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On a radio interview with Lorraine Giordano the other day, Lorraine and I grew especially excited as we explored how learning to write well enhances your life and how living well improves your writing. In fact, it was my first radio interview standing up the whole time!
I often see my clients grow as they write. Sure, some may expect such results to some degree, anticipating that they will gain confidence, feel empowered and learn new things as they write their books. Even with such expectations they are often surprised by additional benefits from writing well.
Whatever your topic, you’ll probably get to put into practice whatever you’re teaching, go deeper with it and continue to grow in your awareness, knowledge and wisdom of the topic. You’ll likely be challenged by it during your time writing. My first book was about anger and, sure enough, during a planned seaside writing retreat, our project almost ended due to anger, resentment and not feeling understood. My co-author showed up late and I felt so angry. Then she pointed out that she had expressed her desire to not put anymore work into our book until we got a publishing contract. She’d felt I’d run roughshod over her and pushed for something that she didn’t really want to do, which was true. I hadn’t heard her when she’d expressed her needs a few weeks earlier. I felt so justified in my anger, so rigid in my body, until I heard her side of the story and my heart softened with understanding.
Not only did we get to put into practice the tools we were writing about for identifying underlying anger, recognizing the source of our anger and using the awareness to communicate in health ways; we also developed a creative ritual for getting into the flow to work on our book together. Throughout the project, and especially when it was time to promote the book, we enjoyed more opportunities to put our own advice into practice! Of course, this helped us remember what our readers were going through, and kept us close to their experience and needs.
Challenges related to your topic also help you continue to evolve in your expertise. If you’re writing about meditation, perhaps you’ll suddenly stop meditating and need to revive the habit. If you’re writing about healthy eating habits, prepare for cravings for fries, burgers, pistachio ice cream or fill-in-your-weaknes-here. Opportunity knocks.
There are times the writing flows. Then a challenge comes along. You may feel stuck. It’s often part of the process. The temporary breakdown offers opportunities to shift something. As Lorraine pointed out in our interview, it’s important to be ready for that so you don’t just put your book aside. Have supportive people in your life you know you can turn to (a friend, mentor, coach, or editor). Have a plan to reach out for support if you get stuck or challenged. Trust that these challenges truly are opportunities in disguise. By resolving them, you’ll write a better book.
On our call, Lorraine asked me how the advice “show; don’t tell” relates to life—whether or not you are writing a book.
My answer? When telling, we’re not present with feelings or emotion, we’re not connected to what we’re writing about, and we’re not making it come alive for our readers or ourselves. Telling is rote, we become the distant observer.
When you “show” with your writing, you bring it to life. To do that you can ask yourself:
When you delve into those details, the writing comes alive for you and your readers. Your writer imagines the salty spray of the surf, or the warming sun on her face. You provide a living experience and not just words.
Writing well is about being in the moment and entering the memory or experience. If we’re present and embody the moment, if we immerse ourselves in the writing, the writing has this powerful emotional content and presence.
Writing well makes us more vibrant beings. Being a vibrant being, present and fully alive, makes us better writers.
Thanks to Lorraine Giordano who asked the wonderful question “How Show Vs. Tell ReLates to Life even if you’re not writing a book?” on her radio show The Womb Happy Hour, which sparked this post! You can listen to our full interview, where we delved into writing, creativity, books and more.