“Your little will can’t do anything. It takes Great Determination. Great Determination doesn’t mean just you making an effort. It means the whole universe is behind you and with you – the birds, trees, sky, moon, and ten directions.” – Katagiri Roshi
I haven’t written a blog post in quite a long time.
I also haven’t been out with friends much.
I kind of felt like a car with a leaking fuel tank. No matter how much I put in, I just kept running low on energy. I gave and gave and gave, pushing my body and mind to the limit. Although I knew it was important to follow the compass in my heart, my relentless refusal to fail made me say yes to more and more projects, even though North was pointing in a different direction.
My body was screaming at me. My hands and face were covered in red blotchy eczema and I had recurring nightmares. When I didn’t listen, my body dived into cupcakes and chocolate and those cute Sissy Boy jeans no longer pulled over my thighs.
I arrived, fat and exhausted, at my soul’s refuge in Stanford. The writing barn stood tall, like a lighthouse on the rocks showing me the way. I have been three times this year (the first you can read about here), and I always walk away with a knowing in my bones that I need to write.
It’s not about being published or becoming a full-time author. It has nothing to do with accolades and Oprah’s book club. This is about coming home.
It’s hard to explain the process of free writing and soul diving if you’ve never experienced it. The words carry you and take you to the place you most need to go – and usually you have no idea until you get there. This is the barn way.
My words pulled me back and woke me up.
After the last weekend in Stanford, with Rahla Xenopolous and Melinda Ferguson, I knew when driving home that I was forever different. I realised that writing isn’t a craft or a job or a fun exercise. Writing is a relationship. And what you give to writing it gives back a thousand fold.
I have pages and pages of words from that weekend. Some of it is raw and flammable and will always remain my own. Other parts will be in my books and poems. Before anything – sister, daughter, lover, friend – I am a writer. That is the part of me that keeps me alive. When I forgot about that relationship I forgot ME and that is why my tank was always empty. Now I know how to fill it. By writing.
I meet every Thursday with other writers, and for two hours we just play with words. We show up for our writing. We show up for ourselves. We create a little piece of barn in our weeks. I attend as many writing workshops as I can afford and read, read, read. Constantly. And then every day, I write.
Right now, the centre of my writing world, rests in Stanford.
I wanted to blog about the most recent workshop for two weeks now. But I needed to sit with the feelings for a while first. Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones, calls this “composting.” She says: “It takes a while for our experience to sift through our consciousness…it’s not yet in our body.”
That experience has now reached my bones and by the fewer blotches on my skin I would say it’s filled me through and through.
Sitting in a barn filled with nearly 20 other talented writers, tucked away and hugged by the hills of Stanford, your voice feels safe and loved. Sometimes, as I held my pen ready to hear our next prompt, I wondered if I would have anything to write in the mere 4-minute time slot. And yet, every time, the words were cool cascading water over my head. Whoosh.
Melinda and Rahla walked around the wooden heart and listened to each and every writer. How do you describe the experience of reading your words, raw and unpolished, to a best-selling author and publisher, leaning against your table, genuinely listening to every note your soul sings – and then whispering, “Brilliant.”
It’s an affirmation of your value, not only as a writer, but as a person.
Now, as a gift to myself, I make sure I meet with writing every day. I offer it my journal, my time, my energy. My blog, started a year ago, is evolving with me. I changed my About Page a little, and I’m learning to follow that compass in my heart. Ultimately, going any other way will just be the long way round to the same place.
Thank you, Rahla, you beautiful angel author, for gathering me under your wings and sharing your barn and your wisdom.
Thank you, Maire, for your mentoring and pure genius. You give my words a fancy outfit to parade in.
Thank you, Melinda, for listening and showing me what’s possible. You inspire me daily.
And finally, thank you to writing. To words. To the language of my soul.
I owe you my life.
This is where you will find me on a date with writing in the next few weeks: