Category Archives: Story
You’ve probably seen this “me,too” campaign that women are posting if they have also experienced sexual harassment or unwanted sexual pressure. Speaking out, uttering those two small words, is powerful and brave. But I want to remind you that your story belongs to you. Your body and your experiences belong to you. Divulging a deeply personal experience on social media is not right for every soul. Choosing to not speak out does not make you less brave. Protect your soul in the way that feels right to you. Seek healing in the space (public or private) that feels right to you.
I also want to point out that men are also victims of sexual harassment and abuse. This is a human problem. A lack of holding each other as sacred, powerful beings, a lack of respecting human boundaries. We cannot and must not allow the sentiment in all of this to become “all-men-are-bad” or the prevalence of the “me, too” admissions to paint a picture that men aren’t to be trusted. Most men would not sexually harass a woman. Most men are good.
Those of you who are warriors or who are in the Hollywood industry come from a highly sexualized work environment (you know what I’m talking about). Search your souls. Take this time to re-evaluate your values and whether your conduct and attitude reflects those values. Now is the time to stand up and own your integrity — not just for the women and daughters in your life, but for a safer world for all of us.
There is a Native American (forgive me, as I do not know which nation) philosophy that says this: A woman’s highest purpose is to lead a man back to his soul, that he may be one with himself. A man’s highest purpose is to protect woman, so that she may walk upon this earth, unharmed.
That’s what we owe each other. Let us rise to our highest purpose. Let us heal how we have hurt each other.
I do not want to fall into a belief that I must suffer for my calling, that it must be hard or overwhelming. I do not believe that at all. In fact, I believe true callings are wells of joy and sources of purpose and meaning that nourish you. And they feel easy when you are in their flow. There are challenges that you must solve or untangle, but all the while you are doing that, you still feel in the flow. You come up against your own limiting beliefs, and must rid yourself of them, and it can feel like a struggle, but still there is a pervasive sense of being carried along.
A calling should bring you to life, make you feel more alive, make you feel deeply engaged and joy-filled from the certainty of how aligned you are to why you are on the earth. When I think about all my callings, they rise in me like lights, drawing me upward, outward, toward more Life, toward more meaning, toward more being… they involve breaking me open, taking me apart, and rebuilding me… but the underlying calling itself never feels like a burden or drain on me. It’s life-giving. It’s life-aligning.
There is a whole story of suffering, of suffering as holy, in the Christian faith. Suffering is seen as a way to honor Christ, which must be so fucked up to him, lol. When did he ever require that people feel guilty for his suffering and thus, throw themselves into suffering more? But suffering is a pervasive story, because it gives the soul something to do, to occupy itself with, to distract itself, it makes you think you are doing something worthy all the while it keeps you small. Rather than shine light with joy brightly into the darkness, you suffer and shrink and hide — all the while thinking your suffering is holy.
Pain is inevitable; suffering is not.
I refuse to live the Christian suffering myth. I am not a Christian and yet, how easy it is to get swept into that old pervasive belief that suffering is holy. That it means you’re doing serious God-work. That it means you are a good soldier for Christ. That it means you are a chosen one. Worthy.
Suffering is a choice. To focus on the aspects of your calling that cause pain, that break you, that make you have to surrender your ego to the unknown and to dwell on how hard it all is, how stressful it is, how impossible it all seems — rather than to do the work of sustaining your own belief, to surrender fully and give yourself over to all the uncertainty, all the unknowns, all the possibilities of greater joy, of greater beauty, to the reality that your soul has been deemed worthy, that you are actually magnificent, that you are holy powerful.
You would not have been chosen if it hadn’t already been determined that you are exactly the right person for the role. You can’t argue with the fact that you have already been determined to be qualified, capable, and to have the capacity to handle the calling. By the time the calling surfaces in your consciousness, when you are told about it, it’s long been decided. There were other candidates under consideration, but you were the one chosen. It is never a question of “can you do this?” But “will you do this?”
The only decision you have to make is yes or no.
You don’t have to decide if you’re the right person, or capable, or if you have what it takes. But what do we do? We fall right into arguing about whether or not we are capable, whether or not we have the resources, abilities, strengths….whether or not we are the right person.
Whether or not we are the right person has never been our decision to make.
We miss the whole aspect that all of that has already been decided because we WERE chosen, and if we had not been the right person, we would NOT HAVE BEEN CHOSEN to receive the calling.
In other words, our version of ourselves has to catch up to the version of ourselves that is known to the Ones issuing the calling. When the Authorities That Be decide that you are the person best suited to the role and the task, you can be sure that you’ve already been tested enough for them to know that and to have made their decision. Their confidence in you should be accepted as a fact, even if your mind has not grown into the same version of yourself as what they know. Remember, they see your potential, your malleability, your ability to grow into, to learn, to rise, to choose courage, they see what you are capable of becoming because of the calling, not just your current state and skillsets. You should assume that you are exactly the right person for the Calling issued to you.
And from that assumption, accept it and go forward.
I’ve been thinking about how the primary goal of any creative expression is to make people feel something. This truly is why we create. We want to evoke emotions in the audience. Ultimately, that is also why we view and enjoy art (and by art I’m including all art forms and mediums).
We want to be moved. It’s that thrill of not knowing how we will be moved that fills theatres, galleries, cinemas, auditoriums. We have expectations based on genre and the familiarity we have with the artists, but beyond that, we want to experience something new, something that gets us out of our everyday emotions.
But, and here is the but… for artists, there is a difference between moving an audience emotionally (surface level) and touching their souls (deep level). And that difference does not come from quality of performance, hard work, or even experience in your field. It does not come because of anything you do, it comes through what you allow.
It comes from surrendering to the idea that you are a channel.
A channel for the sacred, for the divine, for beauty and spirit, for Something Greater Than You. This surrender may or may not be a conscious decision, but when someone gives themselves fully over to this sacred impulse and energy, the result is that an audience is stunned silent. The kind of stunned silence when you have witnessed the raw power of spirit at work, where you are humbled, in reverence, in awe.
The human soul knows when it has been touched by the sacred, and no amount of planning, working, or striving can make this phenomena happen. You can’t set out to achieve it.
You can only empty your Self so fully that the Sacred pours out of you and through you. You can only show up, with such humility and trust in how your are guided, that what emerges is no longer “your talent” but something all of its own power. The greatest artists are those whose trust in this sacred flow is so deep and unbreakable that they appear almost arrogant in their confidence. They are extremely good at what they do, but it’s not just because they practice, it’s because they listen so deeply and so intently to their inner guidance and they heed what they hear.
They refuse to be led down paths they know aren’t the path for them. They say no to work that others believe would bring greater acclaim or income. They are stubborn and defiant and heed only the advice of others when that advice aligns with what they hear in their heart.
These artists don’t necessarily know when spirit is channeling through them, except by the sense that the work feels right, feels aligned, feels like it’s moving. Sometimes they don’t even know this is how spirit moves through them until an audience reflects it back. Because sometimes it’s only the audience that is aware of the sacredness, while the artist worries he or she didn’t do enough or could have done it better.
To be an artist like this, requires resolute determination to trust your Self the most. This doesn’t mean you can’t take direction from where you should be allowing direction to influence you, but it does mean you step aside, open yourself up as a channel, and allow what comes through you to be pure and undiluted by other people’s endless opinions.
No one can predict or promise that your work will touch an audience’s soul. And really, the audience’s reaction isn’t within your control. What is in your control is how surrendered you are, how humble you are, how willing you are to be the servant of the work, the steward of the vision, the trustee of the story.
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Your creative expression matters in this world. Even if the only audience you have is You.
What do you bring to a story when you begin?
There’s a split camp between writers who outline and plot before they write and those who don’t. At the end of the day, what matters is that your method works – so I’m not going to approach this as a right vs. wrong debate. What I’m interested in is how Stories choose us and how we work with Characters to tell their stories. Every writer is unique and so is their writing process. I suspect that how Stories and Characters choose to interact with writers is highly and deeply personal. No doubt there is a underlying spiritual alignment. There’s also an alignment with how a writer receives, processes and moves through the world. Which camp you fall into most likely has to do with your way of moving in the world. Or, in other words, how you best communicate with the Storyworld.
Outside of the writing world (which only sees the finished product), writing appears to be logical, the author in full control. Fictional stories and characters are make-believe. The writer gets an idea, creates interesting characters, figures out what is going to happen (makes it up??) and writes it down. To the outside world, an ingenious for storytelling appears to be unique to writers. People generally credit writers as the originators of the story and my, aren’t we clever for coming up with such fascinating stories!
Ha. Stop right there.
Originators of the story? Let’s say you get a story idea. Where does that idea come from? It’s given to you, isn’t it? It appears in your mind. Can we really claim that we originated it? I don’t think so.
The Outliner/Plotters – Are You Really In Control?
If you are in the outline/plot camp, you’ll take that idea, mull it around, think about who the characters should be, create them based on well-established psychological archetypes, then decide what is going to happen at every plot point. You’ll have a solid idea of the complete story and the character arcs from start to finish. Then you start writing.
In this position, you are in control of the story. This is where we often hear writers say “then the story and characters took on a life of their own.”
What is that phenomena? You discover as you’re writing within your established framework that you aren’t quite as in control as you thought you were. Characters “come to life” and start saying and doing things that you hadn’t anticipated. The story may take a turn that works far better than your pre-determined plot point. (And if this doesn’t happen to you, you may be trying to force a story into existence. You’re not trusting the process enough to receive what your story has to give you.)
I believe and it’s been my experience that characters don’t “take on a life of their own” because they already have one to begin with. They exist in their own realm. They are fully formed and as unique and individual as you and I. You did not actually create them. Yes, you worked hard to figure out what archetype to use, what backstory to give them, what color of eyes they should have – and that gave you the perception that you’ve made them up. What if, in this process, what those characters were actually doing was revealing themselves to you in a way that your analytical mind could embrace?
Outlining and plotting are tools that help writers organize. They are a method for interacting with the story and characters. A way for the Story and Characters to work with your mind in a way that makes sense to you as a writer.
The Freestylists – Control Isn’t an Issue
In the freestyle camp, as I’ll call it (and where I reside), you get an idea for a story. It may not even be an idea. It may be a scene with a character or two in it. You listen into that unseen realm. You get glimpses of who the characters are. You get glimpses of a thing or two that happens. You may even see the end first. A lead character moves into your intuitive realm and you start having conversations. You sense their presence, their emotional state, and you listen, listen, listen. Like anyone else, they don’t reveal themselves to you in their entirety up front. You’re still a stranger, after all. You start building a relationship of trust. You may have entire scenes played out in detail to you. You take notes.
Then you start writing. And what is revealed on the page is a surprise to you. It flows out as if you are simply a channel. You listen, you write. You write, it emerges. You are deeply touched by who your characters are, what they go through, the conversations they have with other characters. You are a witness. You realize that they trust you. You’re not just a writer, but counselor, friend, confidante, coach, guide. They are, in turn, invested in your artistic career.
You are not in control of the characters or the story; only of the writing. Their story will be far bigger, far deeper, extend back further and out farther than what you will put on the page. As the writer, you have to make decisions about how to tell the story in the most effective way; yet, it’s never your story to tell.
If you work with your characters, if you trust them, they will collaborate with you. They have insight into what you should do. They’ll work with you to make those decisions. (We talk a lot about a writer’s isolation and forget that our characters are with us every step of the journey. We’re not as alone as we think.)
This method is a natural alignment for writers who move through life by intuition, who move in spiritual realms, who are comfortable trusting the process as open-ended and uncertain.
Either Way, Characters Need Your Trust & You Need Theirs
No matter which process you use, you’re going to work with characters. You don’t have to believe that they are anything more than a figment of your imagination (though I would encourage you to question where the things you imagine come from) to tell their stories. Yet, if you do open up to the possibility that they are more than meets the eye, you will find a rich storyworld where you don’t have to be in charge of everything. Your characters will carry responsibility for who they are, what they do and what they won’t do. Sure, you’ll collaborate with them to shape scenes to be most effective; you’ll cut, you’ll change, you’ll ask them to do a scene another way; maybe have some characters step in or out of the written story; but in the end, it will remain indelibly theirs.
And that’s why we write, isn’t it? To give characters a voice, to reveal their stories, and allow them to touch us.