went to my local bookstore and studied the titles of books near where mine would be shelved. Power seemed to be big. How about “The Power of Writing” or “The Untapped Spiritual Power of Writing”? Nope. How about “In Your Hand”? I thought that was kinda clever. Their answer didn’t surprise me: No.
I was getting frustrated. While they were dithering over the title, I could have had the manuscript half written! “Why can’t I just write the book,” I asked my editor, “and the title will evolve through the process?” “Because Jan Johnson believes you have to have the title first.”
Finally, in desperation, I asked Stephanie Gunning, a fellow writer and editorial consultant. She came up with a title in 10 minutes: “Writing Down Your Soul.” Hmmm. That sounded good. And Conari loved it. THANK YOU, GOD! So, could I start writing? Nope. I needed a subtitle. Aaaahhhhh!
I pulled out every spiritual book I have (you don’t want to know how many) and wrote down every bloomin’ subtitle. Staring at the list, an idea simply popped into my head: “How to activate and listen to the extraordinary voice within.” I sent it to Conari, and 48 hours later I had the green light for my book.
At the time I thought, “Well, now, that’s over and I can begin to write.” But the book wouldn’t follow my planned table of contents or detailed outline. Why? Because:
- The word “soul” in the title kept steering the book toward talking about the evolution of your soul.
- The word “activate” in the subtitle became a lengthy treatise on the power of questions to open the unconscious mind, including questions that work and questions that don’t.
- The word “listen” magically attracted experts on compassionate listening that were nowhere to be found in my original proposal.
- And the word “voice” simply took over the entire project. The Voice became the focus and fulcrum of every page
When I finished the manuscript and looked back at my original proposal, I hoped Conari wouldn’t mind that I had not written the book I proposed. I’d written something much bigger and mightier. I’d written a book I adored.
So what does the title of my book have to do with naming my year? Everything. I have experienced the magnetic power of a name. I saw firsthand how the name brought forth ideas, research, questions and even people. (How did it do that?) If the name worked so powerfully for my book, why wouldn’t it work equally well for my year?
After my card readings, I went back to my office and made a vision board. On it I drew myself on a horse leaping through air effortlessly, gathering all the accolades, publicity and success I want for Writing Down Your Soul. I pasted on book reviews, and sales standings, and magazines, and radio and TV shows. I described my perfect readers, agent and next contracts. I stood back and looked at it and smiled. Then I added the crowning touch. At the bottom, I glued on my name for 2008: My Abundant, Unstoppable, Leap of Faith Year.
I’m with Jan Johnson: Get the name first. When you name it, it will come.