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
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.
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.
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
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?
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
You can consider
yourself blessed if you have ever read a book that you felt changed your
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
# # #
# # #
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.
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.
Excerpted from a book in progress. Copyright © 2005 by Naomi Rose.
All rights reserved.
Naomi's other writings:
[more to come]