On Dec. 4 and Dec. 11, I started a new series, "Writing about Writing." But then the winter holidays descended, and I stumbled headlong into a rant about the hidden nature of Christmas. Once I got that off my chest, my intention was to get back to the writing series, but along came the New Year, and I felt compelled to share the magnetic power of naming your year. (Thanks to everyone, by the way, who shared their "Name Your Year" stories with me. Even Jan Johnson, publisher of Conari Press and the unwitting star of that column, wrote to share the name of her year. All I can say is: Wow! Keep talking to me, and later in the year, I'll write a column about everyone's results. That'll be fun!)
But now, it's time to get back on my "writing about writing" horse. I sense that because ever since I turned in the manuscript, people have changed the way they introduce me. They used to say, "This is my friend Janet Conner." Now they say, "This is my friend Janet Conner. Her book, 'Writing Down Your Soul,' is coming out this fall from Conari Press." I've suddenly gone from being a person to being a person who's published. That alone is a bit bizarre. But here's the really interesting thing. After people hear I've written a book, they invariably sidle up to me privately and blurt out something like, "I've been trying to write my book for years" or "I know there's a book inside me." Or "This is the year I finally write my book."
As far as I can tell, EVERYONE ON THE PLANET has a book inside them. OK, maybe not everyone; maybe only 75 percent. So, how come just a wee percentage actually sit down and write the thing? And how come an even smaller percentage of those ever get their book into the hands of readers? I don't have all the answers to those two humongous questions, but I think I have some insights.
After I submitted the manuscript for "Writing Down Your Soul," I found myself thinking about what I'd done. I don't mean the final manuscript. Sure, I loved the manuscript, but what I really wanted to know was how that manuscript came to be. I wanted to understand the process, so I could replicate it for the next book and the next and the next. (I am rather counting on doing this for the rest of my life.)
So, I did what I always do when I want to know something. I sat down in my writing chair, picked up a pen, wrote a salutation to the Voice of wisdom within, and posed a question — or rather questions: How did I write that book? How did I get a publisher? How did I figure out how long it would take? And how, in the midst of my mother's death and my son's first year in college, did I get it done on time? I know I didn't write alone; exactly how did I harness "the writer within"? I wrote every day for three months; how did I stay so focused and productive? How in the world did 78,000 words flow together into such a beautiful, cohesive whole? How did I know what to research and what to ignore? How did I find the people to interview or how did they find me?
The questions kept pouring out. How? How? How? I didn't realize until I got them all on paper just how many "how" questions there were. It dawned on me that although I'd followed a process and that process was clearly successful (and, I must say, fun), I didn't consciously know what that process was.
As invariably happens, the guidance I needed came through my hand and poured onto the page. The process, I was shocked to discover, had 20 (!) steps or actions — more than could ever fit in one column, even a ridiculously long one. I'll discuss all the steps in the course of this "Writing about Writing" series, but for now let me give you a few critical beginning points so you can noodle over how well your process (or lack thereof) matches this process.
And don't think that because you don't have a conscious process that you don't have a process. You do. But it may be a process of doubt or waiting or distraction or self-sabotage. The problem with these kinds of processes is that when they are in control, your book stays permanently stuck inside you. If you want to get your book out of your head and onto paper, you need a new — and very conscious — process.
Begin by exploring these questions in your journal. Why questions? Because questions are the single most important and provocative element in the evolution of your soul. And make no mistake, writing — all writing — is in some form or other soul writing. You can't write a book — not even a book about finance or real estate or Civil War history — without engaging your soul. So why not begin, right from the beginning, to consciously engage your soul — your whole soul — and convert writing a book from a ponderous task to a joy.
Intention. Have I set a conscious intention to write my book? How do I sustain and renew that intention?
http://www.spiritualgeography.com/ How do I know that there is a need for my book? What research have I done?
Stamina. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would I rate my courage? Desire? Belief in the value of my message?
Blocks. Can I name what's holding me back, causing me to procrastinate? What am I doing to remove those blocks? Is it working?
Capability. What have I done thus far to build a foundation for my writing life? Have I read books on how to become a writer? Do I regularly read good writing? Have I identified writers I want to emulate? How aware am I of the bones of good writing: grammar, punctuation, spelling, vocabulary, style, form?
Action. What am I doing to stop dreaming and start writing? Do I write every day? What have I written? Who reads what I've written? Do I ask for feedback? What do I do with that feedback? How do I handle negative feedback?
Creativity. Do I have a creative process that I can rely on to bring me new information, new ideas, new language?
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Written by Janet Conner
Janet teaches people how to connect directly to Spirit to receive the guidance and direction they need to create the life they want. Her new book, "Writing Down Your Soul: How to Activate and Listen to the Extraordinary Voice Within," comes out this fall from Conari Press. Janet is also the creator of Spiritual Geography, a comprehensive spiritual-healing system that has been called "the first true innovation in healing the broken heart." "Spiritual Geography" workbooks are available through Amazon or Spiritual Geography. Contact Janet at firstname.lastname@example.org.