NAOMI'S WRITINGS

 

Excerpts from

The Book that Changes Your Life

Is the One You Write Yourself:

A "Writing from the Deeper Self" Guide

to Writing a Book

from the Inside Out

 

PRELUDE

In the forest there are many trees, some grouped close to one another, some standing separate, surrounded just by space and light. From a distance, the trunks become twiglike lines etched into the landscape, umbrellaed by masses of dark green leaves. From close up, the texture and structure of each tree calls one to it uniquely, each whorl of bark distinct in its movement; and lying down under the tree, looking up, one sees through the arching vertebrae of branches the full range, or traces, of the light that makes its way through the pattern of leaves, the light—invisible yet palpable—that sustains this tree, its neighbor, the entire forest, and beyond.

The soil beneath the trees, the dirt that lies at their base, is solid. It supports you, lying or sitting or standing there, and it supports the particular tree you are in front of; and it also supports all the neighbor trees, the ones grouped together and the ones standing by themselves, and it supports all the rest of the forest beyond what the eye
can, at once, see. Unless one were deliberately focused on this soil, it would be easy to ignore it, in the face of the more stupendous trees. Yet its importance is equal. It holds the tree roots steady, provides a porous environment in which to feed; and when the visible tree-world breaks down, for whatever reason—falling branches, leaves descending in autumn, nuts, berries, and fruits ripening and plopping to the ground, even the loss of trees themselves, through lightning severing or fire or human industry—over time it becomes the very soil that supports the trees existing and to come.

So below the variety of what grows above, the soil reaches in and holds the underground life fast. And below that, still, water flows to nourish all the roots waiting, holding, in the soil, water streaming below sight, below feel, water collecting in rivulets from the rains above and sinking, water rising up from the moist inner depths and seeking to feed the mouths, tips of trees. This water is not dependent on weather. It exists in the depths, rising up under the right conditions. No matter how variegated the upper landscape seems, the underground waters run through it all, making of it one continuous, though variegated country, bringing nutrients from one part to another in its slow and dedicated flow. Were you to stop and dig deep enough, at some point your shovel would come up glistening. And you would know you had tapped into the underground stream that undergirds all of existence, and refreshes, feeds, and infuses you, as well.


Writing from the Deeper Self is a way to write that brings your shovel up glistening. And sometimes all you are doing is standing in the right place, looking at a single tree but aware of all that upholds that tree, and your roots are watered without your having to do anything. Mostly what you have to do is bring yourself to the right place.



WHAT IT REALLY MEANS TO WRITE A BOOK

To write a book is a big thing. Even to contemplate writing a book is a big thing. It's not only the work involved, and the unknown territory ahead: it's also the personal journey that one goes through in the process. If writing a book were as cut and dried as transferring information from your head onto the paper, then it would simply be a matter of technique and persistence, and one could follow formulas successfully: The 7 steps to writing a book, the 5 ways to empty your mind onto the page, and so on.

But—especially for books where the soul is wants to be present—there is no exact formula, any more than there is for living one's life. What there are are yearnings, glimpses, suggestions, indications, attractions pulling one forward, obstacles blocking the way. Much like the journey of life itself.

In the Jewish tradition, at the most holy time of the year—the New Year, when the past year is assessed and cleansed, and the prayers to be in alignment with the will of God are made—the blessing that is most often given is, "May you be written into the Book of Life for this year." On a literal level, it means, may you live another year; and, more symbolically, it also means, may you treasure your life, this coming year; may you choose life over death, in all its manifestations; may the unfolding story of your unique, yet connected, being reveal itself in ways that are profoundly meaningful and sweet.

For me, this is the umbrella under which I approach writing a book, both my own and when working with my clients: that when you give your full heart to the unfolding of your story in the form of a book, you are writing yourself into the Book of Life, and you are no less transformed than if you had spent all that time in contemplation and prayer. So this suggests that embarking on the journey of writing a book—even if it isn't about you, directly; even if it isn't a story, directly—is to include the book-writing as part of your transformative journey: to bring light to the dark places, to move through the stuck places, to reach for that which calls you to it, even when you don't exactly know what it is.

Writing a book from the deeper Self brings you into a changed relationship with yourself and with God, however you construe “God,” and you are not the same person at the end as you were at the beginning. I believe that this potential is always there, and only the most informational and cognitive books are untouched by it. Yet even there, although what appears on the page may show no trace of tears or strain or joy, the writer may have gone through portions of the journey in the writing, but left that vulnerable aspect out of the picture entirely.

Writing a book from the deeper Self is a lot like being in an intimate relationship: it only works when you are able and willing to be vulnerable and receptive. Yet, as anyone who has ever been in what they hoped would be an intimate relationship knows well, the process of trusting that vulnerability as a source of strength rather than awful self-exposure is an arduous one, requiring commitment, honesty, a willingness to surrender the ego in favor of a larger infusion of love, and at least the willingness to (if not a comfort with) not know, to not have everything in hand and under control. I believe that one of the reasons why people are so resistant to writing a book is that they suspect— rightly—that they will be called upon to peel away the layers of pretense and surface understanding, and get beneath to the real nature of things, and of themselves, especially.

Yet isn't this what we secretly most wish for? To know ourselves, to see our real nature, to touch into what we know to be true about us, which then links us to all that is? What blocks the excitement of embarking on this kind of journey, excavation, discovery, call it what you will? In my experience—if we stay with the "intimate relationship" analogy—it’s the fear of being exposed and being alone in it all. Of not being loved and supported, as the layers of superficial understanding come off. Of facing not a loving partner but the void. And not even a neutral void; a critical void. The Inner Critic. Our personal demons, ready in a blink to decimate all our efforts, who we want to be, who we actually are. In the absence of a loving other to hold us when we reach the throbbing pulse of the wound, we anticipate being alone mirrored only by what we don't want to face in ourselves. Why go to all the trouble of writing a book if that's what's in the wings?

That's where this book, I hope, will make a difference. Because as well as guiding you on the path of creation, sustenance, and completion of a book, it offers a way to hold yourself in the process of writing so that you are in a supportive, intimate relationship—with yourself, and with God. And at a certain level of this intimate support and understanding, I believe they are the same thing.

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To write is vulnerable, even if what you write about isn't especially vulnerable. I have read quite a few books and articles on writing in my time, and though some of them have addressed this, most rely on structures and technique.

I would like to suggest, instead, that what the world is hungry for is exactly what you have been sitting on: the treasure covered in criticism or shame, the beauty that you knew long ago that was unseen, unwanted, unheard, unmirrored, and that you concluded had no place in the world; that revealing it would keep you from surviving, not enhance your survival and be a gift to others. I believe that a large part of the suffering of our culture is that the Real is not reflected, and it makes our hearts sick. We tuck our souls back into ourselves, and the consumerist view of life wages on—and where are we, in that?

But imagine a world where books came from the deepest place within the writer, bringing forth not only information but an atmosphere of love and truth, a symphony that enters the reader by osmosis, tuning her and helping her to remember who she really is. Joy would take
hold, recognition of our true being. The reader would emerge brighter and stronger and sweeter than before, and all because you gave your whole self to the process of writing this book that you are called to write. It is so difficult to truly believe this, and yet it is so true: when we are true to ourselves and follow where we need to go, no matter whether we are confident or scared, we are helping all of humanity. And if the book we write actually reflects this process, has the strength and courage and receptivity embedded into it, woven into it, dyed in the wool into it, then the readers let go of external reality and take your journey for the duration of the reading. And it turns out to be their own
journey, too. And your book lives inside them long after they have turned the last page and come to the end.

So this will not be a book that gives “7 steps” and formulas, but a guide to trusting yourself, deeply supporting yourself, and celebrating yourself along the way. And because my own background is in literature, books, and editing, there will be a lot about the process of writing a book in particular. In the pages that follow, 1 hope to connect you to what lives and is alive within you, so that you can try things out, have epiphanies here and there, and, even if awkwardly at first, find your way. The main thing is that this is an unfolding process, not an assigned project, so what you learn about yourself and your own unique ways of creating are extremely valuable. For you are a creator; and this book is an opportunity for you not to prove anything or make a great career move (though it may turn out to be that), but to co-create with God. To make room to see what God wants for you, and to tell God what you want, and to meet in the middle, and feel the deep comfort of the presence as you write, and to be awed, and to be inexpressibly grateful.





HOW A BOOK CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE

You can consider yourself blessed if you have ever read a book that you felt changed your life.

This has happened to more people than realize it.

Sometimes, it takes place in childhood, while sitting on a parent’s lap or lying in bed twisting down into sleep as that parent reads you a story that sticks with you like oatmeal on a cold school morning, providing nourishment that lasts far longer than the time it takes to ingest it and intertwining with the sound of the parent’s voice, the embracing feel of the parent’s lap or final goodnight kiss.

Sometimes it happens much later, a book that you have looked forward to reading or happened on almost sideways and found it speaking to you so directly, intimately, and even thrillingly that it is as if the author knew you in particular, knew just what you needed and when you needed it, knew what ideas, images, language, impressions, storyline, nuggets of wisdom you needed to clothe and feed your soul in that moment and forever after. Even though you may have later forgotten the content of the book or even that you read it, still, its imprint is on you, its atmosphere has breathed itself into your being. If it were possible to take an X-ray of your invisible soul, what makes it up and what lives inside it, the effect of that book would be there.

This is the first stage of a book that changes your life: that it evokes this kind of deep response in you and makes this kind of impression.

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The second stage is that this book actually changes you. You may not have even set out to be changed; you may have been wanting only a respite from the sameness of daily life in reading it, or a way into some previously hidden part of yourself because you sensed, however unconsciously, that that part contained information you needed, and perhaps even treasures. Yet some alchemical combination of that book and your being sparks a transformation, and at some point—if not right there on the spot—you look at your current life and also at the life you used to lead, and you realize that you have changed. Perhaps you journeyed from a well-worn rutted path on hard-packed dirt to a mountain top at cloud level, with astonishing vistas in every direction. Perhaps you left a quagmire for a rich and verdant meadow. Perhaps you left fear, anger, envy for the experience of inner richness, contentment with who you are and what life offers. Whatever your journey, whatever the starting point and the surprising destination, somehow reading that book was part of what made these changes happen.

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And yet the book that can most deeply change your life is the one you write yourself.

I have frequently heard and read about authors who start writing their books with one idea in mind, only to discover along the way that the book itself has a mind of its own. This is implicit in the creative process—that we can make room for it and deeply participate it, but not control it.

But this is not quite what I mean by a book changing your life. When you write from the deeper Self (and this process is not always a plunging in straight off the diving board; sometimes it is a getting-your-toes-wet kind of experience), you are present to your real nature, your larger, interconnected nature; you are inviting this nature to reveal itself to you through the act of writing. In the process, you meet yourself in a way that is so intimate and surprising that your sense of who you are is changed. The smaller identities—the “I’s” that both anchor and circumscribe us—fall away like leaves off trees in autumn, and though they may still be visible, it becomes clear that they are no more you than the clothing you wear. You get to meet yourself in your glory and resplendent beauty, as well as in the places that, lacking your insight and compassion up until now, have been relegated to closets and caves.

In addition, your life is transformed by your book in other ways. When you write from the deeper Self, there is a narrowness, a loneliness, an isolation that quivers into clear, acute sight—and then breaks up like minute shards of spun-sugar glass, revealing the great breadth of the Reality of love behind it. You may start out feeling alone, unaccompanied, the only being on earth to feel as you do; but writing from the deeper Self is not merely an act of personal will or wish: it is a divine relationship, a call and response. You do the calling when you begin with the intention to write from your deeper Self and an open heart. This is what enables your difficult memories and experiences, which you have carried inside your ribcage for years, to be set down and set free, leaving a wonderfully open horizon you can step into to see what the uncircumscribed future will hold. Yet this intention, this yearning, this willingness is itself a sign of the presence of the divine, calling you. “Talk to me, tell your story, show me what is in your heart,” the divine may whisper quietly, behind all the louder voices that would obstruct your efforts to take this writing path. “Love me by loving yourself. Bring light to what has been dark and unknown. Illuminate the holy territory that is your life.”

The specifics of the call may not be evident in the beginning. There may be only a vague wish to write a book, admixed with fears; a compulsion, perhaps, to tell a certain story; a desire to explore something that has lived inside you wordlessly for a long time; even the desire to give praise through the articulation of what lies inside you, as if you dared to trust that your life, your perceptions, your being, your depth of feeling could be of value to other readers and to God.

Yet however you hear or sense the call, it is only in the process of writing a book from the deeper Self (not before, while thinking about it) that your relationship with the divine becomes palpable and clear. And it is evidenced by the depth of your feeling as you write, what arises to be written, the miracle of being given just what you need—both in the telling and in your life, and watching the two intertwine—and your bottomless gratitude as you feel the Ineffable stream through you, leaving those substantive, shimmering words in their wake.

What touches you in this way, in the process of writing, also touches your readers. That is how your book comes to be a book that changes their lives.

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Excerpted from a book in progress. Copyright © 2005 by Naomi Rose.

All rights reserved.

 

 

Read Naomi's other writings:

From THE BLESSINGS LEDGER: The Union of Money and Compassion.
Book One: "The Inheritance."

From THE BLESSINGS LEDGER: The Union of Money and Compassion.

Book Two: "Signs and Wonders."

Postcards from the Lost World

 

[more to come]

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