A New Earth

I’m taking a class with Oprah and Eckhart Tolle starting Monday. It will be nice to be the student and not the teacher for a change, and I hope to get a lot of fresh information on the spiritual side of writing. Tolle would say that “teacher” and “student” are simply roles our ego assigns us. I identify strongly with the role of writer, moreso than any other.

So it’s the Writer’s Role in life and spirit I want to learn more about. I used to think “Who would I be if I wasn’t a writer?” and the thought would scare me silly. Writing, so much more than my other roles, set me apart, was just for me. My other roles (teacher, mother, wife, friend) were bound up with other people, but as a writer, I was alone with my keyboard and screen. I liked it that way.

“Perform action for its own sake.”  

Way before I read these words in Tolle’s A New Earth, Jennifer Cruise said something like “Love the writing process for itself.” Same thing, except Jenny identified the Writer Role. The result of following such advice is greater peace and joy and less angst about outcome. I know because I put Jenny’s advice into practice a long time ago.

The thing about learning, for me at least, is I have to do it over and over. New lessons in new disguises about old issues show up constantly to trick me into losing that first principle: do what you love for its own sake. 

Cash, recognition, publication, revenge and respect are just some of the external reasons we write. Example: I wanted to publish a book so that I would feel pride in accomplishing a life-long goal. I wanted respect from my students and peers. But a funny thing happened after the book came out. I didn’t feel any different. Maybe worse after the initial buzz wore off. Why? I think, after reading A New Earth, I know.

I was off the track of “do it for love” and strongly identifying with my roles as “Writer” and “Teacher” when I wrote my book. I was shoring up my less than stellar writer status, my less than lucrative position as an adjunct faculty member. And that is of the ego. It’s not pure. It’s not soul inspired. Which may be why my book isn’t working for me like I thought it would.

According to Tolle, nothing we desire, even when we receive it, helps us stay happy for long. It is only in giving up the ego’s desires and working from a pure intent, for the love of the thing, that we find peace. “Do whatever is required in any situation” he says, but without identifying too closely with it as a role. Give everything “alert attention” and “interact as a field of conscious presence” but don’t think about gaining money, respect, or even acceptance. Just do what you love and the rest will work itself out.

The neat thing about the class is that I can ask questions. Anyone can join; it’s free. YOu can ask questions, too. I have lots of writer-type questions. Tolle should have the answers. After all, he’s a writer and teacher, too. 

Portents & Signs

I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with my writing life, which has sprouted several subplots over the last five years or so. I used to just write novels. For a long, long, time that’s all I did. Write novels and send them off. Then I started a blog. And on a whim, I began reviewing for one, then another magazine. Which led to writing other stuff for magazines, too. I also teach, which led to publishing a creative memoir that doubles as a writing manual in some of my courses.

It’s too much. I want to stop doing one of these things. Should it be teaching? Novel writing? Magazine writing? 

If I was looking for signs and portents for which of these three is just not working, the last week or so might offer some clues. First, the brochure announcing my Saturday class didn’t say anything about a required text. Then, after I emailed students to tell them the class won’t work without the text, the bookstore called to say they didn’t have an order. Next, student copies of my syallabus, which I’d turned in a week early, were not in my mailbox Saturday morning before class. Instead, a message read “No syllabus on file.” Then, my classroom, when I showed up, had another group already in session.

All this before the class even got underway. I had a backup plan for those without the book this week, but next week, the class will be far less effective for those still without it. And a few who travel quite a distance might be, because the college bookstore, which has finally restocked my book, is closed on Saturdays.

OTOH, my magazine writing has been going particularly well. I’m getting more work than ever from Publishers Weekly and I finally got a feature in national women’s magazine. As for the novels, after years of rejection, I finally have an agent doing the footwork for me. When I look at it in black and white, what’s got to go seems obvious.