Tag Archives: authenticity

Reflecting on writing

There’s reflective writing – and then there’s reflecting on writing.

Clearly these are not the same. The first is an action in full flow, the second is the pause before or after.

I’m not really into navel-gazing. I get impatient with myself when I spend too long ruminating. I’ve learned to judge when I’ve done enough and when I need to come back down to earth.

Nevertheless there is a tonne of value in understanding why writing is so powerful. Reflecting on writing is a pause worth making.

Firstly rather than wait to be inspired to write, try writing to be inspired. Like yoga, the discipline to turn up to the mat or to the page is the only step. Then you can let the practice take over.

Reflective writing is about surrender to the quieter voice that guides us. Maybe you call it your higher self or your inner being or your sub-conscious. Whatever it is that takes over when we allow it to can reveal to us a whole depth of wisdom and insight we never realised we had access to.

And if we can begin to plumb those depths then we can come to recognise our own truth and authenticity. We each have our individual thread of integrity that runs through us like the writing through a stick of candy rock. Reviewing our journals over time often shows us the same messages and impulses, whether or not we ever chose to heed them.

Finally reflective writing can give us the springboard to action, to taking the next right step for us. Crucially it can illuminate our place in the world, giving us the guidance on how best to contribute our unique gifts to others in a way that feels so easy, because it’s so natural.

So reflecting on writing I am grateful for the inspiration, the discipline, the wisdom, truth, authenticity, integrity, action and guidance that it offers, ensures, and delivers.

What’s not to love?

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Lessons from Milner – expressing thoughts in their wholeness

Uh-oh.

It’s not quite been 20 years but there is something of the Rip van Winkle about the sleepiness of this blog.

Since reading Marion Milner my approach to journaling has shifted. And it has resulted in my living more – and writing less.

This has always been a conundrum for me. Reflective practice ought not to stifle action. It ought to stimulate action and ensure its enhanced authenticity. Being a lover of action I guess I’d always felt a bit awkward about the reflective bit and have always wanted to strike a respectable balance between the two.

Through Milner I have discovered a fascinating journaling trick which has been like super-charging my life with lightning.

Here’s what she says:

“I must learn to maintain a vigilance, not against wrong thoughts but against refusal to recognise any thought.”

At first I didn’t want to accept that I too may have been refusing to recognise certain of my thoughts. But then when I did, and when I then began to express those thoughts in my journal, things really started to shift in my outer life.

Our inner censors are so insidious and wily. No matter how articulate we are in talking about them, no matter how aware we are of their strange potential to sabotage us, they always find a way to sneak under the radar.

I noticed my inner censor was acting all rational on me. And who doesn’t want to be rational, right? But it was hiding in plain sight, making me think that rational is good, rational is me – when all along it jolly well isn’t.

My inner censor was stopping me from dreaming, and even though dream-like thoughts would nudge at me these were typically not the ones I would write about.

Suddenly when I took Milner’s advice things started to happen. It felt different to express all my thoughts – especially the ones that my inner censor would have been carefully corralling previously. But the results have been transformational.

Try it. Don’t let your inner censor lull you to sleep. Pay attention to the dreams you have when you’re awake. Be vigilant. Be alive.

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Beyond ranting – the necessary authenticity on the other side

Our journal writing workshop last evening was yet again a wonderful opportunity to share insights and learn new perspectives. My gratitude goes to workshop participant Elinor who shared a wonderful phrase that somehow landed quite forcefully with me. She said: “Necessity has no emotion.”

The reason why this hit me with such a clunk is because it seems to account for what I have found in my journal beyond the ranting. Once I’ve stripped away the whining voice of my inner critic or the exclamation marks of my ego; when I’ve named and shamed the stuck-on-repeat stories with which I’ve been comforting myself, and once I’ve come to terms with my main vulnerabilities, what’s left is a calm, balanced narrative in which I’m finally able to speak my truth. There are no exclamation marks here. No over-blown claims about my own brilliance. No excuses and convoluted reasons why I won’t/shan’t/can’t. Just calm, logical, plain, straight-forward truth. Well hello.

Pearl

Inner wisdom and authenticity are the pearls I’m constantly encouraging my workshop participants to pursue. These are the buried treasures that our journals can reveal to us, but from whose scent the decoys and false trails of our inner critic, our stories, excuses and egoist self-justifications often throw us. How easily we become distracted and displaced! But every pearl needs its grit. It would be foolish though to mistake the grit for the final product!

In Elinor’s insight I’m seeing that authenticity is akin to necessity. Our authentic self is who we necessarily are – who we cannot avoid being, no matter how many layers of negativity, self-judgement and self justification we heap on top. And when we hear its voice we find pearlescent peace, quiet and truth.

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Ranting – the most dangerous of all journaling exercises?

Our journals bring us face to face with unpalatable truths about our human nature. They give us the space to rant and to get things off our chest – then surely we can move on?

Ranting is the double-edged sword of journaling. It can be cathartic, but it can also amplify those aspects of ourselves which are false and inauthentic. Our rants are often driven by our inner critic, by our ego, by the stories that we’ve made up about others, and by endless excuses and self-justifications about why we’re not just getting on with the things we want to do.

Ranting is often the beginners’ level of journaling. When our journals serve us solely as places to let off steam they can become quite ludicrous, terrifying documents. They can make us feel deeply ashamed. No wonder we would prefer to keep them secret!

Without a safe way of being able to process and interpret what we rant about in our journals the practice of reflective writing becomes unsustainable. The typical reaction is to abandon our journal – set fire to it perhaps – and decry the whole journaling practice as a waste of time that only gets us more wound up.

The more reflective way is to stay with it, accept our need to rant occasionally, accept that the voice in which we express our rant is rarely authentic, and wait and see what shows up next. Ranting can help us access the truth, as long as we’ve got the guts to stick around and reflect on what we’ve written. In this case we invariably find that ranting simply becomes intolerable to read. As one workshop participant told me: “There’s nowhere to hide when you’re writing to yourself.”

So if you’re struggling to get beyond ranting don’t give up. In fact do the opposite – keep ranting. Before too long your inner wisdom will kick in and you’ll find yourself discovering new insights and understanding. This is when the risk pays off.

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Five tips to building your platform as a self-published author

Reading back over my last few entries, here’s the heads-up on the key steps to building an authentic marketing platform for your book – and for it to feel easy rather than utterly terrifying or a real ball-ache:

  1. Make friends with a local journalist or editor. Remember they need copy to keep their publication in business. As a writer you deal in their life-blood. They will love to receive your press release as a local news story.
  2. Build an authentic network off-line by engaging in activities you are genuinely interested in and feel compelled to contribute to. Let your network be a by-product of your participation rather than its raison d’etre . This way people will get to know the real you rather than the networking you.
  3. Offer yourself as a speaker to a local group or society. You could tell your writer’s story, or speak on a subject that you learned about in your research. If your book is non-fiction set up a how-to workshop pertinent to the topic of your book.
  4. Don’t be daunted by the plethora of on-line social networking sites. Start with what you know – even if it’s just emailing your contact list – and go from there.
  5. Follow your nose when it comes to broadening your marketing reach. Take a look at what other people are doing and see if it’s something that appeals to you. Keep a note in your journal of all the possible marketing ideas that occur to you, and notice which ones hang around in your head. These could be the ones that you have the greatest energy for. Alternatively check out Pete’s story in Chapter 6 of The Journal Writer’s Handbook – he could be your inspiration!

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Life as a self-published author #2

As I’m reflecting back on my life as a self-published author so far – all 35 days of it – I thought it would be useful to jot down my musings here. Of course I would normally do this privately in my journal, but maybe there’ll be something in amongst this lot that others might find helpful. Today I’m looking at the early stages of book marketing.

First off I don’t have a grand master plan for marketing my book. With me it’s more a case of following my nose and doing what feels right in the moment. This is a hell of a lot easier when you’ve actually got a real product to talk about and show – especially if it’s something you’re proud of.

But for the sake of analysing “how I do marketing” as a self-published author I guess I would have to look at the contacts and experiences I’ve had  over the past few years which have stood me in good stead for this phase of the book’s life cycle.

Being a freelance writer in the pay of a local magazine helps enormously. The whole catalyst behind my book coming out in December was because in November my editor offered me space to promote it! See what I mean about following my nose? I’m a shameless opportunist! Though I do find opportunities come along more readily when I’m truly doing what I love.

Traditional and partner publishers often talk to writers and authors about platform building, and creating a network, both on and off-line, of potential readers and fans.

I’ve always hated the concept of networking. That empty formulaic conversation where one only just manages, with the thinnest of veils, to disguise one’s intention to sell one’s product or service. Yuck. It all seems so very calculated and forced, in a ‘must-do-some-networking’ way.

Yet by following my heart and getting involved with a number of groups and events that I hold dear, I’ve managed to build up quite a large network (I suppose) of contacts. But it’s important that the network came about as a by-product of my participation in things that first and foremost I love to do. Reading, writing, expressing ideas and playing golf (!) are all things I love, and taking part in these things has given me a network of contacts well into the hundreds. The more authentic the network, the easier the marketing process, and the more likely it is to be successful.

Add to this the workshops that I have delivered on the topic of journal writing, which served to help me identify my readership – and which helped me tremendously in putting my book together in the first place. It was a great experience to showcase some of my journaling ideas to a paying audience – and to begin to create a small community of like-minded reflective writing practitioners. And it gave me a huge confidence boost that what I had to say about journaling was bringing something new to the topic, and introducing a new audience.

So when my book first came out I was able to email all my contacts advising them of it, just to raise awareness. I made a handful of sales straight off the bat from this process, which was extremely gratifying.

In the next instalment of Life as a self-published author, I’ll be looking at using online networking tools. Check back soon!

 

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How to use our journals to get into action this festive season

At 11.11 am on Friday 21 December 2012, the leader of the Druids, King Arthur Pendragon, made his Winter Solstice speech at Stonehenge, a little further south of where I live in Wiltshire, welcoming in a new cosmic era of peace, care and compassion, and calling for an end to suffering and greed.

The end of the world hasn’t come to pass. Personally I didn’t think it would. But, not unlike the Druids’ message, I am choosing to view this media-hyped Winter Solstice as a new opportunity, a time of new intentions, commitments and change.

And my journal is where I am devising the change I want to see in the world. However devising sounds like I’m going through a very deliberate process of planning and manipulating my thoughts and ideas about how I want life to be, then writing down a to do list or project plan of what I must achieve in 2013.

This would not be an accurate description of the process. It would be altogether too premeditated, too forced and analytical, too “left-brain”.

Rather I am allowing myself to write in response to what is happening in the world, and I’m being present to the emotions and feelings that real life events are evoking in me. What I find are ideas about how to do things differently, new creative ways to celebrate Christmas, and a quiet conviction that whatever needs to happen will present itself as the obvious next step. It’s an entirely different feeling from the concerted “I must be the change I want to see in the world” mindset. It’s much gentler, much more in the moment, and much more authentic.

One of the ideas that has most inspired me this festive season is the notion of “living well in your place.” So instead of sending Christmas cards this year I have chosen to hand out small parcels of Quality Street choccies to all my neighbours, complete with a folded note giving our phone number, and a thank you to one and all for being my neighbour. Although we have lived in our 25-home street for twelve years, there are some families that I have never met, and I suddenly wanted desperately to change that.

It was whilst writing about my current perceptions in my journal that this idea came to me. It was a moment of “clunk” when inspiration hits and you feel compelled into action. And it was such a simple idea that I can’t believe it had never before occured to me. My daughter and I walked round in the rain and knocked on everyone’s door, handed out the chocolates and our best wishes for Christmas, and basked in the smiles we received. It was truly heart-warming, and confirmed the spirit of Christmas for me and my little girl.

That’s how our journals can help us get into real, genuine and authentic action. And that’s how we can change the world.

With every good wish for the festive season.

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