They say that everyone has a book inside them, a story to be told, a lesson to be taught or simply wisdom to be shared. I actually believe that. Each of us is unique and each of us experiences life differently. Whether your life has been challenging or not (I will leave you to define challenging), there is always something unique about what you see and experience and which begs to be recorded.
I began my journey as a writer 25 years ago, shortly after opening my company and beginning my entrepreneurial adventures. I can honestly say that on both counts, as a writer and entrepreneur, I had no real idea what I was doing, how to get started or where the journey would take me. It was something I simply knew I had to do.
The first step in becoming a writer is reading, prolifically. Well that was something I had always done. To begin my writer’s journey, I picked up a book called The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. In fact, this book is actually a course designed for those who are creatively inclined. While the course is designed to unfold over a few weeks, my personal journey unfolded over several months.
One of the important components of the Artists Way is ‘morning pages’, a practice which requires that you write everyday, three full pages, non-stop, in free flow thinking. That means you give little or no attention to grammar or punctuation, you simply download the words on paper. This was my first foray into writing on a regular and dedicated basis. I wrote those pages for more months than I can remember, three 8×10” size pages, filling several binders. A lot of it was drivel, some of it was not. There were many poems and memories and more. The important thing was and is the practice of putting words on the page. As Julia says:
….”the pages are a pathway to a strong and clear sense of self.”
Through Julia Cameron I discovered Natalie Goldberg, who teaches ‘free flow writing’. In fact it was Natalie’s work that inspired the idea of morning pages.
During this same time, I had been playing with the idea of writing a book by the title of roadSIGNS, based on a monthly newsletter I had begun sharing with a few close friends. The idea sprung to life of a remote road on the Isle of Skye in Scotland when Jim and I happened upon a sign which said ROAD LIABLE TO SUBSIDENCE.We had no clue what the sign was telling us. Was it a warning or what? We also recognized that we are always driving roads and that rarely do we even see the signs, especially on routes that are familiar. I began to wonder, if life is a road, what signs am I missing? And roadSIGNS was born. And by the way, that sign on the isle of Skye means the road is prone to collapsing into the sea below. Oops!
Back to Natalie Goldberg. I could see the potential for a book in what I had begun to write and had no idea what steps to take to see this through. I signed up to study with Natalie and headed to Taos, New Mexico for a week long writing retreat with her. Natalie was a shock to my system. I thought she was going to teach me how to be a better writer and that when I signed up for this program, I would come away with a litany of helpful ideas on getting a book out there. Nope! First class:
“Ladies and gentlemen you are here to write. I am not here to teach you to write. The colour yellow, five minutes, go.”
Everyone bent their heads and pens began moving across pages. This went on for five days…a prompt was given (the colour yellow), a time was assigned, anywhere from 5-30 minutes, in a variety of settings, in small and large groups. It was an intense soul baring week culminating with an invitation to read something you had written during the last evening. And while I did not learn how to write a book per se, I learned to be honest, authentic and to move beyond that inner voice that criticized my writing. I had the opportunity to listen to what others wrote, how they experienced the same prompt differently than me, their use of language. Truly an education, albeit a different experience than I had anticipated.
Returning home I was inspired and humbled, I continued writing my monthly newsletter. The number of subscribers grew. I was facilitating many programs. Participants asked me if I had a book they could read to continue their learning and personal journey. The impetus to bring my teachings and stories to life grew. And finally, I decided I need to dedicate time to pull together my words bringing to life two volumes, roadSIGNS- Travel Tips for Authentic Living and roadSIGNS 2 -Travel Tips to Higher Ground.
Back to where I began, I believe everyone has a book inside them. It may be memoir, biography, short stories, fiction or non-fiction. The fact is, the book represents your story. It need not be shared with anyone or it may reach a wide audience and have more influence than you can imagine. It may be both. Natalie taught us that some writing is personal, some is private. The distinction is that the personal, your experiences in life, can be shared should you choose to. Private belongs to you and you alone. I have plenty of both types of writing.
Claiming Your Inner Writer
I share my experience as a writer to encourage you. As Natalie said, ‘the only way to become a writer is to write’. I facilitate writing programs for our local library. People arrive with the same expectations I had in New Mexico. To my surprise they often arrive without pen and paper. I shake my head and using Natalie’s words explain that ‘you are here to write’. I explain the principles of writing practice: a prompt, a time frame, pen to paper, non-stop, no grammar or punctuation checking, simply words on the page. Read your words aloud. Share them. Repeat.
Canadian author Donna Morrissey shared:
“My grandfather always said, a life untold is a life unlived”.
I believe she meant that if we die with all our stories, memories and experiences inside of us, it is as if we did not exist.
All that to say, claim your writer. Express yourself. If you do not like to write, record your thoughts and perspectives. That is another writing tool. Most importantly, if you want to be a writer begin by dedicating time to writing on a daily basis. Morning pages, three pages a day, takes about 20 minutes. Turn off your devices and begin reading again. Savour a turn of phrase. Allow the words of others to inspire you. Use a phrase from a book as a writing prompt. Find others who wish to write and start a writer’s group. Use ‘Writing Down the Bones’ by Natalie Goldberg as a manual to get started.
Most importantly know that your words are important; they are an authentic expression of who you are.
Until next time
Your thoughts and strategies are always welcome and if you care to share you can reach me at: [email protected]