These opening words from my new book, Gifts from the Devastation pretty much sum up how I started writing and how the process has evolved since then. Writing this book was the first time I ever consciously sat to down to write anything. To be honest, the thought that it might potentially become a book wasn’t really on my mind at the time. All I know is that something was bubbling up inside of me and wasn’t going to let me rest until I listened and got it down on paper. Conversations with friends and people I met were always peppered with my thoughts and insights on life and how cancer had rewritten the story of mine. I was learning so much about myself and life. I discovered that my true nature is creativity (we come from creative energy) and that I must share my voice with the world if I am to live authentically and feel any sense of fulfilment. I’m living proof that we suffer greatly when we suppress our voice and our truth. That was the story of my life up until cancer knocked on my door and changed everything. This knowing rippled through me as I wrote and continues to bring new momentum to my writing every day. I was also sent human messengers to get me started and cheerleaders who prodded me along when I doubted myself.
Writing is a process and it was a new one for me when I first took the plunge. As with all creative endeavours, a momentum quickly builds when you stay focused and alert. I had to learn to trust where I was being taken especially when it didn’t seem to make sense. Strange as it may sound I believe my book was written long before I ever put pen to paper. For me writing is a delicate blend of flow and structure. I need to be receptive to the ideas and insights I am receiving, while disciplined enough to get them down on paper in a coherent fashion. Most importantly, I must stay with the job until it is done!
I delve into my process in the following points.
1. Getting started: In the words of Albert Einstein, “Nothing happens until something moves.” Sitting down and getting started was the first hurdle. I know that might sound obvious but if I had actually entertained the idea that I was going to write a book in any sort of serious way, I don’t know that I would have got started. It would have seemed too overwhelming a prospect. I just started writing not knowing where it would lead. It was a simple question put to me by a friend that got the cogs turning. “Have you ever thought of writing?” she asked out of the blue. She had heard me talk about my experience with cancer and how it had completely changed me, and my perspective on life. That literally was it. I didn’t realise it at the time but her words unlocked something in me and as soon as I got home I opened up my laptop and started writing. I stayed writing for six months until I had a draft of this book. I didn’t plan it. It just unfolded as I wrote and stayed present in the process.
2. Commitment: Once I began I was in the process 100%. In my book, there are no halfway measures when it comes to writing. I either write or I don’t. There were still plenty of days when the feelings of being an imposter almost derailed me and I wrestled with self-doubt. Thankfully, the joy of being in flow far outweighed the frustration of the stuck days, so there was no stopping me. I learnt so much about myself from persisting with the process, especially on the tough days. I was more determined and capable than I had ever realised and I put it down to finding my true passion. With time I discovered my rhythm, and the ebb and flow that is the creative process, but first I had to make the decision to stick with it no matter what. The magic often happened when I least expected it so I learnt to stay alert. Committing to any process is how we translate pipe dreams into reality. We manifest them into form. I really felt I had no say in the matter once I got started. It was like opening the floodgates. A greater force took over and there was no going back.
3. Intuition: I find writing to be a very intuitive process. Connecting with my intuitive voice was a gift of cancer. My body and mind switched off and I entered the stillness that is the womb of creativity. When I write I try not to censor myself and just let my fingers do the typing. I do my best to get everything down on paper and remind myself that this is the first important stage of the process. I’m casting the net far and wide to see what I catch and there are no holds barred. I don’t edit what I’m hearing as it may be a building block towards a greater idea. There is no pre-empting the process.
4. Editing: It is while re-writing and editing that I instinctively know what’s working and what I can discard, and it’s often very different to what I might have originally imagined. I was given wise advice to take a week’s break a few times during the process, to give the material and me breathing space. Once I come up for air, I always come back refreshed and with a new perspective that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. Then I start the final stage - refining and polishing, often discovering new nuggets of wisdom along the way. I love this part of the process. It feels cyclical in nature as I work through many drafts. Eventually the time arrives when I instinctively just know that the job is done.
5. Routine: I started writing five years ago and have gradually found a routine that works for me. I change it up from time to time to see if it makes a difference. I usually write for a few hours in the morning and again in the afternoon. Once I go past six hours I’m not very productive, so I rarely do. I get out for daily walks in nature to recharge afterwards and often get more inspiration while switched off. The same applies while driving. When in idle mode, there is space for ideas to drop in. I usually carry my phone or a notebook to make sure I catch them as they are usually fast-moving. In the midst of writing Gifts from the Devastation, I went with the flow as much as I could. There is no controlling when the muse visits!
6. Environment: I also created a nice, relaxing work environment that was conducive to getting in the zone. I lit a candle, played high frequency music and most importantly had a good chair to sit on!! I only write well when I feel rested, relaxed and energetic, so it’s a delicate balance. As a great writer once said to me – “50% of the writing process takes place before you even sit down to write.” I try to remember this when I’m beating myself up on the days that I don’t sit down to write. This is a time of gathering inspiration and ideas that are the substance of what I will create.
7. Staying quiet: When I started writing I did my best to stay focused and quiet about what I was working on. I didn’t talk about it at all really. I don’t believe that I would have written anything if I had discussed it openly with friends or family early in the process. As well-intended as people may be, a casual remark could have easily thrown me off- track before I ever got started. If you decide to write, I recommend keeping your own counsel for a while. You have just planted a seed. It is delicate and needs time to take root. Once it develops and takes form, you will know when it is time to share it with the world.
The deepest longing of your soul is to be heard.
Make it your life’s mission to find out what it wants to say.
It will bring you alive. It will transform you.
It will fill you with more joy than you ever imagined possible.
Don’t search. Go quiet and listen.
It is in the stillness that I connected with my creative source and that is how I started writing.
Your unique music will reveal itself to you in the silence and you will be utterly changed by it.
To connect with me, my work and books:
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