What Teach for America can teach writers

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?

If you’d like to know more about working in The Intersection, visit Writing Down Your Soul and view the course outline for Plug In! We begin on February 2nd.

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?

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Good Vibrations

Good vibrations image

You know that song. The second you read the title, you heard the Beach boys in your head: good good good, good vibrations! Hey, who doesn’t want THAT. Well, I was invited to be on the radio show, “Good Vibrations” in Monterey California with Solarzar and Kyralani. My job right now is to say YES so of course I said yes. And it was one of my best yesses. Solarzar and Kyralani epitomize for me the wise west. They are articulate, informed, curious, and willing to turn and look and consider and say, “hmmm, what’s that about?” In other words, they are alive. And they make me homesick for California. I’ve been on a dozen radio shows, but this is the first time a host played theta music and invited the listeners to write. If you’ve ever wondered what Writing Down Your Soul is about, really about, listen. I think you’ll love this.

Good Vibrations Radio

Then tell me, how was writing in theta for you?


How Ellen DeGeneres discovered Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen after she became Ellen

Ellen after she became Ellen

Last Friday, Diana Kyle, a friend from my old headhunting life, asked me to come to Blake High School Monday morning and teach kids about deep soul writing. Without thinking, I said yes. Why? I don’t know. I certainly wasn’t going to make any money or sell any books, but my job right now is to say yes. I figure Spirit knows how to reach the people who need what’s in Writing Down Your Soul, so Spirit’s job is to send them and my job is to say yes when they call.

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.