Listen! Something is Stirring!

It wants your attention. It wants to be free. Have you heard it whisper?

You know what it is. It dances through your dreams. It causes you to be late because you’re mesmerized by a cloud formation that looks exactly like the city in a story you want to write. In a rare moment of silence, it says, Come, follow me, I have a story only you can tell. An image only you can paint.

It offers impractical ideas, suggesting you compose a poem or a symphony. A ludicrous idea. After all, you’re a busy person. Who has the time for frivolities? Ridiculous. But, is it?

The call of the Creative Self is real. It means that something inside you wants to be born into the world of time and the light of day.

The seeds of inspiration reside within us. Often just beneath the level of awareness. It takes a receptive attitude to invite those seeds into our lives so we can shape them by creative acts into a poem, a story, a drawing, a clay pot.

Children have unfettered access to the messages of their Creative Self. They draw on walls, paint on their toes, and sing at the top of their small lungs, simply for the joy of it.

As we grow, we learn what pleases our parents, teachers, and friends. We want to fit in, to be loved and praised, so we learn to follow the rules. We don’t fingerpaint when we’re supposed to be studying. We don’t eat dessert before the meal. We don’t spend nearly as much time watching clouds drift by.

Even though we learn to ignore its subversive messages, the Creative Self does not disappear. It is always waiting.

When it makes itself known, it can burst out like thunder, impossible to ignore. Or it may whisper, faintly, its voice only discernible in the vague moments between sleep and waking. Don’t be fooled by volume. The faint voice may have more to say.

Humans create biologically. We also create the conditions of our lives, with our choices, our willingness to learn, observe, and investigate what lies beyond our immediate surroundings.

  • Every explorer wonders what waits beyond the horizon.
  • Every athlete imagines the heights of skill she can achieve.
  • Every artist practices her art to faithfully reproduce the images of the imagination.

People who perform at the highest levels of their sport, art, craft, or profession have an inner drive urging them on. They might call it inspiration or ambition. The words don’t matter. The vision that urges us to keep us moving forward comes from the Creative Self.

You can do it, the Creative Self notes, because it knows you can.

No matter how loud or soft, how often it comes, or how clear its message, the voice of the Creative Self is what you are waiting for.

“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.”

                                                                                                                 Rumi

 

 

Winners and More Winners

My new book, When Spirit Whispers: a journey of awakening, is a winner in the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards! I am excited and gratified to be honored by this excellent organization.

The book was a labor of love, my small offering of aid and inspiration to those traveling the path of personal discovery. Writing and publishing it was a lot of work and the award got me thinking about what being a winner means.

Awards and recognition are great, of course, but not the whole story. I haven’t entered many contests, partly because the submission fees can be considerable and the wait times long. I decided to go straight for publication and focused on getting short stories published while I was finishing my first novel.

After struggling to learn how to write publishable work, my first published short story was a huge win! My work was in print! And accompanied by beautiful art! It encouraged me to learn more about the market and how to hone my stories so they would be interesting to editors and publishers.

In the last twelve years, I have published many short stories, personal essays, and three novels. I also self-published a collection of short stories, The Way Home, several short pieces of fiction, and now, two nonfiction books, When Spirit Whispers and the When Spirit Whispers Workbook.

I appreciate being recognized by industry professionals, but even with the fancy sticker I get to paste on my book, it’s the reaction of my readers that warms my heart. When readers tell me how they react to my book, some finding validation and inspiration in its pages, all the struggle to write and publish is worthwhile.

So what is a win?

Awards, yes, of course. And getting your words in print, yes, is fun and validating.

But, wins take many forms, like:

  • Finishing a book/story/screenplay/poem
  • Expressing yourself in writing, art, dance, song
  • Enjoying a career you love
  • Creating a loving family
  • Surviving difficult life events
  • Surviving loss in any form
  • Getting through and adjusting to any difficult medical diagnosis
  • Healing old trauma
  • Thriving anew from the lessons of trauma
  • Finding the friends, healers, and playmates who see us for who we are
  • Speaking our truth
  • Allowing love to guide us, even when the world is careening off its axis
  • Learning to forgive
  • Finding joy in work, play, nature, animals, and all the wonderful people who are standing in the light of love

How do you feel about winning? What gives you pleasure? What is joyful? What are you proud of?

If you can name even one thing, then you’re already a winner.

Your Creative Self is Waiting for You!

My next nonfiction book has a working title of Your Creative Self is Waiting for You. I am writing it for readers who want to access their creativity in any form. I believe we are all creative. Even those who protest, “Oh, not me, I have no talent.”

We can’t all be famous painters and writers, but everyone can express themselves. Taking a few small steps to give form to our thoughts, images, yearnings, and ideals is empowering.

Writing in a journal, doodling with a pencil, coloring images in an adult coloring book, re-arranging a room, setting a beautiful dinner table, taking time to teach a child—all are creative acts that feed our souls.

With the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Europe, my stress level has gone up. I wondered if writing about creativity is appropriate given the turmoil in the world. But then I remembered how writing eases my tension. Writing stories, especially, feels good.

And I remembered Paul Levy, a wise man who teaches about the negative effects of trauma in the mind, what he calls wetiko. Wetiko is a Native American term referring to the negative mental programming, or mind virus, that causes selfishness, insatiable greed, and the unfeeling wielding of power over others. Levy offers an answer to the question many are asking. What is happening to our world?

A few months ago, I took an online course from Levy. It was profound and inspiring. He said that we all suffer to some degree from the effects of wetiko  It can take the form of the inner critic who judges and criticizes, often urging us to act against our own interests. The good news is that one way to counteract it is with creative acts. So the time spent in the writing room, the studio, the workshop is not wasted. We can free ourselves by opening ourselves.

We are all stressed and anxious. The pandemic is winding down. But now we have inflation, war, cultural polarization, and the juxtaposition of truth and lies which is truly terrifying. All my life, I’ve struggled with discerning what’s true for me. People dealing with the effects of early trauma are often confused about how much to trust their feelings and intuition. I have used many methods to separate the easy messages of the common wisdom from my truth. Opening the channel to the inner world works. That’s why so many people are journaling. Writing memoirs. Taking up painting. Intuitively, they want the different answers that lie within.

So I write about the inner self, the Creative Self, the part that pain, disappointment, grief, loss, and illness have not damaged. The part that reminds us we are more than our experiences. We are creative beings who can change our thoughts. We change how we perceive our lives by playing, making music and art, by writing, and by opening our hearts to people, animals, and plants.

Being creative is not a panacea, and won’t solve the world’s problems, but accessing our creative energy brings us closer to life as it is supposed to be. It will relieve stress, release endorphins, and help distance us from the inner critic. When we play with the Creative Self, we remember who we are.

So don’t say, I’m not creative. Don’t listen to the critic who judges you not good enough to write/paint/build/compose. You’re exactly good enough, right now, to start. And that’s all it takes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Space for Happiness

By now, we thought our lives would have settled into whatever the “new normal” turned out to be. That doesn’t ring quite true. Not with a new virus strain, economic and political challenges, and warm weather that is both pleasant and a harbinger of an uncertain future.

With it all—frenetic holidays, rising prices, cataclysmic weather events sweeping the world, widening fissures in our society—we can still make space for love, creativity, and yes, even happiness.

The trick is not to forget we have more control over our lives than we take credit for. How we think is the key. I can’t control most of what happens in the outer world, but I can change my thoughts. I can root out my negative beliefs that bring up feelings of helplessness and anger. I don’t have to be a victim in someone else’s story.

I write my own story.

Of course, I always did. Just as you are writing your story, embellishing it as you go along, choosing characters to interact with, how fast the plot moves, the setting, and how it feels to be you.

Because of my early experiences, I created a lot of negative stories. Unpleasant experiences seemed to come at me from nowhere. Without the knowledge that I was repeating ingrained patterns formed from fear, distrust, and self-judgment, I was a victim of my mind’s programming.

Fortunately, I knew something was wrong, which made me feel bad but also propelled me into my healing journey. Eventually, I learned that to heal my wounds meant to let go—of self-judgment, old patterns, fear, distrust, anxiety, and depression. The more of the past I released, the happier I felt.

It is possible to be happy and creative, even during what looks like chaos. It’s possible to make a private space where your creative self can enfold you in the unconditional love that is yours for the asking.

All you have to do is change your thoughts.

Try it.

Try saying:

  • I love myself.
  • I am beautiful just as I am.
  • I am creative.
  • I am safe in the arms of love.

Say the words quietly, inside your head. No one’s listening except your Spirit.

The Book I Feared to Write

When the pandemic of 2020 crashed down like a tidal wave, I retreated into my home to wait it out.

A writer and teacher who works at home, it wasn’t a stretch to teach classes online and restrict communications to telephone and Zoom sessions. Enforced isolation seemed the perfect time to w0rk on ideas I’d been gathering for a new book. No more excuses. Time to write that book.

For the first few weeks I believed my own story. Kept my commitments. Participated in online meetings and classes. On regular bike rides with my dog, Zena, I spoke to neighbors I had rarely seen. Everyone was eager to say hello, pass the time of day, and relay how they were coping. At the park, passersby were friendlier than usual. I sat under a ramada near a favorite tree while Zena rolled on the grass. Dogs trotted over to say hello. People waved. It was interesting how being forced to separate brought us closer together.

Weeks passed. I taught my classes, worked with students, completed editing jobs, and wrote. My writing practice is decades old, so I always write, but the new book’s focus eluded me. Anxiety kept me moving but also made it hard to sit and concentrate on an intensely private subject: my relationship to Spirit.

Fiction was easier to write, so I did that. Sent out short stories. Got a couple published. Still, I felt like a skittish animal running in ever-tightening circles around the one thing it wanted but feared to approach.

Facing my new book, which my mind had told me would be short and easy to write, I trembled.

An optimist at heart, I believe we have more freedom than we realize. We aren’t victims of our genetics, family upbringing, finances, politics, or experience. These things shape us, but at every moment, we have the choice to change. No matter our circumstances, we can embark on a fresh path.

Practice what you preach, I exhorted myself as I created a new spreadsheet and listed my chapters. I forged ahead with another draft—wrote, edited, researched, and organized. But something wasn’t right.

It was time to examine my own beliefs. One More Time.

After serious meditation and journaling, I uncovered the face of my resistance—my lifelong reticence to write about who I am. Not in the external sense. What was uncomfortable was writing about my inner world, which is far more real to me than what I do “out there.”

I am one of the lucky ones. From early childhood, I have wandered the inner world. I also knew that, if I spoke of it, the outcome would be ridicule and shaming. So I kept my counsel until I got older and found safe spaces to be myself.

The roots of my personal challenges were buried deep. Not “out there” in an unmarked grave but inside my psyche and body, what I call the “biofield.” Because of early trauma, I’ve berated and second-guessed myself, agonized, and rationalized when deciding about jobs, relationships, business, writing projects, and finances. I doubted my inner perceptions and the common wisdom. Anxiety was a constant companion. No matter what I did, I judged myself, taking on more responsibility than was mine to bear, experiencing the exquisite torture of teetering on the line between worlds.

Struggling with a book I couldn’t grasp, an epiphany burst forth. I realized that, at this moment, only what’s important counts—and what’s important is what I’ve learned from sojourning with my inner self. The lessons were not complicated, but I’ve been a slow study, so it’s taken time to re-member them

  • There is a path through life which we chose before birth.
  • We walk our own path, whether or not we know it.
  • Our inner self guides us, whether or not we notice.
  • Life is easier when we heed the messages from within.
  • When we listen to the messages of our inner self, it grows into a Wise Inner Guide.
  • Spirit possesses infinite patience.
  • It’s never too late to listen and learn. 

The book, When Spirit Whispers, a journey of awakening, will be published soon, along with an accompanying workbook. This article is an amended version of its preface. I plan to write two more volumes, Visions of Healing and Doorways to Healing.

Going forward, I will use this monthly blog to write about healing, trauma, and writing, the three subjects that intersect to form my path. I hope you will find it useful

If you would like to be an advance reader for When Spirit Whispers, contact me at carol@carolhollandmarch.com. I will send you an electronic copy of the book. If you enjoy it, I hope you will be kind enough to leave a review.

 

 

 

 

 

Dancing With the Creative Self

Many of my students sign up for a writing course because they have an urge to bring forth their experiences.

They want to write stories, poems, memoirs. Many have never written before. They don’t know where to start. What to write about. How to choose fiction or nonfiction. Many have confidence issues. Fearing judgement, they hesitate to share their work.

I understand the tenderness of the beginning writer, the courage it takes to put forth embryonic work and place it under the light of scrutiny.

Even though I had written professionally for years, when I was ready to put out my first fiction, I was terrified. The marketing and training books I wrote, the manuals, web text, and scripts, even the ghost-written articles—none were as personal as fiction. It took stern conversations with myself before I started sending my work to magazines, accepting the inevitable rejections, and sending it out again.

Now, after publishing many short stories, three novels, and a few personal experience narratives, I tell my students that I learned the most about writing from the effort to produce publishable work.

My writing teachers taught me much. So did the students in the classes and workshops I attended. Every editor I hired to advise me before I sent out a piece taught me something new.

Some magazine editors were kind enough to say why they rejected my piece. Some even suggested changes. Every time I looked anew at a rejected story, I found ways to improve it. And of course there was the exquisite pleasure when  an editor said they liked my story.

The whole process was a learning experience. It toughened me and eventually became fun. Not to say I enjoy rejections, but they no longer stop me. It’s not personal. It’s the work. Which can be improved.

What’s important for new writers, especially those who start later in life, is to honor the urge to create. To bring forth and shape the nascent idea nagging at you. The images you know are part of a story. The characters who spring to life in your mind. The feeling that your experiences matter. Which they do.

We live our lives according to the story we tell ourselves. We change our lives by changing our stories. Whether we fictionalize our experiences or write searingly honest memoir, the benefits of getting them out of our heads and into the world are enormous. It helps us, and it helps others.

The drive to create is in everyone. It’s part of being human. Honored, it makes us more human.  Our Creative Self urges us onward. It wants to be expressed. It wants to dance, with joy and abandon. Honor it.

So, write! Sing! Dance! Paint! Make a poem! Outline your novel! Decide you’re going to tell about all that you’ve learned!  I promise, you won’t be sorry.