Last week, I invited you to pay attention to your reactions (and not your judgments) as writing ideas and opportunities came across your path---in other words, I asked you to feel for the moments before your hyper-critical brain kicked in, when your insides lit up because an idea resonated with you. I swore up and down that my best writing opportunities have come this way, and it's true. Yet even if you believe me, there's probably a little (or not so little) voice in your mind resisting. Saying, "Oh yeah? How do I know it's going to work?" Well, here's my answer: ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- A few weeks ago, I went for a walk at Hartman Rocks, a place where most Crested Buttians go for early season mountain biking. I had only an hour between meetings, so I hiked and decided that at each junction in the trail, I'd turn whichever direction felt best. No map. No worries.
(Not always sage advice, actually, when it comes to Hartman's. There are a lot of junctions and not many landmarks. So I guess I'm not advising you to hike without a map so much as I'm encouraging you to walk without a destination. Good? Good.)
Anyway, I took a right at the second junction because everything looked really green that way (a rarity at Hartman's, which is desert and sage brush). I was smiling and listening to my iPod when a bush ten feet up the trail rustled and out wandered a porcupine.
I know porcupines as animals that my dog likes to tree and once sent a quill right through her wrist. She limped for months.
But this porcupine looked...cute. His quills were lit up by the sun so that they almost glowed, and I could see his body underneath. He waddled, too, a movement somewhere between a duck and a tiny bear.
The porcupine didn't pay any attention to me, just wandered off the trail and into a patch of greens Somehow, I'd come to think of him as my porcupine. One more animal I'd asked to see, and the universe delivered.
Yep, I know how that sounds. But just like I've been trying to listen to my essential self, I've been trying to bring that type of awareness to the world around me. And the more I do, the more I find the things I seek. Writing ideas, yes, but animals, too. I live in the mountains, after all, and I typically miss out on them because I hike with a hyper-active little black dog. I've been wishing to see more of them, and sure enough I have.
In the last month, a coyote ran across the road in front of my car, and I've seen bears three times. One of them walked up to my from my door (ten feet away from coming inside, no joke). I biked 15 feet away from a pair of elk, have seen more marmots than I can count, and watched a porcupine graze.
It's. Been. Awesome.
People who believe in a collective consciousness (in Australia they call it the Everywhen) would say that I asked for these encounters, and the Everywhen delivered them. I find myself becoming more and more receptive to that idea, but even when it's a mental stretch, I've found an interpretation that works for me---and my writing.
Namely, there are a lot of porcupines where I live. There are also a lot of bears, coyote, elk and even mountain lions (I did wish to see one of those, but as soon as I did the person next to me started talking about how truly large they are. I was content to let that one go). In other words, there are so many wild animals out there that of course I can hope and expect to see them. I just can't get hung up on how, when, where or with whom I'll see them. All I can do is put myself out there.
The same is true for writing. There are a lot of ideas out there that would make good stories. There are a lot of places that want to publish those stories. There are even a lot of ways to get paid as a writer. But if we get hung up on one way of doing it, just because it worked for someone else, we're going to miss everything else. I recently heard it this way (another one from Martha Beck...): "Focused creation creates unintentional blindness."
That one flies in the face of our culture, doesn't it? Where we're taught to stay focused and put the ol' nose to the grind stone? But I love the freedom in that statement.
If we open ourselves up and pay attention, we'll suddenly see that the possibilities are limitless. We'll write some of those stories, and we'll get published in some of those magazines though not all. We'll even get paid. Of course, not every assignment is going to walk right up to our front door like that bear. And sometimes we'll feel confused or unclear about what comes next or how to "make things happen".
But when everything falls into place, it's going to feel like magic. So close to magic that we just might believe in it. And why not? It's a whole lot more fun than overwhelm.
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