Lost in the wilderness of good-natured writing prompts

I once had a friend talk about mathematics the way some people speak of a lover.

It’s so linear, so logical, so familiar—what couldn’t possibly make sense about math?

There is no answer for this question, except, “I’m just better at writing.”

The first poem I ever wrote was about a sick boy in church. It was a prayer, asking God to heal him. I think I was 6, maybe 7 years old at the time. For my whole life, writing was a hidden, private place. Writing felt more like family than my own parents and brother. If I yearned to understand something or to feel understood, writing was there.

Somewhere in my late 20s, while in the midst of writing and editing for authors, small businesses and coaches, something inside me changed. Suddenly I was ready. I told the universe boldly—here’s my writing, it’s time to soar! But I was met with a harsh reality: for all my writing and editing everybody else’s work, I had very little experience with sharing my own.

When you’re ready to write but don’t know where to start

I began by tackling everything. During my years as a writer, I had accumulated massive amounts of marketing knowledge and writing experience. So I put that expertise to work all at the same time. I created a marketing plan. I organized my blogs, poems and writings into themes. I made a website and an editorial calendar. I even re-branded with bright blues and greens so my site instilled confidence and know how. Over the years I had also tried various writing prompts, schedules, challenges, writing buddies and more. But all these best "expert" efforts had the same effect: they sent me in circles. And I have a theory about why.

I think these writing lessons and marketing efforts fell flat because they were consistently disconnecting me from my own heart and mind. Writing and marketing gurus were offering an outside solution to an internal problem—and it was always grounded in the assumption that something was wrong with me as a writer.

The moment I drew a line in the sand between my heart and well-intentioned (and some not-so-well-intentioned) writing support systems, I began to see things more clearly. My writing was falling flat because I was blindly trusting what this writing prompt said I must do to succeed. I was disconnected from my heart and mind. None of these folks tried to instill confidence in me, to help me connect with the talent, insight and warmth that already existed inside me.

This ah ha moment prompted this series. I wanted to offer a way to instill confidence in you as writer by telling you the absolute truth:

Nothing can guide you better than your own heart and mind

It’s true. For all my very best efforts and insights and best practices and experiences, even I should never be seen as an authority above your own heart and mind. This gets tricky for someone who loves swimming in nerdy sort of things like world religions, data and statistics. So, of course, I do believe there are resources, marketing principles, and guided writing groups that are beneficial. But before seeking out another writing support system, I invite you to pause and ask yourself, “Is this bringing me new knowledge and encouraging me to trust my instincts as a writer?” And if not, I urge you to reconsider that resource as a trusted teacher.

How I connect with my own instincts and wisdom as a writer

One of the ways I trust my instincts as a writer is by working with my mind through the practice of meditation. For many reasons I’ll probably never know, meditation offers me a really curious clarity. Meditation is a tremendously personal and particular path, and I don't know whether or not it will give you amazing clarity on your next book-writing attempts. But what I can say, as a long-time writer, is that when I became curious about the qualities of meditation and how my mind worked, something began to change. Meditation could be something you incorporate into your life and it may not. Either way, be encouraged that you have everything you need to go on a worthwhile journey of discovery and creativity with your writing.

So I'll wrap up week 1, extending the same invitation that was given to me three years ago: relax with yourself exactly as you are and see what happens, see what falls onto the page. Maybe nothing happens. Maybe something completely different from all your experiences happens. The journey is yours alone. And I’m so thankful you’re here.

Next week I’ll talk about the specifics of the meditation technique I teach and how they intertwine with the work of writers.

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