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Writing from the Deeper Self
By Naomi Rose | Updated November 15, 2018
I'm going to tell you a story ~ backwards as well as forwards. It's about the Rose Press website. But it could just as well be about the book you write, or have, or will. Or about some yearning inside you that seeks expression in form, and won't leave you alone until you bring it into life so that it has a life and is available for others to feed from.
On Thursday, September 16, the Rose Press website finally went online. It had been just about a year since its inception when I first decided to put together a website. Little did I know (much like with writing a book or having a child) all that this website would entail. But still, one begins out of some desire, or a combination of desire and necessity. One begins.
So on the day before the site was due to go online ~ having delivered every correction to the web designer, I sensed something coming, something connected with the immanence of the website's "going live." What I hadn't expected was this profoundly limitless sense of opening that arrived fully dressed inside my heart ~ this sense of expansion, a horizon almost tasted that was not quite yet in sight. Earlier on, when I was writing and illustrating the website and then all the myriad details of getting it online, I couldn't have anticipated this horizon. But there it was, something-I-knew-not-what; a presence of something not yet known.
And what this tells me is: we cannot, beforehand, know the exact nature and presence of what we are birthing, as we work in our art, our craft, our message. We cannot plan that. We just have to keep staying as true as we can to our inner promptings and take each step, and correct each misstep as best we can. We cannot, beforehand, know the enormity of what we are bringing forth, or how it will give us a larger version of ourselves to ourselves, any more than a pregnant couple can know how they will feel when they gaze into their newborn's eyes, the gripping love that will bind them for life to this mysterious and precious being. We can only give ourselves to what we do, and then be there for the work and for the gift.
Details took up a good four months of the making of the Rose Press website ~ the pickiest of details. Getting the artwork scanned; making sure that every comma, every opening parenthesis, every image-alignment on the page put up by the web technician was just as I intended. Over 129 pages of email correspondence between us over the course of a year logged lists of phrases to refine in print ("set 1 size large font"; "add 2 line spaces above the top of the heading"; etc.), text- and image-positioning instructions, in and amongst the more personal pleasantries. I had never really considered myself much of a "detail person" before, but now I was astonished to negotiate ways of dealing with things on this admittedly intricate website; to find solutions to things that the technician said were not possible. From being a private perfectionist in my art, I became a witnessed, public perfectionist ~ the real thing out loud. "God is in the details," after all. I just hadn't realized how many details there would be, or how many I would stand up for.
"I am done!" the web technician emailed me more than once, when I knew we were not. "There are still these few things," I would write back. And somehow, between us, we found ways to deal with the "few things."
When an email came from her, on September 16th ~ "DONE." ~ and we really were done, at once, interior Trevi fountains opened up in me, endlessly cascading water rising up in the light; sparklers, etheric fireworks, vast inner distances of joy. I had not expected this level of joy. The shift from the long duration of seemingly endless labor to the sudden emergence of this astonishing new life was overwhelming (in a good way); ecstatic. The caterpillar in the cocoon cannot conceive of the butterfly. I had wings.
Driving home from my studio, where I had received the declaration, "DONE" on my computer, when I parked outside my home I wasn't ready to get out and resume life as usual at home. First, I needed to sit in the car and savor this opening: to be with it, to look back on how it had come to be. Up till now, although there had been creative work (the writing, the illustrations), I was mostly in touch with the work of the website: the laundry list of things, each next requirement squeezing out awareness of the one before it. Now, the path behind me opened up of its own accord and revealed the high points of the journey, both the hard parts and the parts I loved ~ what I had given myself to, not knowing how it would come together, or even if. Just listening as best I could to what called inside, and following, wrong turns and all.
From behind the wheel of my parked car, my mind went back to the initial urge to write a website, without any idea of what should be on it. Taping blank 20 x 24 sheets of newsprint paper onto the back of a wooden screen in my studio, I hoped that each sheet would tell me what the pages of the Rose Press website would be. Some days I could hardly bear to turn the screen around and look at the blank pages waiting for me to know something and turn them into something. But then little bits of ideas would come, like marginal scribbles on a napkin, and I would put them down on the pages. Gradually, these scribbles began to reveal what that page could be about. But it was just ideas, no writing as yet.
The visual artist I used to be in my youth ~ picked up and deferred over the decades ~ whispered, "Start with an image." Especially since all the other residents in my studio community are visual artists, it was not difficult to be inspired in this way. Now I remembered the enlivening trip to the art store to match the shade of crimson/burgundy acrylic paint I had in mind for the background color of the website. I had commissioned an exquisite logo the year before, and it gave me a clue as to colors.
One memory opened up the next. A feature I had completely forgotten about came back to me, impressing me with my dedication to the artwork alone: all the research I had done on sacred architecture (the sinuous domes of mosques; stained-glass cathedral windows; patterned Persian rugs; colorful geometric tiles) in hopes of incorporating the flavor (or "fragrance") of such beautiful art into the images I would make. In my mind's remembering eye, I saw myself standing at my waist-high work table, a ruler and T-square in hand, making exacting measurements and hand-drawn grids (astonishing myself!) so that each image would have a harmonious sense of proportion and beauty.
Recalling a rose I had painted for the home-page art, for the first time in a long time I remembered the delight of buying a fresh pink rose from a florist, and taking it back to the studio to paint it. I remembered the sacred feeling of that rose, and of being with it completely in order to paint it. Drawing the petals circling round the center, then filling them in with dabs of pink, white, crimson, brown, staying with the process until it had depth and petal-ness, until I loved what I saw as much as I loved the live rose. Redoing the background was involved, then, and gluing the much-loved rose onto that background. Once I had something down that I loved, I was afraid to "mess with" the leaves on the rose's stem by painting them directly; so I made a stencil of leaf-shapes I liked so I could duplicate them; used the stencils to draw the leaves onto the background; and painted them two shades of green. It was around then that the making of the Sistine Chapel, a la the 1950s movie, "The Agony and the Ecstasy," began to have some personal reference for me ("When will it be done?" pleaded the Pope played by Rex Harrison; and a paint-smeared, wild-haired Michelangelo played by Charlton Heston shouted hoarsely, "When it is finished!").
More artwork followed. A petal from the live rose formed a template for a tracing on paper. I loved its shape, how it arched, shell-like at the top, with scalloped ridges at the bottom. Using the tracing, I cut out three identical petals and played with ways to fit them together pleasingly. Eventually, the three crimson petals superimposed on one another, outlined in metallic gold paint, and placed inside a decorative arch on a crimson background ended up being the central piece of the "& Other Fragrant Offerings" page of the website . (However, at that point, I didn't know there would be such a page, or that the words "fragrant" and "offerings"would come into it) And now, I recalled the trek to a higher-quality photography store to scan in those illustrations I had already finished. I had to wait two hours on their schedule, and to keep putting money in the parking meter. But I didn't mind. This whole thing was starting to get exciting!
The text made its way into my awareness slowly, awkwardly ~ helped by the beautiful artwork and the total engagement I experienced in doing it. At first there were very trying, very uninspired drafts. The text shifted around many times before settling into a real existence. And now I remembered (but dimly, without the urgency of the actual experience) feelings of overwhelm and doubt. And the process of bringing myself back to the writing, even so. Bit by bit, the pieces began to come together. Once they were in place, they set a standard, a touchstone, by which to tune whatever would come next. Gradually, I let go of what I thought I "owed" my readers. If I couldn't relate to it, I let it go or sought a more intimate way to put it, sensing for what felt true and beautiful to me. This took months.
In a broader swath of memory, now, I remembered the swirl of details coming together: the naming of the pages ~ the writing and rewriting of the pages ~ the intimate creative act of it all. Each page was actually like a chapter in a book, standing on its own yet related to the other pages and the website as a whole. This continuity in design and intent was immensely pleasing to me. It was less an informational bulletin than a family of related aspects ~ something like a couture design line (!). The more I gave to it, the more invested I became; the more I invested, the more I gave to it. It was a beneficial cycle (if a demanding taskmaster, one I had imposed on myself); and I often felt connected to angelic states, as well as to various biological, spiritual, and artistic ancestors, as I reached for what I felt expressed ideals and experiences I didn't know were available to me, and might serve us all.
And now it was done. There were ten pages (after the beautiful "Enter" page): ten chapter-equivalents:
Every page had something beautiful and meaningful on it, and quotes from great mystics and artists graced many of the pages (even the Shopping Cart page had a quote). I had exceeded my own expectations, had succeeded in giving birth to something I would want to see and read again and again.
I got out of the car, carrying my internal scrapbook with me. It felt rich to have honored the process in this reminiscence, now that I was at the end and able to look back and see where I had come from. If this was what it was like to complete a large work, then it was worth it! What new opportunities and joys lay around the bend? What fruits would come from this flowering?
May you look forward to beginning, continuing, or completing a great work. Perhaps it will be the book of your heart. For not only the result, but also the process of discovering (or deepening) your own artistry, is what will be your work and your gift and your reward.
©2010 Naomi Rose. All rights reserved.
Naomi Rose, Book Developer and Writing Coach, has successfully used her "Writing from the Deeper Self" approach to help people with an inner-directed focus write the books of their hearts. ...