Becoming an Author: Five Truisms

11 October 2022

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“I’ve got a book manuscript hidden in my drawer,” my client said, in an offhand manner. She sat in her office halfway around the world and in a little box on the Zoom screen. She spoke fast. I think she half hoped I wouldn’t catch her words.

“Send it to me,” I said. “I’d love to read it.” Her expression froze, she looked like a deer in the headlights. She stopped breathing. Her face went a lighter shade of pale. “It’s not in English,” she said. Relief softened her features.

“Perhaps you could put it through a translator,” I said. “They’re not perfect but they’re pretty good. I think I’ll be able to get a good sense of your writing.” She exhaled and sputtered. “I just don’t know if it’s good enough,” she said.

The Mexican Honeysuckle bush outside my office window in Phoenix, Arizona, danced on desert breezes and waved fronds of pineapple yellow and bright orange flowers. This delighted my eye. I sat on my taupe-colored couch; my arm rested on cushions printed in a plum leaf pattern. My own book manuscript, 469 typed pages, sat in a green file folder next to my computer keyboard.

“You know who I am and how I work,” I said. “Can you trust me to be respectful, to see the beauty in your work, and also to be honest?”

She sent the manuscript. It was a diamond in the rough, a story of such adventure and grit that I was astonished. And the writing was solid, the creative genius in it was easy to spot.

I’ve had this conversation with more than a few clients who have writing they hide and let languish. As a result, I’ve seen a few truisms:

1. We are not the best judges of our writing.

When I sent my memoir manuscript-in-progress to a seasoned editor, I expected her to tell me that I had done too much storytelling and not enough narrative explanation. Wrong. Her feedback was the exact opposite. “Your strength is in scene development. Do more of that,” she said. “Trust your stories speak for themselves. Let them shine the light on your message.”

A credible source told me that my primary spiritual teacher, Sydney Banks, an enlightened man, threw several scribbled chapters of his first, much-loved novelette, Second Chance, into the kindling bin on his fireplace the same night he wrote them. The following morning, his wife almost used the sheaf of papers to light a blaze. Something drew her to read them first, and she saw beauty and potential. The rest is history.

2. Others are not the best judges of our writing.

This is a second, paradoxical truism. In elementary school my daughter wrote a piece that placed in a state-wide writing competition. I accompanied her to Charleston, West Virginia, to receive her award and to attend a writer’s conference for winners.
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, who wrote over 100 children’s books, stood on stage, the keynote speaker.

“This is the pile of rejection letters I received when I sent my book, Shiloh, to publishers,” Naylor said. The stack she held in her left hand was two inches thick. Two inches of wrinkled stationery. Two inches of disappointment.

Shiloh is a story about a sweet-natured abused beagle that the author encountered in the town of Shiloh, West Virginia. It was her 65th book and the first in a quartet. The author had faith in the story. She continued to send it out. Naylor’s curly short brown hair framed a round face. Her lively eyes sparkled, and her smile was wide.

“And this is the letter that told me Shiloh had won the Newbery award,” Naylor said. The Newbery Medal is one of the two most prestigious recognitions bestowed on authors of children’s literature.

Naylor’s message was indelible: others are not the best judges of our writing. When I give feedback to my writing clients, I preface it with this statement: “This feedback is for your consideration only. If it rings true when you reflect on it, I’m glad it was helpful. If it doesn’t, have faith in your inner wisdom. That’s your best guide.” We must trust in the words that come through us.

3. Revision is the best part of writing.

I was trained to write as a newspaper journalist. Reporters edit as they write, they write on the fly under deadlines. They’ve got one immediate shot to do their best.

The habit of editing as I wrote inhibited fluid expression. A couple of years ago, a book found me: “Living Revision: A Writer’s Craft as a Spiritual Practice,” by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew. This sentence jumped out, “We come into our authorship when we become co-creators,” Andrew wrote, and added, “The interplay between the ego’s magnificent drive and utter surrender to the story’s will is the alchemy that fuels transformation – of the text and of the writer’s heart.”

As stories come through us, they change us! We become more conscious of the deep story behind the story. Evolving consciousness enables us to bring more understanding and love to the story – to hear and tell it with a clearer, stronger heartbeat, a truer voice.

I have learned to trust this truism and to follow it until my soul signals, “This story is complete for now. Put it out there. Share it.”

4. Dust bunnies, piles of laundry or fix-it chores are eternal.

Until they see this truism, most writers I work with, especially women, must flip the minutia of life to a lower place on their priority list. The first thing I do in the morning is make a short list on my bright-colored, lined post-it notes, of the items I want to attend to that day. Writing is #1.

Persuasive thoughts often defend the importance of other tasks. I notice them. I decide which of two categories such thoughts belong to: wisdom (W) or overdriven personal thinking (OPT). W thoughts get honored. OPT gets filed in the waste bin of my brain’s desktop. End of story. In this way, I honor my writing.

5. Authors infuse writing with enthusiasm, space, and devoted presence.

We writers pour our hearts into our writing. We have an intimate love relationship with self-expression and words. Love relationships falter when they do not have our interest, space to breath, and our presence.

The writers I know who become authors, who publish their work in books, magazines, blogs, social media posts, etc., know that time spent writing creates more time spent writing. They bless their words with attention and watch them multiply.

Maria Iliffe-Wood, a writing colleague and friend, just published a rock star of a hybrid memoir/self-help book called, “A caged mind: How spiritual understanding changed a life”. A caged mind has become the #1 bestseller on Amazon’s new age spirituality list.

Maria is a very busy woman: a wife, family member, community member, author, coach and the founder and owner of IW Press, a publishing company. At a recent online launch party for her book, she said that even in her most busy times she gave A caged mind at least 10 minutes a day, most often much more, of her enthusiasm, space in her life, and devoted presence.

The word, enthusiasm has ancient roots in Greek and Latin that point to being “inspired or possessed by a God.” Enthusiasm, which inspires space and devoted attention, is prayer. In the lives of writers, such prayer produces authors.

Copyright 2022: Linda Sandel Pettit, Ed.D.
Photo courtesy of www.istockphoto.com
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Linda Sandel Pettit, Ed.D. inspires intuitive-creative women healers to use their healing modalities, speaking voices, and written words to unfold and share the wisdom of the Sacred Feminine.

The Sacred Feminine embraces intuition, curiosity, connection, authenticity, humility, vulnerability, oneness, and the natural beauty of the body and the earth. Linda’s understanding of the Sacred Feminine is formed from a nonreligious spiritual understanding known worldwide as the 3 Principles. [for more information, see www.sydbanks.com.]

Linda offers sanctuaries, and intimate small-group programs, to women healers who want to bring the 3 Principles into their work, and to women writers who are ready to share, get feedback, revise, and publish.

Through her Apprentice’s Way individual all-in-one mentorship program, Linda encourages her clients’ spiritual evolution, psychological health, effective writing, messaging, marketing, and content creation.

Linda holds a doctorate in counseling psychology, a master’s degree in counselor education and a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

Visit www.lindasandelpettit.com to learn more about her programs and array of masterclasses and courses.

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