Breaking Silence, Blogging Mindfully

b 5-instagram-collage

I have been deciding what to say about not saying anything.

Just over a week ago, I was immersed in silence. I didn’t post, text, email, or make a phone call for 11 days. For ten days I did not speak.

The silence was part of a 12-day meditation course, and the silence was not the hardest thing. Facing the self was the hardest thing. I witnessed, close up, the false worlds I have built around myself, for myself, through myself. Just noticing those worlds loosened them, threw them out of orbit. I am grateful to feel closer to reality, to spiritual reality, to what is real and true at my deepest level.

And I wrestled with sharing/not sharing. It was all so close to home.

What I learned over the course: I am okay if I am not heard. It won’t destroy me. I experienced a beauty and a release, letting life take over, humbly recognizing that my words do not propel the universe.

Returning home, no longer craving being heard, I considered whether I should quit blogging altogether.

I thought of Tad. When I first met this sweet, wise friend, I was astounded by Tad’s communication skills. I was surprised that English wasn’t Tad’s native language.

A year later, Tad’s speech changed. Where there had been the slightest hint of an accent, there were now round, rolling R’s and thick, festooned consonants. It took me several minutes to understand Tad clearly.

“You speak differently,” I said. “Why?”

“I was masking my accent,” said Tad. “I decided to speak without that layer of effort, and say the words as they wanted to come out. Basically, I quit worrying what others think.”

This beautiful, brave transformation inspired me. I, too, want to show up in the world without the concerted, continuous effort of masking my natural way of communicating.

And this is why I decided to go ahead and break my silence.

I realized, this is why I blog–and why I write, for that matter.

I am committed to being myself, to showing up, and offering the gifts I’ve received. What others do with those gifts isn’t up to me.

I’ll say it again: I don’t have to be heard. I may often be misunderstood. It’s okay.

I discovered a few tips for keeping my ego’s false realities at bay. Here are Five Ways to Blog Mindfully. They work for handling the online confusion of self . . . and I think they also work for putting yourself out there, in any form.

  1. Remember An Audience is Not Needed

An audience is lovely, but I am just as happy, connected, and validated in my creative experience if you, the reader, are not there.

2. Connect with the True Self, not the Online Persona

It’s that saying about not believing your own press. In some strange way, the ego hooks into the person online, or in a photo, or even in the mirror. The brain gets hung up on this appearance,  whether the images are positive or negative. And no matter how I try to be authentic in social media or in a blog, that person online is never who I am. Something is always missing.

typewriter at The Bookstore

3. Accept A Small Audience

I wrote in Burn Wild: A Writer’s Guide to Creative Breakthrough, “smallness can connect to happiness.” Allowing my audience to be as small as it needs to be, I can focus on those few people who need my message, the readers and creatives who find inspiration in the things I share. I’d rather deeply connect with one or two folks than “mask my accent” for the whole world, and have everyone fall in love with a me who isn’t me.

4. Relax and Let Down My Guard

So once I’ve gotten clear on who I really am, and what will and won’t make me happy (a mega-following appears to have this power, but in the end will leave me wanting more, always more), then I can cut loose. After all, some people won’t be paying attention, and others won’t get me anyway . . . so what the hell? I might as well say what I want to. And keep enjoying the words that spring forth, even when I seem to have no words.

5. Focus on the Giving

The writer Robert Benson taught me this. In the insightful little book, The Echo Within, he explains why he places twelve names on the wall in front of his desk. “That way while I am working, we can keep an eye on each other.” Instead of making cyberspace or the planet or a bookstore crowd his audience, he focuses on giving to these few humans. His trick is to “Keep writing sentences to them and for them. They are the ones to whom I have been given and who have been given to me for this particular bit of my work.”

feeding gray jay

And so, I freely re-enter the work of words. Knowing I can return to the silence whenever I need to. Remembering there is so much more to this business of being human.

The Highly Sensitive Writer: Support for Empaths

As I play on the shores of social media, having a grand old time, I forget to watch my footing.

I’ll be breezing along, posting updates and sharing photos, when suddenly, I feel horrible. I will have spent too much time in this world of celebrations, complaints, cravings, and shout-outs. There’s a weird sense of lostness.

I’m drowning in the lives of others.

At first, I was embarrassed to acknowledge this problem. Social media mavens and writers I knew didn’t seem to struggle. I did a lot of pondering and exploring. This led to a  magical realization:

I’m an empath.

I have to be careful how I engage with the world. I must protect my communications, because I absorb the feelings and needs of others.

It might be weird, but it’s pretty special, too. It means I can find another’s heartbeat in an instant; listening is in my blood. I love hearing the ways that my work has brought healing and inspiration to others.

Many of my clients are empaths, too, exploring their intuitive gifts on the page.

Writing Prompts for Empaths is a simple free worksheet you can visit with your journal if you’d like to explore your own sensitivities.

I’d love to hear any thoughts that emerge for you.

And I look forward to being in touch . . . that is, if I’m not taking a social media time out!

    You can read more about highly sensitive, creative people and empaths here:

View my Flipboard Magazine.

Authentic Writing for Memoir and Fiction: Don’t Skim the Memory

I’m wearing my editor hat today. As often happens when I do developmental editing, I notice places where the story is skinny. I perceive areas of “skimmed memory.”

Skimmed memories on the page are a red flag that the author doesn’t want to return to this experience.

returns - library

It’s tempting to skim a difficult memory to avoid pain. It’s so much easier to pull out the black box recording of this life-crash moment. Why relive it? I’ll just say the thing I always say when people ask me about it.

But what would happen if we allowed ourselves to revisit the moment on the page?

I’ll tell you what would happen. We would experience a fresh stab of pain . . . but we’d also receive new insight. Life is complicated, whereas our skimmed and reported stories are not.

Today, Sam writes:

“My marriage with Sabrina was doomed from the start. After treating me like the man of her dreams, she announced on our honeymoon that she had made a mistake.” Sam goes on to write, in a single paragraph, all that was wrong with the marriage.

Clear-cut judgments are easy. We lose the complexity and ambiguity and interest that both life and story share.

Yet I understand. Who wants to return to these memories, add detail, reach for honesty, and find things were truly complicated?

IMG_1010All the same, I’ve worked with Sam for a while, and he is a strong, courageous writer. I know he will take the time to investigate this paragraph. Precious years and intricate wisdom are here to be excavated. Perhaps three or four new pages will emerge.

Sam could show us how they drove for hours after the wedding, when the hotel lost their reservation. He might show that honeymoon breakfast table where the waiter spilled a mimosa on Sabrina’s dress. He could show Sabrina, her hair straggling and her nerves frayed, saying words she didn’t mean. He could reveal his own short temper, and how he barked at the waiter.

Writing our stories demands honesty. This is true whether we build fiction or remain in the territory of memoir. When we revisit an experience, letting go of ready-made judgments, we encounter the stunning beauty of authentic storytelling.

The Creative Process: Station Three, the Way Station

In Burn Wild: A Writer’s Guide to Creative Breakthrough, I outline the five-stage creative process.

And here is Station Three, the Way Station.
This creative process works for anything you are making – a painting, a choreographed dance, a photograph. Because I most often work with writers, here we’ll take the writer’s standpoint.

Station One is the most misunderstood, especially by beginning writers. Starting a new project, they expect a difficult path, not a playground.

Station Two is the most productive, because this is where you dig in and draft without interference from the critic.

Station Three is absolutely crucial.

However, many beginners don’t know about this stage of the process.

Writers run into problems, because:

  • Having completed rough drafts, writers are in a hurry.
  • Writers rush toward the “fixing” or “publishing” phase.
  • In all the excitement, a writer gets too attached to the work.
  • Those who stay too close to their work feel overly sensitive.
  • Confusion is rampant about where to go next, and what advice to take.
  • A writer can get discouraged and quit at this point. Many do.

Skipping this part can derail your entire project.

Station Three is really a time out. It’s getting perspective. Imagine a rough outpost where you stay before continuing an expedition.

Or picture a motel with a gas station, where you refuel and take a break.

Or think of a hunter’s blind, hidden up and away from the action.

You need to do whatever you need to do that will create distance and objectivity for you regarding the work.

One writer, Vicki, takes a break after drafting her novels to read a favorite author.

Another puts his handwritten drafts in a drawer for six months.

Still another writer retreats to the beach for a weekend, and reads over the entire draft with “fresh eyes.”

What needs to happen here is a changing of the guard in your mind.

In One and Two, the creative mind takes the lead.

This is the only way to grab hold of an original, exciting idea and see it through.

However, that creative mind (Dream Kid, I call her), will be bruised, battered, and discouraged – or overwilling to follow – unless distance is created.

The critic is called forth.

Yes, that critic, whom we fought with and finally banished – he’s the guy we need now.

The Way Station embraces the critic. Discernment, here, is everything.

You will need feedback, support, community and resources to make Stage Three successful.

Most of all, you will need time.

Stairs: A Collaborative Collage Poem

stairs-collage-poemThe Burn Wild class produced this collaborative collage poem. Here’s the process: each creates her own wildwrite, and then we randomly choose one line and read aloud together.

This is what emerged around the topic of stairs . . .


The thoughts are like my backyard

compost – hot

drips rich tea for the soil

Sometimes they move slowly,

softly, a tiny human clutched in

their arms, spilling over the sides

with mouth agape

In childhood dreams repeated, the same one floating down the stairs

of our home, dreamt so often I actually believed I could float down them

The stairs creak, but who hears?

It’s moments like the early dark and cool mornings that I lift her into

my arms by the scruff of her neck to carry her down the stairs

that I’m reminded of the change of Day

My young aunt swooned, my mother made eyes, and my sister was floored.

So stairs are about leaving, climbing, exiting, and taking what is yours.

Resources for National Poetry Month

This is it!  National Poetry Month is the time to be surrounded by inspirational resources. You could write your very first poem, or collection of poems.

Never-too-late---leafThe poet William Stafford lived the spirit of National Poetry Month before such a thing existed. He wrote a poem every day – just calling it that, calling it good, even when he didn’t feel his work measured up. He made the call that it was good enough.

Another of my favorite Oregon writers, Brian Doyle, shared some words about Stafford with the Portland Tribune. “I love the fact that he thought everyone was a poet, if only we pay attention to the miracle of what is and report on it without fuss and bluster.”

Paying attention to the miracle of what is. Making a report. So simple.

Here are some resources for National Poetry Month:

And a way to see if you might be a poet, even if you’ve never considered it before. Because it’s a good time for that.

The Adverb Is Not Your Friend: Stephen King on Simplicity of Style

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“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.”

“Employ a simple and straightforward style,” M

Christi Krug‘s insight:

Very timely, as we just had this discussion in Wildfire II class last evening.


What was funny was how hesitant everyone became after I talked about the Adverb Problem. There were many muffled adverbs being skipped over in the reading aloud of work!

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How To Know When It’s Time To Write A Book

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By Kelsey Meyer Not everyone should write a book. Just because you want to be an author doesn’t mean there’s an audience demanding your work. Even if you have followers, they may prefer to learn from you through blogs or podcasts, not a book.

Christi Krug‘s insight:

It’s good to start asking . . . .

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Elmore Leonard: Rules for Writing

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  The best advice for anyone wanting to be a writer is, Write. Sure, read books, learn from others, keep a notebook, but it always comes down to just one thing: you and a blank page.

Christi Krug‘s insight:

I love these rules – I’d been following them for years but didn’t know they were summarized so neatly by one person. 

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Ten Things You Never Knew About Publishing (Probably…) But Were Afraid To Ask

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Hello! So I’m Naomi, the Editorial Assistant here, and I’m going to tell you some of the top ten things that you probably don’t know about publishing, but might be afraid to ask. As this blog will …

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