Writing in the Now

300 words today. But they were good words, necessary words. My critique group this weekend helped me see where I need to expand on scenes already written. They couldn’t get a picture of my hero. I had so much dialogue but very little description of how my heroine sees him. Which is crucial, because how she sees him shows why she’s attracted to him.

So after realizing they were right, and that I’d have to go back to a scene I’d already checked off my list was a bit discouraging given my self-imposed deadline of March 16. But today I finally did it, with a little help from Eckhart Tolle.

Tolle says that the main thing in life is to live fully in the moment, every moment, so that spirit can express itself through you. He calls it “consciousness” but same thing. What is it that is holy and sacred inside of me that wants to be born anew every minute of the day? That’s the purpose of this life, to be a conduit for whatever it is inside that wants to express itself. Secondary to the soul’s purpose are personal goals.

I realized this morning (after a rude student sort of ruined my day yesterday, which is what made me reach for Tolle in the first place) that my soul, my consciousness, my spirit, wants to write. It doesn’t have a deadline. It wants to write the best possible story it can, right now. And so, I did it. I sat at my desk with notes in hand and made those changes, adding a mere 300 words. But the soul, right now, is satisfied.

The Power of Now

I’ve been rereading The Power of Now  by Eckhart Tolle all summer. Last night I came across this passage: “Identified with the mind…you get your sense of who you are from things that ultimately have nothing to do with who you are: your social role, possessions, external appearnce, successes and failure, belief systems, and so on. This false, mind-made self, the ego, feels vulnerable…”

Key word “vulnerable.” I read the passage over and over until it sunk completely in. Of course what Tolle means is that each of us is more than our bodies, minds, and egos. We are spiritual beings in a physical world. And if we just stay in touch with that, we’ll be okay. Because, despite whatever is going on in our lives, our spirit is always fine, always perfect, just as it is. Whether we get a book deal or not.

Is Writing Your Life’s Purpose?

Right this moment, I’m feeling grateful for having successfully completed a difficult semester. I’m also brimming with life lessons learned from Eckhart Tolle’s lectures on A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. If you’ve ever wondered “Am I supposed to be a writer?” “What should I write?” “How should I bring my work into the world?” the book (and the free lecture series) might answer some of your questions. It did for me.

At the ripe age of 53, I finally see the priceless value of fully engaging in the present moment, every moment. The rewards of this ongoing practice is a writing life (and it works in every aspect of life, not just writing!) free of worry, full of contentment, with many bursts of pure joy. I have noticed (you have to train yourself to keep noticing moment by moment) that when I’m sad, worried, or stressed it is because I have strayed from the present moment and am either worrying about or wanting something in the future (like a book contract) or regretting something from the past (so many missed opportunities!). Bringing myself back to the now, just with the breath and taking a few seconds to feel the energy of life flowing through me, I reconnect to the present moment, where all creativity is born.

Ten weeks ago, I didn’t understand that if I cannot bring acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm to whatever is happening in the present moment, then I need to stop and think about why. If I repeatedly cannot find acceptance in a current life situation, that’s a signal to change. If I hate the book I’m working on, or the article idea I’m pitching, I need to stop and try something else. Something that rises from within me, not from the essay in “Writer’s Digest” about the next new trend.

Bringing acceptance to all situations, not just wriitng, gets easier with practice. Many writers need to work at another job to pay bills. Accepting that you might need to work at something other than your life’s passion, at least until the kids finish college, is tough. If my day job confronts me with a student who is very, very, unhappy with her grade, I can accept that. I used to get so upset by negative student actions. I’d take on their unhappiness like a sponge, fume at the lack of alert attention in the classroom, feel a nasty urge to kick the sleeping kid in the third row. Now I accept students as they are and don’t take any of it personally. Heck, I saw people nodding off at the Dalai Lama’s lecture!

As much as acceptance has been a blessing, I’d really rather be in a state of enjoyment or enthusiasm, and I know from experience that writing takes me there. According to Tolle, all creativity arises from being in the present moment in either a state of acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm. That’s where I want to spend my summer, stopping in my garden for a season, remembering who I am and why I am here on the planet.

Reader, I need a nice long rest. My life’s purpose, I have learned, is probably not to teach the research paper citation method recommended by the Modern Language Association. My life’s purpose is to bring forth all that is in me, waiting to be born into the world of form. For me, this form often takes the shape of writing. I sort of already knew that..what Tolle did for me was deepen my belief in my writing self and show me a way to get more out of my writing practice.

1 R&B Notebook Done!

Finshed one of the three notebooks I started when I began the WIP. It’s a 70 page book. Another identical book is 2/3 complete, and the third is now strictly for my Tolle class notes. Of course, I have yet to type any of the notebook pages into the computer. It’s still a wild mix of jotted notes, thoughts, research, summary and story with a few journal entries thrown in. But that’s okay. I have decided I like it this way.

Tolle’s class is not affecting the story directly, but I find it’s changing the ways I choose to tell it. For example, I’ve decided that right now, with still six weeks of teaching to complete, I don’t need to add the time-consuming discipline of typing out the notebooks. Instead, I’ve decided to enjoy this morning ritual and see how it flows. After all, this book has no deadline, no goal, no agenda.  

OK that’s not completely true because I always have goals. But my new writing goals are so different than the old ones. That’s Tolle’s influence as well. For now, I’m using my writing and these notebooks as the sweetness that starts my day. That’s my goal. To tell the story, to let it unfold slowly and joyfully.

As for the future, I still have some unanswered questions. Will I continue to teach? To write novels? Will my agent sell my finished manuscripts? I know I’ll always write, but what form will it take? Will it be something new?

Already, I see new things ahead. There’s the library project in Spring 09 and now I’ve volunteered with DWW for another, similar project this coming November. Both projects are simply going into libraries and talking to interested people about the writing process, using my book in a new way. And then there’s the DWW inspired arts fair in August, where I’ll be selling my book with other authors. Totally new-to-me.

The future looks very different from the present. The one constant: I love to get up in the morning and write into a notebook. And I feel such a rush of joy when I finish one! I can’t imagine that ever changing.





Tolle’s a Pantser!

Got to watch the first 20 minutes or so of the webcast last night between Oprah and Eckhart Tolle, her latest book club author, before my computer began freezing. Can’t wait to see the rest of the session, which should be up later today. One of the first questions Oprah asked Tolle was about his writing process for A New Earth.

She wanted to know if he sat down to write aware of what he would say, if it was all planned out in his head, or what. He said he didn’t usually know, he made time in the mornings for writing and showed up in his writing space with the intention that he would write, and then he tapped into a still, clear space inside and the writing just came to him. Not automatic writing, he said, there was thought involved, but mostly he just showed up and waited for the words to come.

 This is what the romance novelists call writing by the seat of your pants. You’ve got your pantsers and your planners. I’m a pantser. So is Tolle.

Another interesting thing about his process is that it matters where he writes. Location is important. Before he ever wrote a book, he got a strong intuition that he should move from England to the West Coast. Friends had places in Vancouver and San Francisco and they let him use their homes to write his first book, The Power of Now. Then his visa ran out and he had to return to England and found he could only edit, no new writing would come. “So that’s why I had to move to the West Coast,” he realized. And he got another work visa, went back out west, and finished his book. The writing flowed again.

He doesn’t advocate every person following every whim that arises. He says there’s such a thing as intelligent intuition and it has to do with being in the present moment and doing the next right thing, being in tune with the universe. Just when he was getting to that part, which I am very interested in as it is mirroring my own situation right now, my computer started freezing and I missed the rest of the webcast. I guess a lot of people did as they have an apology on Oprah’s site this morning with a promise to release the entire webcast on-demand sometime later today.

I did a lot of writing after I turned off the webcast. Can’t wait to see where it leads.