Tag - writing

Six Lessons I’ve learned About Life through Writing

by Mohammed Issa

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.
— Benjamin Franklin

I am a born-again writer, and it’s been nearly three years since I started to write. Writing was a passion that had lain dormant; it was hidden deep in the crevasses of my heart, waiting to explode like a wild volcanic eruption.

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This love affair with writing has taken me from depressing lows that I can’t wish on anyone to ecstatic new heights. It’s a love story that can rival that of Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin.

My journey started with writing my “Morning Pages” as heralded by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. I would decipher my dreams and go on to analyze my previous day’s actions and take a deeper look into the fears that were holding me back. It also allowed me to celebrate my wins and constantly reminded me of why I loved myself.

Writing has transformed me and released me from the shackles that have held me back since childhood. It has led to many of my spiritual trysts where I meet my true self and feel the power of grace within me. It has penetrated deep into my soul, always asking and forever searching for the best way for me to be authentic.

I am still in my toddler years as a writer, but already writing has taught me many lessons that I can apply in my life. It has stripped me of my arrogant egoic ways and taken me out the closed-box mentality that was me for so many years.

These are the lessons that I’ve learned from writing:

1. Pain is part of life and nothing to fear.

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.
—Kurt Vonnegut

Writing is often painful, gut-wrenching, energy sapping and can ruin self-esteem. I hate it when I don’t write as the thought of not doing so hangs over me like a shadow, judging me, labelling me as a loser. I hate it when my mind compares the normalcy of day to day things like doing errands, earning a living, and socializing with the power and allure of doing something I love.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
– Ernest Hemingway

Writing is simple but not easy. I hate it when it’s so hard that words get stuck in my throat, chest and heart and their flow from mind to fingers typing away become restricted.

However, the rewards and personal growth I do get from writing makes up for all the pain. It has shown me that pain is often the doorway to awareness and change in our lives. It’s something that’s more powerful than happiness.

How can we grow without pain? What kind of life is living without heartache, tears and blood?

2. Vulnerability is power

If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.
-Virginia Woolf

Writing has allowed me to understand why being vulnerable makes me a better man. I am eager to share my thoughts, travails, and success. I want to be heard, and show my true self to the world.

I’ve let down the heavy armour I’ve worn since my adolescence and unveiled my emotional fragility. I now recognise that vulnerability is not weakness but rather, a great power that makes us more connected to others and more engaged in life. I want to feel my way into life, rather than sit behind a mask watching life pass me by.

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” John Steinbeck, East of Eden

The thought that there is no perfection in life has liberated me as I now appreciate that life is about being present and being ourselves.

Vulnerability allows us to dig deep into ourselves leading us to our core where all uncertainty, excitement, and meaningful experiences exist. We have a better chance of unravelling the gems that hide beneath the many layers of our ego.

3) Self-Discipline and Grit protects our passion.

At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then — and only then — it is handed to you.
—Annie Dillard

We need a strong will and discipline in life to be able to achieve our goals. People assume that just because someone enjoys whatever they are doing means fewer hours of hard work. On the contrary, the people who enjoy what they do and are good at it, whether that’s writing, singing or starting a new business have the steely determination to put in the hard hours.

They realize that the sense of joy will follow when they remain disciplined and committed to that practice. And that the muse will only appear when we prove our diligence and focus deeply on the practice at hand.

The discipline instilled within allows us to turn failures into stepping stones and rejection becomes a detour to bigger and better opportunities.

I’ve had to sacrifice certain things in my life, like social activities but I’ve optimized my life so that I can focus more on my writing. Now, things that don’t mean much to me are slowly losing their value and fading away from my life.

4) Joy is a state of being

It’s the most satisfying occupation man has discovered yet because you never can quite do it as well as you want to, so there’s always something to wake up tomorrow morning to do.
—William Faulkner

Writing has led me to several experiences that I call spiritual ones. I find myself in “flow” where time just passes and I can feel my heart is singing. The joy I get from completing my job is something I can hardly put into words.

This kind of joy is not like fleeting moments of happiness but something more, an overlying feeling that encapsulates my being, arming me with a deep knowing that I matter in this world, that I belong and most importantly that I am loved.

Listening to some soft classical music and writing early in the morning when I’m all alone before most people are awake remains one of the most joyful experiences that I achieve.

5) The universe is mysterious and on our side

Understanding is not a piercing of the mystery, but an acceptance of it, a living blissfully with it, in it, through and by it.
—Henry Miller

I often get a thought, an idea on what to write about. It’s usually a question that I want some answers for in my own life. I set an intention to write, for example, about Emotional Intelligence.

Suddenly my mind is flooded with new and different ideas. Also links, books and emails arrive serendipitously to aid me in writing my piece. It’s like the Universe has been invoked to come to my help.

I often start writing about a topic and find myself writing something completely different to what I had intended. I read it again and again and it’s like someone else was writing and it’s a new insight that I never thought about before I started typing away.

6) Serving Humanity makes us grow

You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.
– F. Scott Fitzgerald

Writing has taught me that we all have something to say, something to give and a role to play in life. We are all somehow, connected and as such the more we do give back, the more we grow as human beings.

We often look at the famous writers, billionaires, and social entrepreneurs and think that they are the ones whose duty is to give. We shun our responsibility to give back and more importantly lose the opportunity to grow as human beings.

Writing an article that inspires one person to pursue change and become a better person is as necessary as Bill Gates pledging billions to help eradicate Malaria in Africa within a generation.

The lessons I’ve learned in writing apply to whatever we choose to do in life, whether that’s setting up a business, singing or working at a job we love.

Life is all about finding the platform where we become our authentic selves, which allows us to explore our potential, get us out of our comfort zones so that we can grow in serving humanity.

About the author:

Mo is an entrepreneur, born again writer. He finally gets that he’s a spiritual being having an earthly human experience.

Mo loves Hemingway, Hesse, and Kahlil Gibran, meditates regularly and runs when he can sense the rain coming down.

Mo has powerful conversations with anyone and everyone reminding them the story The Death of Ivan Ilych by Tolstoy where on his deathbed he says: ”what if i lived all my life wrong?” He recently spoke at TedxAccra about Awakening to his Aliveness.

Mo writes everyday when the clock strikes at six in the morning and is regularly published by both Rebelle Society and Elephant Journal. He also blogs regularly at mo-issa.com

When Joni Mitchell sang “Chelsea Morning,” she described the sun coming in through the window, but she did not say if there were horizontal striped curtains.


Writing Your Emotional Truth

by Diana Raab, PhD

When working on my first memoir in graduate school, my mentor told me to put a sticky on my computer which said, “Get down to your emotional truth.” While at first I thought it was a corny thing to do, those six words were my guiding light during my two years of writing. What my mentor was asking me to do was to write from my heart, rather than from my mind, in a way that my words will resonate with the reader—they feel embody what I’m going through. In fact, the emotional truth of a story is the truth of how you feel about the story. Each person has their own emotional truth. Your emotional truth might be different altogether from that of another person, even if that person lived through the same kind of experience you did.

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When writing or telling a story, verbally or in the form of journaling, an essay, a memoir, or a poem, it’s important to say what you want to say without thinking what you think others want to hear. While writing, say to yourself, “Here is how I see it,” or “Here is how it happened to me,” or “This is my take on the story.” The focus should be on the story and the details connected to it. Sometimes, small details must be added to liven up a story, but the important thing is that the emotional truth is present.

The point is that the story you are writing should remain true to the way you lived through your experience. Writer Pat Conroy, who died a couple of years ago of pancreatic cancer, said that truth is relative and that he didn’t worry too much about it when writing his memoirs. He said that if you get wrapped up in what the absolute truth in a story is, then your story will not be told, and the silence around not telling your story is what can deplete an individual of bliss. In fact, he brilliantly said that it is the silence associated with untold stories that can get people into trouble. In other words, what is not said can be more harmful than what is actually said.

One thing we know is that over time, details about our lived experiences become blurred or distorted. When recalling events from our past we might discover things about ourselves and our experiences. One way to tell if you’re writing your emotional truth is that you are carefully writing and thinking about your readers and who you might offend. This type of writing will not benefit either the reader or the writer.

Also, writing or stories that don’t represent emotional truth does not have energy or vitality. Basically, the writing becomes journalistic reportage, which is often not compelling. For your best writing to emerge, you must be willing to take risks, and that involves telling your inner truth. As writer and diarist Anaïs Nin says, “The closer a writer keeps to emotional reality, the more alive the writing will be.”

Writing Prompt

Think about an emotional experience from your childhood. Write about it truthfully from your own perspective. Refrain from thinking about what you “should” write; instead, write about what you need to write.

Finding Your Authentic Voice

The truth is that when you find your authentic voice in writing you will know it, and you will also be on your way to finding your bliss. You will know it because the writing just feels right, and your words flow rather easily. You can always tell when someone is writing in their authentic voice because what they are saying rings true. Last year, I met with memoirist Mary Karr. When speaking about voice in memoir she shared that great memoirs can live or die based 100 percent on the voice of the writer. She said that all the great memoirists she knows sound on the page like they do in person and that their voices make you feel close to them, almost as if you are inside them.

Writing your emotional truth means being honest about your feelings. It is about allowing your inner voice to take charge. In other words, you are writing from your heart, not your head.

When I was in graduate school for writing, one of my mentors suggested that when writing I should make believe that I am seated across the table from my best friend. The writing, like the talking, should be personal and intimate. He also suggested that as part of my editing, I should read my work out loud. He advised that this is the best way to identify an authentic voice.

“I want to write like Mary Karr,” a woman in one of my memoir-writing workshops once told me. When I asked her what it was about Karr’s writing that she loved, she said, “It just flows so beautifully and poetically. It has such a nice rhythm. I can’t put her books down.” She went on to ask, “How can I do that?” I told her that she should start by rereading all of Karr’s books and study what was specifically compelling. Then, she should read her favorite sections out loud and write or type them. Copying is one way to imbue us with the writer’s style.

Before her passing in 2009, writer Barbara Moss Robinette shared with me that even though her MFA was in art, she had taught an MFA-in-writing program. She called herself a “self-taught writer.” When I asked how she had taught herself to write, she said that after choosing her favorite books, she copied sections longhand in her journal. She believed that that was the best way to learn how to write. She said that it was her way to infuse herself with the voice of her favorite writers.

When you are in tune with your authentic or inner voice, you have a greater chance of tapping into your intuition and thus can become more alert to messages from the universe. Your inner, authentic voice gives you affirmation and advice. It might also arrive during altered states of consciousness, relaxation, or self-hypnosis. During difficult times, your authentic voice may become even louder.

Some creative individuals—such as authors, poets, musicians, and healers—are often thought of as people who are in touch with their intuition and inner voice. Gandhi admitted that he heard an inner voice that shared this message with him: “You are on the right track; move neither to the left nor the right, but keep to the straight and narrow.” The more we trust our inner voice, the more quickly we will be led to our bliss.

One thing I learned in graduate school is that sometimes it takes a while to find your authentic voice. It also takes being confident about your subject matter. It is a good idea to write about what you know. When writing for bliss, chances are that you are writing about yourself, and there is no one who knows you better than you do. Some people find their authentic voice more easily than others do. When teaching my students, I speak about the “throat-clearing” sessions of writing. That is, when you sit down to write you might begin by rambling; you start to write about one subject and then the trajectory of your writing ends up somewhere else. This process is perfectly fine and sometimes essential for writing. What you may find is that your story actually begins on the third or fourth page. I call those first few pages “throat-clearing pages.” In the final drafts of the manuscript revisions, these pages are sometimes discarded because they often do not move the story forward; however, they are nevertheless a vital part of the writing process. When you are “in your voice” you will speak from your heart. Your true voice emerges only after the throat clearing or false voice has been allowed to emerge.

For most people, it is difficult to write in their authentic voice and edit at the same time. Two different sides of the brain are involved in each of these tasks. Writing with your authentic voice is the voice coming from your body and not your mind. When you are in the practice of writing from your body, you will reap the rewards of a happy and blissful journey.

Thaisa Frank (1994) offers a number of suggestions and rituals to help cultivate the most natural voice for you. Some of the things she suggests include surrounding yourself with your favorite objects, writing when you are angry, humming as you write, and writing with the hand opposite to the one with which you normally write. She also suggests writing only fragments of a story or dialogue, writing in the dark, or dressing all in one color as a way to be different from the way you usually dress.

If you are writing about someone dear to you and you have a piece of their clothing, you might try having their clothing nearby when writing. Some years ago I was fortunate enough to receive a purple cape from a deceased writer whom I admire and whose essence inspires me. Instead of keeping the item hanging in my closet, my spiritual guide suggested that I wear it while writing. When doing so, I found that my creativity flourished and my voice became extremely authentic. It was as if words flowed more easily when I wore the writer’s cape; perhaps in some ways, they might even have been flowing from her.

Writing Prompt

Think of someone whom you view as either intuitive or a visionary. Write about this person and why you think they are intuitive. What personal experiences have you had with them to make you view them in this way? How do you think that you can learn from their intuitive powers?

Writing Prompt

Write about what you believe your authentic voice is. Who is the person who wants to come through in your writing? Give examples of writers whom you want to emulate and what it is about their voices that you admire.

About the author:

Diana Raab, PhD is an award-winning memoirist, poet, blogger, and speaker. She blogs for Psychology Today, Thrive Global, and Elephant Journal. Her latest book is “Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life.” Her website is dianaraab.com.


Making a spiritual connection by writing

Writing as a Mystical Experience

The Making of a Mystic shares the budding of the process that produced Paddy Fievet’s foundational spiritual writings. She invites the reader on a journey of healing and transformation.

Someone who understands life deeper than the ordinary five senses allow, a mystic is a person who is transformed by a direct connection with the presence of Spirit. In her new book, The Making of a Mystic: Writing as a Form of Spiritual Emergence, Paddy Fievet vividly describes her dramatic spiritual transformation and lights the path for her readers to discover their own spiritual empowerment through writing.

There is a modern mystic in every one of us, or so the author came to realize. With pen and paper and while meditating deeply, she received answers to questions that had plagued her all her life. Not only were the answers insightful, the answers, as well as the odd process of receiving them, changed her life forever. She wrote, “Spirit spoke to me through my writing, rewriting, and then rewriting again. I learned how memoir moves personal experience from the trauma part of the brain into the analytical, reasoning part of the brain where it can finally be put to rest. In this way, experiences finally show up on the page as sacred story.”

While engaging with the author’s riveting memoir, teaching moments and poetry, the reader will journey to the center of his own heart, recognizing Divine Love in himself, in others and in nature, while being gently guided to discover that he is already a modern mystic.

Called many names, from psychics, healers, clairvoyants and seers to mediums and saints, very intuitive people who have understood life deeper and have known their lives as Spiritual experiences. The profoundly intuitive Paddy Fievet manifests her talents as a teacher and her spiritual gifts with grace, sharing with her readers how to tap into their own modern mystic capabilities. Being a mystic is not something that she does, instead, it is something she accepts, allows, then passes on to her readers and to everyone she encounters. The Making of a Mystic is her gift to those who seek spiritual empowerment.

The author writes, “We are each connected to Spirit in ways far beyond our understanding, a connection we must discern for ourselves and learn to trust. Answers are always there for us, even we feel completely lost. God in Spirit form provides us the opportunity to find our own divinity, and to realize our inner strength by writing and living our own sacred story.”

About the Author
A modern mystic, a facilitator, public speaker, blogger, teacher and artist, and a member of Spiritual Directors International, Paddy Fievet has studied spirituality, psychic arts, and metaphysical law in depth, earning a Ph.D. in Metaphysics. She is also the author of When Life Cried Out: One Woman’s Spiritual Quest to Be Fully Alive.

The Making of a Mystic: Writing as a Form of Spiritual Emergence
Author: Paddy Fievet, Ph.D.
Publication Date:  February 1, 2015
Publisher: Cloverhurst Publications ASIN: B00P38DL46
Format: Paperback and Kindle editions
List Price: $14.95; $9.95
Sold by: Amazon Inc.
Information:  www.warwickassociates.com


Lifting the Eyes: Writing as a Spiritual Practice

by Karen Hering

A lot of people I know consider their writing to be a spiritual practice.  It might be journal writing or poetry, fiction or nonfiction; or writing prayers, or blessings or any kind of reflective writing, for publication or not.  It’s easy to see how writing and its insistence that we slow down and pay attention can qualify as a spiritual practice. But what is it that makes it so? And is every form of writing, potentially, a spiritual practice?

I take a pretty wide view of what qualifies as a spiritual practice. I also believe it’s one of those things best known in the eye—and the heart—of the practitioner. No one gets to say whether someone else’s practice qualifies as a spiritual one or not. However, neither do I believe that all forms of writing – not even all the ones that are spiritual or reflect on the meaning of life – merit the label.

Maybe it would help to consider what makes anything a “spiritual practice.” I define “spiritual practice” as something that awakens us to the ground of our being and to the pulse of life within us and around us. Spiritual practices take many forms, on and off the page, but they are often best identified by their fruits, or the effect they have on us. Generally speaking, spiritual practices will deepen our relationship with the sacred source of life—by whatever name we know it—and our relationship with ourselves and others.

The ancient Chinese poets used to say the writer’s task was to describe their lives and the world around them and then, within their writing, to lift their eyes. Or as one of my Tai Chi teachers advises, to participate in the connection between earth and heaven. Isn’t this, simply put, what spiritual practices are meant to do, regardless of our definition of heaven? They embrace all the peculiarities of our individual lives and then, in a profound move of connection, they draw all of that, and us with it, into a larger, wider, trustworthy net of life and meaning.

It’s a marvelous but demanding thing, connecting earth and heaven, which probably has something to do with why we use the word “practice.” It’s not likely that we will ever get it down entirely. We practice, not seeking perfection, but rather to make it easier, and to experience its fruits. Like the Poulenc clarinet sonata I learned as a teenager, practicing day after day without ever completely mastering it. I don’t remember a single time when I played the song all the way through without some muffled or muddled note; but in time, I did become nimble enough that my recital audience could hear its music and, I hope, a hint of its beauty.

So how do we each determine whether our writing is a spiritual practice or what might nudge it toward becoming one, if we want it to? Here are five questions to consider:

  • Is it something I do frequently – if not daily, at least often enough that I will miss it when I stop doing it? If I don’t miss it when I stop, I might well wonder whether I’ve ever really tasted its fruits in the first place.
  • Do I intentionally name and approach it as a spiritual practice? I know it’s been said that doing the dishes can be a spiritual practice, but for me, because I don’t typically approach it as one, the only transformation likely to occur is in the dishes, not my heart.
  • Do I prepare for it by taking down my defenses? Wise guides tell us that spiritual practices require a receptive heart, one unguarded enough that it can be touched – and changed – by grace.
  • Does it sometimes surprise me and take me places I had not expected to go? In creative writing, we know we have to make room for the Muse to join us; in spiritual practice, we have to make room not just on the page but in the core of our being as we invite something other than ego to stir in us.
  • Does it connect me to others – other people, including those I know and those I don’t, those I love and those I don’t, and also other beings? Like the Chinese poets, we are invited to engage our words in connecting earth and heaven, and connecting each of us with all of us.

Of course, not everyone wants a spiritual practice. In fact, we are bombarded by messages that discourage it. Spiritual practices require that we slow down. That we pay attention. That we be willing to let go – of who we think we are and what we think we know. In a culture that values working and living faster and the multi-tasking required by an accelerated pace, and one that encourages consumption and possession, as well as knowledge and achievement, spiritual practices are truly countercultural.

Why do it then? Perhaps because we find in it a welcome antidote to what ails our hurried, clutching world. When I ask people about the fruits they’ve enjoyed in their own spiritual practice of writing, the list they name is long and compelling: joy, peace, healing, community, inspiration, understanding, awareness, outside-of-the-box thinking, energy, surprise, nourishment and clarity. However demanding it may be, with fruits like that, I will keep at it, still writing, still practicing, still lifting my eyes toward a wide and welcoming horizon.

© 2013 Karen Hering

Karen Hering is author of Writing to Wake the Soul: Opening the Sacred Conversation Within. A writer, teacher, chaplain and ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, she leads guided writing sessions, retreats and other programs described at www.karenhering.com.