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.
Do you believe in miracles?
Sure, you might say. I’ve seen miracles. And I expect to see them again
Or, There are no such things. Science has explanations for everything.
Actually, both perspectives are right. Miracles are prayers answered, hope fulfilled, stories of the seemingly impossible, inspirations that change lives, the melting of hardened hearts, personal transformation. But how do these things happen?
Contrary to what our senses tell us, science informs us that everything is energy. The observer affects the observed. Our thoughts influence what we perceive, how we feel, and whether we are joyful or depressed.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “A man is a product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.”
Traditionally, a miracle is an event we don’t expect and didn’t foresee. It comes out of the blue, full of meaning, an object of wonder so marvelous it points to a reality beyond our reach. In a religious context, we can see this as God, the ground of being, or as manifestations of supernatural powers.
What is miraculous in one culture may be ordinary in another.
In the west, people interpret spontaneous recovery from serious illness as a miracle, and persons with unusual healing powers as miraculous beings. In some earth-based cultures, thunder and lightning are considered messengers of the divine, while recovery from serious afflictions is the result of energetic interventions by a shaman or spiritual healer. And perfectly ordinary
Saint Augustine said, “Miracles are not contrary to nature, only to what we know about nature.”
Another view is that the miraculous shows itself in the everyday world—in nature, in the love between people, in a child’s smile.
The miraculous may simply be something we do not yet understand. When we use the power of intention, affirmation, gratitude, or prayer, we are harnessing energy in the living field that connects us all. We do it to change our lives, which means we acknowledge our connectedness in the field of life. Nothing is really separate. If I love you, I love myself. If I hurt you, I hurt myself.
When we understand this, we notice that our thoughts and words change our perception of reality. If we persevere with those new thoughts, our actual reality changes too.
If I pray for healing for my friend, and my friend recovers from his illness, is that a miracle? Or the effect of intention on the web of consciousness that binds us together
You decide, according to what you believe.
For 101 stories of everyday miracles, check out the new anthology, Believe in Miracles, by Chicken Soup for the Soul, available now for pre-order. My essay, Please Pass the Holy Water, is one of the stories. I hope you enjoy it.
When I started writing short stories, I was struggling with my novel, which refused to bend to my will. I wanted to write a fantasy about the characters who lived in my head and the alternate worlds they inhabited, but they kept wanting to tell me about their re-incarnational experiences on earth.
So I put the book aside, used my dreams as a starting point, and wrote shorter fiction. More manageable, I thought. Again, the characters kept bumping up against the veil that separates ordinary reality from what lies beyond.
I shouldn’t have been surprised since that happened frequently in my everyday life. It seemed more natural, so why shouldn’t my fiction reflect what visions as well as actions, flights of fancy as well as plans and goals?
I had to study meditation and then metaphysics before I realized that my reality was normal even though it included phenomena most people didn’t recognize. Just lucky, I guess.
Now that I have learned more and written a lot more, I find my work falls into the category of Visionary Fiction, a subset of speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, horror) that uses ancient teachings to inform the present day.
According to the Visionary Fiction Alliance, a growth in consciousness is the motivation for protagonists in this type of fiction. It explores human potential and celebrates the possibility for evolution and co-creation. The plot elements of dreams, visions, reincarnation, and psychic abilities figure prominently. Finally, a place where I fit in!
My book of short stories, The Way Home, explores the journeys of characters who are trying to get home and keeping bumping up against an invisible wall.
The Dreamwalkers of Larreta is a fantasy trilogy, published by Ellysian Press. Two spirits have furthered their education through the trials of earth incarnations so they can return to Larreta and find each other again. Difficulties abound.
If you enjoy fiction with a twist, characters who are more than even they know, and some (slightly skewed) insight into the human condition, you might enjoy reading visionary fiction. You could start with the visionary fiction reading group on Goodreads.
I’m an introvert. I’ve always known it, and it’s one of the few things I never judged myself for.
By “introvert,” I mean a person whose focus of attention is toward the inner world. While extraverts seek information outside themselves, we introverts aren’t satisfied until we process outer information through our inner filters. Many introverts are p(erfectly comfortable in social situations.We do need alone time, though.
(To learn how to be a successful introverted writer, try Hope Clark’s excellent book.The Shy Writer Reborn: An Introverted Writer’s Wake-up Call.)
For me, meditation and solitude are natural. I’m familiar with the internal landscape. My inner voices are old friends.
Even knowing this, even with experience using journaling and meditation to figure out what’s going on with me, I fall prey to the trap of listening too much to others.
When I started writing for publication, I wanted to publish. Writers want to be read, right? With research and effort, I made progress. Next came marketing. Internet marketing seemed like a natural fit. So I learned. Read. Took courses. Read blogs. Learned strategies.
Except it wasn’t.
I was listening to others’ opinions about what was marketable. I’m a creative intuitive, remember, so I love ideas. I love to follow them, apply them. Before long, I had so many projects, paralysis set in.
I was learning craft, the fiction market, how to position books, how to blog, how to develop a web site, how to use Facebook, twitter and forums. It was not only overwhelming, it brought all my insecurities to the surface.
Many times, I threw up my hands. The only time I was really happy was when I focused solely on writing my novels.
The other day I was re-reading Steven Pressfield’s excellent follow-up book to The War of Art. It’s another short, simple read called Turning Pro. I highly recommend it.Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work.
As I was pondered my recent rejections and how more than one beta reader had recently commented I wasn’t taking risks, with my fiction, it hit me.
As much as I listen to my inner self, I was using the distraction of marketing to avoid opening to a deeper level in my own writing. I knew, vaguely, that the deeper level was there. I wanted to get to it.
On the other hand, that takes time and there’s this article to write, and my latest book to market, and editing on that new story, and I have client work to finish, and . . .
Shut up, I said to myself. If turning pro means, as Pressfield claims, facing my fears and listening to the Muse, then I must listen to the message that a deeper part of myself is calling.
Turns out, as with most things, there are levels.
I committed to serious writing several years ago. That decision is made. But I get sidetracked on marketability. What will sell? What does the market want?
Then I remembered a lesson I learned long ago. There is a tone inside each of us. If you are very quiet and listen, you can hear it ring. It rings with your vibration. It tells you what is sacred and true. It resides in the center. The still point.
So my new resolution is to write from as close to my own center as I can get. This will vary from day to day. That’s okay.
For an introvert who enjoys solitude, it was humbling to learn that I have resistance to silence, to turning inward, to listening to the voice within. Embarrassing. But that’s what always happens when another piece of resistance falls away.
The upside is that energy releases and creativity flows more freely. Totally worth it. So I’m committed anew. To listening more deeply. To quit surfing over the waves and diving deep. That’s where my tone beckons me.
What about yours?