I was recently interviewed by Dawn Montefusco for her Writing from the Heart series. Not surprisingly, we found ourselves talking about writing from the head vs. the heart.
Sitting here at my computer, staring at my screen, it’s easy to drop into “head” mode. I started this blog post about writing from your heart and then realized I needed to bring more heart into it! Am I practicing what I preach?
Here are a few of my musings about writing from your heart and some tips for getting in touch with that.
There’s a Little Poet in All of Us
On the call, Dawn and I shared how we both wrote poetry as children. I can remember a sort of luminescent feeling from my childhood, awakening in our summer house on Fundy Bay, before sunrise. I’d pull the string to my light bulb (no light fixture, just a bulb) and the heat of the light bulb hatched the housefly eggs that must have been laid in the ceiling above it. A majestic and steady stream of flies emerged and buzzed about.
As the houseflies came to life, I’d reach for a notebook or blank sheet of paper and write about the previously quiet pre-dawn house, the sun as it rose over the bay painting the sky shades of pink, purple and orange, my youthful pining for love. The act of writing from my heart filled me with euphoria, no matter the topic. I could have written about the houseflies and felt high!
Nowadays, in my mind, I’ve marginalized poetry. “No one will buy that.” “You can’t write poetry.”
I repressed my own inclination towards poetry so long that when someone comes to me looking for a poetry coach, something inside me judges the value of such an activity. Where does that voice come from? I love poetry! Writing poetry provided a lifeline during my adolescence and college.
I felt so alive when I wrote poetry.
Poetry buoyed me when I worked at a draining programming job in Boston, surrounded by men who didn’t know how to relate to a female co-worker and, therefore, said things that nowadays would make a human resources director run to the legal department. I’d write poems and my feelings of anger mixed with shame about the harassment drained away.
Recently, I’ve learned to embrace poetry again–for the pure joy of writing and for the instant connection it creates with my muse. And I discovered it’s also a wonderful entry point for any writing, in order to come from a more creative and heart centered space.
The Problem With Writing From Your Head, Without Heart
When you write purely from the head, you run the risk of:
- Running out of Steam: It’s easy to lose momentum if you don’t feel passionate about your writing and your topic. Ask yourself, “Which book should I write?” based on your objectives and your heartfelt vision.
- Losing Your Readers: When you write from your head you’re more likely to talk at your readers instead of engaging them in the discovery process. For instance, you’ll tell them things without bringing the material to life. Ask yourself, “Am I picturing a reader as I write or am I writing to an amorphous glob of readers?” As you picture one reader, feel that heart connection as you write. It helps!
- Writing Something Blah: When you write purely from you head, the writing can feel stilted. When you write from your heart, there’s space for the bold metaphor, playful language, rhythm and phrasing, surprise and much more!
So, how do you write from your heart?
5 Tips for Writing from Your Heart
Remain Curious: Be Open to not knowing everything about the writing. Sure, have a plan. That will help create a container for the movement. But then be open to change, and keep asking questions: What am I not seeing? The best writing comes from writing yourself into discovering a deeper truth or new perspective.
- Move: Go for a walk, dance, practice yoga, qigong or tai chi. Such movement recharges mind, body and spirit and helps you enter a state of flow. I used to walk the Cliff Walk in Newport for my inspiration or climb rocks in Narragansett. My new favorite is the beach right in my neighborhood where I can practice qigong on the shore, walk out to the point where the brackish sea nursery meets Narragansett Bay and walk in the woods–all in one walk!
- Tap into Your Sense of Humor and Play: Playfulness and humor invite both you and your readers into an expansive state where your hearts are engaged and your minds are more open. How to tap into playfulness? Leave your critic at the door (maybe give her a playful activity, too) and feel free to experiment and loosen up with playful writing activities: Write a few poems out in nature before writing a chapter. I sometimes write down the different sounds I hear as I sit down to write. You can also take on a persona in your writing or play with a new voice, perhaps a funny one. Do an exercise that puts you in a more open space where control just isn’t part of the equation and see if that frees you up.
- Be Okay with “Failure.” I don’t really mean failure here but what the ego thinks of as failure. Allow yourself the space to “get it wrong.” And also allow yourself to be vulnerable in your writing knowing that you can always edit later. If you edit while writing, your censor blocks your creativity. If you tell yourself you can delete anything before you send it to others, you give yourself permission to write things you’ve been afraid of, maybe even things you haven’t admitted to yourself. It’s a powerful process.
- Connect with Your Muse: Close your eyes, take a few deep belly breaths and ask within for guidance. Let go of what you think you should do (such as where to start with the day’s writing) and ask your muse what it wants you to do right now in this moment. When you’re truly present in the moment, more can happen creatively.
How do you tap into your heart’s message when you write? Please share your insights and ideas as a comment below.