Writing from the Deeper Self

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Creative Careers in the Arts Interviews

Naomi Rose: Book Developer and Writing Coach

By Molly J. Anderson-Childers | Updated November 20, 2018

Naomi RoseIt's spring, and ideas are blooming everywhere. In this interview, I'm talking with the aptly-named Naomi Rose to create a garden of delights. Rose is a writer and Book Developer with over 30 years in the publications field. She works with writers, frequently first-time book writers, to nurture their book into being.

In the late 1980s, she created a unique approach to writing called "Writing from the Deeper Self." This approach is an antidote to the product orientation of conventional book writing, in which what is on the page is seen as more important than, and essentially disconnected from, the human being who gave it life. Writing from the Deeper Self is based on the conviction that honoring the human being who is doing the writing will bring forth the best in the person, the final manuscript, and the eventual readers of such books, and in this way bring healing and amazing beauty into the world. Amazingly enough, this busy writer and book developer still finds time to consult with writers individually in person in the San Francisco Bay Area. She also works by phone and/or email with her out-of-area, international clientele. She also teaches periodic workshops, classes, and other events on Writing from the Deeper Self, book writing, creativity, and money and the inner life.

Her own writing, primarily focused on healing in its many aspects, currently specializes in the creative process, and money and the inner life. Her articles have appeared in Shaman's Drum, Writer's Connection, The New Holistic Health Handbook, Massage Magazine, The Association for Humanistic Psychology Journal, Intuition Journal, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, Pure Inspiration, and numerous other publications. Her books include Starting Your Book, The Portable Blessings Ledger, MotherWealth, The Man Behind the Mask, and The Blessings Ledger.

The Interview

Q: What was your first job as a young woman? What types of "transitional jobs" did you have before choosing this career?

A: My very first job was at the age of 13, designing and stringing necklaces for a store in Greenwich Village in New York City, where I was born and raised. I was in the thick of adolescent need for independence from my parents, and I thought that if I had my own work and money, that would be a direct road to adulthood. I remember sitting on the floor of my bedroom, on the red rug, with all these beads spread out before me, coming up with designs and stringing beads. I made 50 cents a necklace, back then. It was a great first job; it taught me (though I forgot the message for decades) that creativity could be rewarding financially, as well as artistically.

As for transitional jobs… Ah, there were so many! And many of them had no direct correlation with the work I do now, but were mainly the kinds of jobs that a directionless young person might take while trying to find a place within herself and the world. I was a reluctant salesgirl, a not-so-good secretary, a caseworker in the Welfare Department, a nightshift worker in the Post Office, and more of that ilk. All this, between the ages of 16 and 21.

At 23, I began — unwittingly — the long, often veiled journey that would lead to the work I do today. I was a graduate teaching assistant in an English Department, and then — baffled by the self-referential academic world, and seeking a job in the "real world" — an in-house editor within the same university.

Becoming an editor — a job that I just "fell into" (unless it was karma) — turned out to be my bread-and-butter, my apprenticeship, my mastery, and my shadow for many years. When I moved to California in 1972, I got in on the ground floor of an editorial cooperative, and through that venue proceeded to freelance for more than 25 years. In the process, I learned a great deal about clear writing, the making of books, and authors' sensitivities, as well as the difference between non-writers who author books, and people who are called to write.

In the 1980s, as I was going through a very deep set of personal inner changes, I began exploring nonverbal healing modes for my own healing, including body awareness, inner imagery, sacred music, and the effort to regain the true self. As I slowly began finding my new ground, I realized that working as an editor on the "product" of the book no longer interested me. I wanted to move closer back to the source of how the writing came into being in the first place, and to connect with and encourage the courageous and vulnerable human being in whose heart and mind the writing was coming to life.

Thus my current work, in embryonic form, was born. It's now been over 20 years; and though Writing from the Deeper Self is still evolving, I'm so grateful that it has a well-rooted foundation that supports me, and allows me to support — and be touched by — my clients who so beautifully make themselves available to the creative spirit and their own souls.

Q: What first inspired you to create The Portable Blessings Ledger: A Way to Keep Track of Your Finances and Bring Meaning and Heart to Your Dealings with Money,? How can working with the information in that book impact a person's financial situation?

A: The Portable Blessings Ledger came to me one month several years ago, during one of those lulls that self-employed people sometimes experience. I had been writing, for many years, a longer book on the subject of bringing money and compassion together called The Blessings Ledger. And, as can happen with long works-in-progress, I was feeling frustrated. The book was taking so long to write; yet, I didn't want to rush the writing process and complete it prematurely.

At the same time, I wanted to share the essence of what I had learned from writing that longer book about connecting the inner life with money — a frequently thorny and, in my eyes, essentially unexplored topic — so that readers could put these lessons into practice in the world right now. It came to me to take "just the cream" of the learnings from The Blessings Ledger and put together another, related book. I wanted readers to be able to quickly grasp the concept, be inspired by modeling stories from my experience, and take The Portable Blessings Ledger out into the world and have their own experiences transforming money into a blessing.

I believe that those who work with The Portable Blessings Ledger will experience a positive change in their financial situation. Anything we give ourselves to wholeheartedly, even if just for a week, not only shifts what we become aware of but also brings a whole new wealth of possibilities into being. So if a person is open to seeing how money can be a blessing in their life — both receiving and giving blessings — then the likelihood is that blessings will indeed show themselves.

This is a great thing, because an awareness of blessings brings us closer to our true being. We realize that life has more good in store for us than we may have been conditioned to expect. And I think this is particularly true around money, which — though we are all affected by it — tends to remain a mysterious, cut-off aspect of social existence, as if it has nothing to do with what's inside us. The Portable Blessings Ledger is designed — for anyone who makes the commitment to use it for even a brief period of time — to show us the direct connection between what lies within us and what we experience on the outside. And that can help to heal us — as individual persons, and as a whole culture.

For another thing, The Portable Blessings Ledger includes a way to keep track of every dollar spent, earned, worried about, received out of the blue, and so on. That's the "ledger" part. I always had trouble keeping a "spending diary," because the facts and figures — devoid of a more human context — ended up boring and even confusing me.

It's been said that we create what we ourselves need, and this was true for me. When I — out of my own need — came up with the idea of a Blessings Ledger, in which the dollar amounts and attendant circumstances (e.g., place of purchase, reason for purchase) existed within the context of who I was and the human situations I encountered, then I became interested. Each purchase, each bit of income, had a meaningful-to-me story connected with it. And so I was willing to keep track of every penny spent, because that tracking also showed me: where I had come from in my life story; who I was in the moment of the financial transaction; and what healing might be opening up. And, a bonus: it enabled me to keep exactingly accurate financial records. I recently did my taxes for this year based on my Portable Blessings Ledger records, and my accountant said, "Well, you are very organized! You made my work much easier than many of my clients do." This never would have happened except for keeping this Blessings Ledger.

I'm sure those who work with this book can have equivalent healings, if not well beyond. I'm thinking of putting out a Readers' Stories version at some point down the road.

Q: That's a very interesting idea. So you aren't done with this topic yet, and the Ledger is expanding. This is amazing! Congratulations. You have written quite a lot on the topic of money and the inner life; and claiming your true inheritance. Tell us more about these projects.

A: I appreciate your asking me about this — it's so dear to my heart, and, I believe, so needed in our world. I never planned to write even one book on the subject of money and the inner life, much less 2-1/2 books plus an article. But life gave me the assignment, back in the 1990s.

During a difficult period of my life, in which the need for making money clashed with my need to just go inside and heal, I felt that there must be some inner understanding that would open up the — to me, at that time — opaque, oblique, and mysterious subject of money. So, being a writer, I began to write a book: The Blessings Ledger: A Journey to Find the Union of Money and Compassion. The usual dictum to writers is "write what you know." In this case I was writing what I didn't know. It felt unknown, unsure, and highly precarious in the beginning. Looking back, I think that all quests are like this. We begin in not-knowing; and uneasy as it initially feels, that provides the space for going where we have not been called to go before, and finding what it is that we are seeking.

I'm glad you asked me also about the matter of claiming your true inheritance. Because this is where the writing has eventually led me: the "pot of gold," as it were. In the very beginning, I wrote about money as if I were in exile from some socially contracted understanding that seemed to uphold everyone else but that I felt myself to have been left out of — like a kid looking in longingly through the candy store window. It wasn't only money, and money know-how, that I was looking for — though I didn't know that until I'd entered more fully into the writing; it was a sense of belonging to life, of being upheld by some good inheritance.

Originally, I meant a financial inheritance; but the more I wrote, the more I began to realize that there was a larger Inheritance, to which — in my heavy conditioning within my own family of origin, and the culture in which I'd been raised (and still live) — I had no real connection. Only by going deeply into the dynamics of the loss of my real nature, growing up in my family, did I begin to see that no matter what the amount of money in the bank, no matter how savvy an investor a person might be, I was hardly alone in having taken my adapted, false self — the one I "created" as a child to survive in harsh circumstances — as the only reality.

The more I explored through my writing, the clearer it became that we are all children of a profoundly loving Source that wishes us well; and that as we clear out our wounds, our self-centeredness, and our conviction of separateness, we cease being exiled, and have the keys to the Kingdom. Surely, money is not more powerful than our Divine Inheritance. There is wisdom in the saying, "Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all else shall be given unto you."

As a writer, although I am deeply inspired by universal spiritual truths, I find that my real learning comes through my own experience. And so I tend to write from my own experience about money, and finding one's real nature and claiming that inheritance.

Q: Talk a little bit about the things you have learned about money.

A: I'd love to share a little bit of what I have learned about money through my writings.

Money is a relationship. Essentially, it's an internal relationship, on one level, based on the experiences of support we have and haven't had in life, and the stories we tell ourselves about what life does and doesn't hold in store for us. And it's a relationship with our ancestors, since we have inherited beliefs and customs and habits and values as well as (in some cases) money; and to the extent that we are not conscious of this human inheritance, we tend to play it out again and again. When an entire society colludes in a certain set of wounds and extrinsic values, it can be very hard to clearly see what we are dealing with. And that's why it's important to bring a deep exploration of the inner life into our dealings with money, and to begin to spend our souls as well as we would wish to spend our money.

Money is also a relationship with God, and with other people. This is not something I knew in my bones, initially. I first learned it by reading the profoundly thoughtful book, Money and the Meaning of Life, by Jacob Needleman. In this book, Needleman declared that money was actually a spiritual idea, initially invented by ancient wise people to teach humanity about its utter dependence on God, and its interdependence with one another. Well, I was a struggling seeker, looking for some light on a dark and stormy sea — and there it was. I took this then-amazing idea as my beacon, and followed it where it led me.

Money is the culture's god, but what are we really dependent on? Even our breath has a source. So we are, in terms of money, used to living in a state of forgetfulness of our true nature and true Inheritance. We can remember. That we are breathing, even in this moment, shows that we are cared for. We can allow ourselves to soften, to open, to acknowledge how much we have within ourselves. We can breathe the breath of prosperity, and seek to work together to bring about harmonious prosperity (a phrase that came to me from my experience of singing in choruses: there is scarcely a greater transcendent joy than to be both creator and beneficiary of a body of beautiful music).

To make money a higher value than God's care, to elevate it above breath, tells me that we have gotten very far from what we are capable of as inheritors of the Kingdom. We can remember. We can help each other remember. This sounds a bit abstract. But what upholds it is very real. Hopefully, my books, in context, will bring it home.

Q: I hear you've recently moved from a home office to a lovely new space. Share with us why you made the jump to a new space, and what you hope to accomplish there?

A: Thank you very much. It's sweet to receive your acknowledgment. It is a big leap to a new space — and also rather more modest than it may sound. I am renting an office in the home of the friend of a friend in my neighborhood. So it's a "home-away-from-home office." In 5 minutes (and not too much gas), I am there. Three days a week, I get to focus exclusively on my work, and to separate my home life from my work life, to the benefit of each.

I moved there because my business seemed to be expanding, and I just didn't have the room at home any more. What had once been enough space no longer was. I had different functions to accomplish — my own writing; my work with clients wanting to write books; my online store; products I hoped to create — and I longed for the room to set out my papers and tools, and be able to leave them there, not to have to pack it all up because it was time to make supper! When the opportunity arose to rent a room in this lovely residential home, I leapt at it.

What I hope to accomplish there: well, I've taken to calling it my "officestudio." Sometimes it's an office, sometimes a studio. I treasure both functions. The office means I'm in business: I'm establishing a new foundation for something that I hope will support me and my family for many years, and have a lasting, beneficial effect on the culture. The studio means I still get to create — the project of the moment, or just blank-mind time to see what pops in.

Mondays and Tuesdays, it's an office. I see clients, I work on client projects, I work on my business — visioning, marketing, and so on. Fridays, it's my studio. I love calling it a studio. It feeds my soul to think in those terms. In my studio, I write (currently, I'm finishing up the expanded version of MotherWealth); I do relevant visual art (in my youth, I trained as an artist; one wonderful Friday, I spent the entire day doing the cover for my book; I let myself dream visions of healing-art products, services, and so on. The office days are pretty nuts-&-bolts; the studio day is timeless and regenerative.

I don't, unfortunately, have a photo of the office at this time, but I'll paint one for you with words. I walk up the path to the door of a grey two-story house bordered by roses and a white-flowering tree. I open the front door, and inside is Barbara, the owner of the house, a lovely woman in her 70s, and her shy, curious cat, Sophie. If I have brought heavy things along, I am free to use Barbara's no-longer-needed chair lift to get them up to the second floor. At the top of the stairs, I turn left, left again, and then I am in my officestudio — a brightly lit, windowed room facing trees and houses across the way. Beautiful light.

The room is the size of a bedroom. The walls are covered with a beige, stippled-textured fabric. I was blessed to have built-ins already there for me to use: a large desk, a filing cabinet, storage bins for my art supplies, my stationery, my products and products to come. A bookcase for my reference books, books I've worked on, and — so good! — my works in progress. I never need to pack them up to make room for something else. So far, there's enough room for everything.

I of course needed to bring in decorations to make it feel like mine. So there are books that are beautiful to look at as well as to contain information I need. There's a book showing Monet's astoundingly colorful house, a wonderful blank book with a carved-wood cover done for me by artist Barbara Yates, based on the painting I did for my website, and books that I have illustrated for other writers, and my own books that I bound by hand. There are pictures of mothers and children by impressionist artist Mary Cassatt, and by my friend Risala Mary Laird. There are pictures of angels and spiritual masters, there are prayers to remind me where true inspiration comes from, there are candles, and a tiny kaleidoscope, and a few green plants. And my dulcimer, which I twang on entering and leaving, at least. And then there are all the other, expected things: my laptop; papers galore; office supplies; lunch.

It really helps to have a space of my own. And the solitude for working and creating is precious. My concentration is enhanced, and my relationship to myself is expanded, even on not-so-expansive days. I'm very blessed to have this small but valuable space. And I just hired a terrific assistant. Space makes things possible…inner space even more than outer space.

Q: Moving can be hugely stressful. Do you have any advice, insights, or hot tips for us on the special challenges involved in moving your creative work into a whole new home?

A: Considering that I've only moved into one room, five minutes from home, it's been really pretty easy. Each day I'd bring over another haul of stuff in my station wagon, until I began to feel that what I needed was there. I still have some basics at home, for when I'm not at the office: another laptop, a file cabinet, papers, and so on.

Hot tips? I'd say: take it as slow as you can. Build from the ground up. Bring in what feels inspiring and beautiful to you to remind you of who you are in that space. A small thing can do it: a photo, a print, a plant, a prayer. Make the space as sacred as you can. Remember why you're there, what you hope to accomplish there, who you hope to find out that you are. Enjoy the process. It's okay to unpack slowly. Don't push, as much as possible. Pace yourself. Take deep breaths. Include some music, for those times it's good to decompress. And once you're in, allow a short time of "creative chaos" in the new space, as it begins to tell you how it can support the best of your being and vision, there.

Q: Discuss your work as a book developer. What processes do you go through in deciding which books you want to work with?

A: My work as a book developer is designed to help writers trust the deepest gifts and messages within them, and to write from there. To that end, I listen to them well, accompanying them in whatever they bring up — whether inspiration, fragments of writing, or resistances — until they can fully listen to themselves, trust what's there, and follow through. I've been called a "book midwife," and that's as good a term as any. I love to encourage what wants to be born within a person to come out in its own best way. I see this as a healing process, a sacred process, and an infinitely friendly process.

In terms of deciding which books I want to work with: that's a good question. I think I actually don't so much decide which books I want to work with as which human beings, and on what levels. My great interest is in books that heal: that heal the writer in the course of writing, the readers in the course of reading, and the culture at large. Within that focus, there are so many different kinds of topics possible. I've had clients who have written about parenthood, holistic health, healing racism, speaking in public authentically, a memoir about the arduous and worthwhile journey of becoming oneself, compassionate leadership, and many other subjects. In each case, I found the subject sufficiently interesting to give myself to it. But my greater interest was in the people doing the writing, and the creative process that showed itself as the people opened up.

People who have done some degree of "inner work" seem to be naturals for the Writing from the Deeper Self process. They already have some self-knowledge about their deep desires, the fears that present obstacles, the past experiences of writing that short-circuited their confidence and souls. And they are touchingly open to making themselves vulnerable to themselves — to the true Self within, which is where the call to write a book comes from. So when I work with these people, it's not only my considerable book-writing experience and skills that I get to offer. We meet in the heart. For me, this is a supreme privilege of the soul and spirit.

The other thing about the people with whom I most enjoy working is that they are open to the Writing from the Deeper Self process. There are many outside-in ways of writing a book, from making an outline and sticking to it to applying a formulaic template to the building of chapters. This is a results-first orientation that neither interests me nor feels true to the spirit of creation. The people with whom I work are open to process in their writing — the experience of learning about themselves, what comes up in them, how the creative process works in them, learning to trust what's inside them, and so on. And it is out of that process that the completed book comes.

Even beyond the "product" of a finished book, though, is their experience of themselves as a healing artist, through this writing process. That outlasts even the shelf life of their book.

Q: How do you help a writer to bring the book in their heart out into the light? What are some advantages of working with a book developer, rather than going it alone as so many writers choose to do?

A: In the beginning, for a person to bring the book that's in the heart out into the light can be a rather delicate process. The closer we get to something pure and innocent within us, the more doubts and fear of exposure seem to come up. When a desire to write a book arises within the heart, it's really a lot like conceiving a child. In the beginning, you're not even sure it's happened; and yet in your spirit there's a sense of knowing, and wanting everything to work out (and, sometimes, fearing that it won't — because you don't have "what it takes" to carry the book all the way to birth).

So what I do with writers, at the outset, is listen very, very well. It's perhaps a mix of coaxing out something beautiful and shy, and creating a safe environment in which what is there can show itself exactly as it truly is, without having to adapt to outer ideas, concepts, or standards. If this sounds anything like healing the "inner child," that's purposeful on my part. I believe there is a direct connection.

In being well listened to, gradually writers begin to feel safe enough to want to root around inside and find out, "What is in there, after all?" And so I accompany and sometimes guide them in this self-discovery process. I'm not a licensed therapist, but by definition the process is fairly therapeutic. We suffer from disconnection with what's already within us; and making that connection heals. Writing a book is, to me, an especially wonderful way to make that connection, because we get to look at things, put them down on paper, look at them again, and ultimately make them meaningful and beautiful. In the process, we are writing — perhaps re-writing — our own lives.

Of course, for people who have not really written before, I offer guidance on writing. Structuring, point of view, details, language, and so on. But mostly I love to meet the person in that sacred, initially delicate place, and draw out the book that's there, in exactly the ways it wants to come out. For me, the technicalities of book writing serve that sacred intent.

As to the second part of your question, some advantages of working with a book developer rather than going it alone:

Perhaps going it alone is just right for some writers. For those who feel that the kind of accompaniment and guidance I provide could be helpful, I think it can be very beneficial to work with a book developer, I don't know anyone else who works in the way that I do. For one thing, it makes it real to share the creation of a book with someone else who gets it so completely. As doubts and fears seem to make their appearance periodically during the lengthy book-writing process, it can be incredibly helpful to have someone continuing to hold the light for you and know that you can get through any obstacles, coming out on the other side.

In addition, a good many of my clients have not written a book before, though they may have written something. My comfort with and expertise in what it takes to write a book from the inside out often helps people know that they are in good hands. I love to share what I know about the book-creating process. Working with a book developer who addresses the depths of the human being in addition to the book-as-product not only helps create a pathway for bringing the desire to write a book into reality, but also engenders a profound self-befriending. Writing a book is a journey, a challenge, a gift, a healing, an intimate act. Sometimes, it's good to have wise and caring company in that journey.

Q: You recently read an excerpt of my work-in-progress, Stealing Plums. Because we are curious about the book-development process, let's take it from the ground up. How and where would you begin if we decided to work together? How would you help me to finish this project and bring it to the public eye? Do you have any suggestions for me, based only on what you read, about taking this work to a deeper and more meaningful level?

A: I think this is where I'm to use that Internet acronym, LOL (laughing out loud). What a complex, clever question.

Well, Molly, yes, I have read an excerpt of your fascinating and touching book, Stealing Plums. My recollection is that your book is largely written, but in pieces so far. How and where would I begin if we decided to work together? The first thing I would do would be to get clear about your intention. If your book could do something in your readers' hearts and lives, what would you want that to be? Once that was known, it would be more possible to see where the book is on track, and where it's not yet pulled together. Then we would go through the book together, scene by scene, page by page, to discover its organic structure, its emotional logic, its rhythm and cadences (because, as I recall, there are different voices and levels of reality in Stealing Plums), and get a feel for how the parts want to fit together to form a whole. In the process, I would pay attention to what comes up in you — where you are certain, where fears and doubts have sway, where the delicate places are — and support your deepest knowing. Once you were aligned with that and had your stride, my part in the process might diminish.

I would know that you were on a good track if (1) you felt sure that the book was unfolding in a way that is true and consonant with your being and intention, and (2) I were able to enter into it at every point along the way. One of the benefits that I offer clients is my ability to enter into the experience with them as a reader — their first reader. And, having been raised by two writers in love with literature, I have a good intuitive (and trained) sense of literary truth. So if both of us could take the journey of your book and come out with something of substance, I would trust that totally. I hope this answers your question. In actual practice, I always need to look at the writing itself in order to give a really considered and helpful answer.

As for helping you bring the book to the public eye, these days there are many choices, as I'm sure you know. There is the route of being published by an external publisher: and if that were your route of choice, I would help you determine whether you wanted an agent, and if so how you might find an appropriate one. I might also encourage you to research publishers who had already published books remotely like yours. I could help with writing query letters, a book proposal, and the rest of the deal. If you wanted to self-publish, I could help you with that, as well. And as for promoting and marketing your book — which, these days, any author seems to have to do — I would brainstorm with you about those options that appealed to you, whether online, in the press, and so on. I might also avail you of my new assistant, who is terrific at that part! (Better than me.)

Q: Your Writing from the Deeper Self newsletter is a wonderful and inspiring tool. Tell us about how you decided to do this work. What calls to you, excites and delights you, and keeps you coming back for more?

A: Thank you, I'm so glad that my newsletter affects you that way. That's really a pleasure to hear.

The reason I decided to do this work: some of it is conscious. And some probably isn't. The conscious part is that — as I mentioned earlier — in the 1980s, my life took a depth-spin, and I needed to explore who I was at a more profound soul-level than I had before. Meanwhile, I had been a book editor for all those years, focusing only on the product. As my own self-explorations opened up and showed me what was inside not only me but, it seemed, all human beings, I had an urgent need to bring my work into a more soul-centered place. Over time, and not always so smoothly, initially, I came to realize that I wanted to go all the way back into the very beginning of the process. Not to be handed a manuscript by a publisher that had been churned out by a non-writer author who was simply an expert in a certain field, and told to "make it read well," but to be present to an available, open-hearted human being and treasure that heart into revealing its treasures in writing. That's probably the shortest true version of the story. And gradually, that's what I have done.

What calls to me, excites me, delights me, and keeps me coming back for more? That is a superlative question, and one that I think we all, as creators, need to ask ourselves periodically, when we get bogged down in the details, or our dramas, and forget. What calls me back, again and again, is the inner experience that if we go deep enough into our hearts, we find wholeness. We find a shared place in which to sit, to dwell, to honor that Source from which creation comes. So for me to be with another human being who has both desire and willingness to mine that rich inner field and bring forth from within themselves something true and beautiful (even if it has hard parts in it), the reading of which can transform the reader's heart — that is a holy (and often fun) experience for me. And — having all my life been fascinated by the creative process — to have a hand in illuminating that creative beauty in my clients, to give it voice and life and shape, and bring joy into the world, that is a very satisfying thing. And I just love my clients. They are wonderful people, I treasure them. They are so courageous, and good, and caring, and talented. Even if they aren't sure of that at the outset, it becomes plain somewhere along the way.

This, to me, is food. I come back to eat.

Q: What are some of the methods you use to help writers find their unique voice?

A: I think that what's unique about Writing from the Deeper Self is that it does not begin with the words. Many people have a concept of a writer as someone sitting before the blank page (or screen) searching for the perfect sentence, and getting frustrated by its refusal to appear. For me, there's a whole nonverbal world inside us that has so much to say, if we are willing to become attentive and quiet enough inside to learn its unique language.

So I begin, with writers, by quieting the mind. Really, most of the doubts and fears come from the level of mind. If we were able just to stay with our hearts and trust what is there, the whole process of writing would be so much easier. (Not to deny the place of the mind; just to give it its proper place.)

When the mind is more quiet — which is easy to get to simply by attending to the breath — then, putting the focus on the inner experience, I ask clients to pay attention to what is arising inside, and the particular ways in which its shows itself. Some people are very visual: they get images right and left; sometimes they get inner movies! I have one client who is also a painter (I am an artist, too, so I understand this), who can easily see the vivid visual details of a scene inside. I think this visual-imagistic mode can be developed, if someone is interested and doesn't yet have it available. It is a human attribute. Anyone can develop it.

Some people receive memories, seemingly random, fragmented snapshots or vignettes. These, if paid attention to, can begin to point to the story. A lot of deep writing involves trusting the nonlinear process. (I would say that this is true and helpful even in some aspects of nonfiction writing.) It's not always a matter of pre-deciding what you will write, and in what order. There's an inner call, which wants to be heeded; and if you do, it usually will find its way into a complete story at the end. (Not that there aren't things to do to help that clarity and completion come about.)

Some people are sensitive to sound, to music. They sense a rhythm inside, not necessarily a story, yet. They may hear an inner guidance, which may or may not be in words. They may hear dialogue, remembered conversations, or whole new areas of something inside to listen to.

Some people are more sensate. Their bodies speak, they tell them where they are open, closed, hungry, full, wanting, solitary, and so on. These intelligent body-stories provide a source of finding the writing voice.

As you are reading this, you may be trying to see where you fit into all of this. Human beings, when we pay attention to our inner world and capacities, are amazing, amazing creatures. We have so much within us, if we turn our attentions within. We already have ways in which we are spoken to from within, and others can be developed.

I help people find their writing voice by listening to what is being said to them inside, and the specific ways in which it is being said. Then, when that relationship is made and realized, it is not difficult to find words that are as equivalent to the inner experience as possible. And while the usual need for structuring and rewriting still applies, there is something that is just true when you write in this way. You are not "trying" to get at something, you are not posing or performing, you are not writing to have a certain end result come about. You are writing to make that connection with your deeper Self. And in that process, you make room for the Divine to come through you, as you. What other voice do we really want?

Q: Facing the blank page can be a daunting, even terrifying experience. How do you help writers get beyond that fear so that they can create a poem, book, or play?

A: Oh, that is such a good question. And so universal. So universal. People tend to think "It's just me," but believe me, it isn't. Every client who has come to me has come with this, at least at the outset. And I am both deeply sympathetic and able to guide them through it. Why? Because I know from experience what this is like, what's under it, and what will open this up.

I could write a whole essay on this, I find it that fascinating! But I'll contain myself and be relatively brief.

Fear of the Blank Page

The fear of the blank page, in my view, is a combination of two or three things:

  1. Painful and/or shaming experiences about writing earlier in life — at home, at school, on the job, etc. — any situation where some external standard or agenda was shown to be more important than the tender innocence of the person wanting to fill that page with writing.

  2. The attendant self-doubt that comes with closing down our natural selves, in defense against a critical or uncaring authority (i.e., when we are no longer in touch with our natural being, it is very hard to create on the blank page). And

  3. Fear of death. The equation of "the void" with nothingness, and of "nothingness" with no existence, no worth, no self. The blank page then becomes a proving ground, a taunt, an impossible challenge, rather than, "Ah, look: a fresh canvas for me to play on."

The truth is that I do help writers get beyond that fear. And once they are sufficiently out of it, they do go on to create astonishingly beautiful writing, beyond what they knew to give themselves credit for until it came out of them. But I don't want to mislead by suggesting that this is an instantaneous process. It is gradual, sometimes it is slow, it takes a lot of my and their listening to their suffering, to finding out the antecedents of that suffering, and to bringing their aliveness, creativity, and original beauty into the foreground so that what is real in them supercedes what they have learned to suppress and fear. I had one client who ended up writing an amazing book, full of wisdom and beauty and incredibly helpful information, who spent the first three months with me just getting through that fear. She was grateful that I did not push her to "just write," or "get over it." She really needed to wade into those, for her, traumatic waters of fear-of-self-expression, until she realized that she was already floating, and that if she just picked up her legs and splashed her arms about a bit, she would be swimming.

Really, I could write a book about this subject! Perhaps I should! (There is, actually, a section on it in my book called Starting Your Book: A Guide to Navigating the Blank Page by Attending to What's Inside You.) I don't want to give a fast-food answer.

Honor that the fear exists. Know that it's not your true nature, but likely a response to something that happened a long time ago connected with revealing yourself and not being received, or well received. The primal fear is that this is what's going to happen again, if you are foolish enough to show yourself on paper. (We think that words in print are irrevocable. But clearly, they are not.)

Be kind to yourself. Be gentle. Be aware that a trauma is in place. And know that with consistent, gentle listening to yourself and deep, healing breaths, gradually something will soften. And something inside you will want to be said.

One day you will be driving, or showering, or taking a walk, or working on a quantum-physics problem, and there it will be: an arrival of something that wants to go onto the page. Well, this is the creative process in motion. When it comes, welcome it, and write it down. Don't scare it off by demanding that it turn right away into 300 pages. You are dealing with a shy creature, like the cat in my office. Be glad when it comes and sniffs your hand. Gradually, there will be more and more sniffing, and more and more writing. Eventually, the blank page will be a mere moment's blip of fear. And then something in you will relax, and you'll remember, "Oh yes, something in me will arise, if I am attentive and friendly inside."

It really works. But give it time. And honor the process. It can't be forced, but it can be encouraged into bloom.

Q: Walk us through a typical "Writing from the Deeper Self" consultation. Give the specifics of what happens in a typical session, as well as the time commitment you need to do this work, any financial costs to the writer involved.

A: There is no "typical" consultation. It's not a one-size-fits-all process. Listening to the person is the essence of how we begin. If I tried to walk you through it, you'd see two people in facing chairs, one me and the other the client, and then a lot of listening on my part, and a lot of sometimes-halting, sometimes-passionate talking on the part of the client. As I understood what s/he was really saying, really wanting, really dealing with, I would ask questions, enter into the experience with her or him, and begin to ally myself with their deepest intention, all the while picking up cues about who they are, how they take in information, how the creative process works in them, and so on. Granted that I have a great deal of expertise in writing and putting books together, but the consultation tends to be fairly intuitive. This is really hard to walk a viewer through.

I can more easily speak to the logistics of the process. Writing a book is a real commitment. I tell people that it will usually take at least a year of their lives, and often more. (Not a year or more of writing for hours a day, but a year or more of writing in between living an often demanding life.) That's why our relationship is so important — that we understand each other, feel a resonance about the subject, the writing process, and one another — it is a long-term relationship! (I happen to like those.)

In the first session or two, I explore with the client the kind of structure that is most likely to work for them, for me, and for writing and completing the book. Some clients find coming once every two weeks most fortuitous. Others like to come once a week, depending on their schedules, budget, and urgency of writing. Some come once a month, but I don't favor that unless they are extremely self-motivated and -disciplined, as the momentum can get slack.

All that said, and gasps of "a year or more!" aside, writing a book is a commitment that can give much more back than one might expect. It's a relationship to the book, to oneself, and to me, of course, that adds value, strength, endurance, light, creativity, joy, newness, reclamation, and healing to the writer's life.

Financial costs to the writer: These of course would include payment to me for each session, and for any work I would do on the manuscript itself. Other costs might include, depending on the life and lifestyle of the writer: childcare and time off from work (to have writing time); a place in which to write; perhaps an occasional writing retreat, whether structured or just time off at a retreat center or a B&B.

Reconnecting with the Muses

Q: When you're feeling stuck, blocked and blah, how do you recover and dance with the Muses again?

A:Yes, another great question. Of course, it happens to me. I think it happens to everyone at some time. I'm blessed, at this time in my life to have many ways of regaining the Muse. And they all really lead to the same place: connection with the deeper Self, and at least the respite of the ego's fears and demands.

I pray. I know some beautiful, beautiful Sufi prayers, and also Jewish prayers. And really, the prayers that seem most potent are just the expression of what's in the heart. So I need to be able to get to what's in my heart. If I've been worried, or too busy, or too "in my head," all those will temporarily block, or veil, what's in my heart from me. So sometimes direct prayer will do it. And other times, I need to do something in order to be present enough to pray.

Some ways that help me get present to myself:

  • Being in nature. Even a 20-minute walk at a nearby creek, surrounded by arching trees against the blue sky, smelling the moist scent of the earth, listening to the music of the creek, slows me down. Brings me back.

  • Singing. I love to sing, and I have a beautiful voice. When I sing, whether a cappella or accompanying myself on piano or dulcimer, something inside that isn't about doing, planning, getting things right has the chance to surface. I remember what is real. That definitely helps.

  • Deep breathing. Breathing in a way where I remember that breath is a given, and a gift. That gives me perspective on what's real.

  • Taking a nap. (I don't use this often enough.)

  • Doing Breema, or getting a Breema treatment. Breema is an amazing, ancient bodywork that has been brought down through the ages, and that not only helps the body to align, but also helps the mind and feelings to align. It is healthy, good for you, and joyous. And you don't have to do anything but lie there and receive it. I'm blessed to live in Oakland, CA, where the Breema Center and Clinic reside. But there are Breema practitioners all over the world.

  • And sometimes, I just veg out. I watch TV (hopefully, judiciously). I watch a movie. I eat chocolate. I attend to someone else's story that way, in hopes of re-finding the thread of my own.

  • Also, water! Water seems to be a universal creative "flow" starter. I've had inspirations in the shower many times. Even washing the dishes. And swimming in a lake — well, what's better than that?

Q: Just for fun — what's your favorite way to spoil yourself? Your most fabulous guilty pleasure? The way you treat yourself like a Queen?

A: I've already mentioned chocolate. I'd say, going into nature for an entire day. I love the town of Point Reyes, CA, about 1-1/4 hours away. Hills, birds, beaches, fabulous restaurants. If I get better at spoiling myself, I will add on a spa as part of the experience. I've been told about a Japanese spa in the country that immerses you in something unusual, like buckwheat hulls or something. It's expensive, but one day I'd like to try it.

I think my most fabulous, and not so guilty (anymore) pleasure is something that I do weekly. I get a weekly 25-minute Breema treatment from the same person, a lovely Danish woman named Birthe, and have for about a year. I just lie there and receive this wonderfully nourishing rocking and rolling and stroking and cradling. I feel like a well-loved child, and it's good for me, too. My lower-back flexibility has really increased, and the experience of being in my body is becoming delicious, instead of "what body?"

I also get weekly acupuncture treatments at Berkeley Community Acupuncture from a wonderful woman named Thuy, who is teaching me about what real health is. (She has also become my writing client, so we have a most sweet and interesting set of ways by which to relate). It's a joy to sit in the well-stuffed reclining chair in the communal treatment room, receive these delicate, relatively painless needles (including in my third eye!), and not need to do anything but relax and pay attention to whatever arises (unless I just bliss out or fall asleep). This weekly routine is my health-care. And I have more and more life force available because of it…which, actually, influences my experience of writing for the better.

Q: Any last words of inspiration for us?

If you really want to write a book, you can do it. It doesn't matter if you haven't done it before, if you have some fears, if you don't know what you want to write about or where to start, if you have scraps that have languished in a drawer for 20 years — or, if you're just in the perfect place and are ready to get started. The call to write a book is a sacred call. Sometimes these calls get shelved for a time, but then they return.

Honor what calls to you. Honor what is in you. You may, or may not, need to learn things in order to write your book; but the essence of what will support you to do that is already within you. Perhaps it's not yet evident what that is; perhaps a light needs to be directed inside. You may be inspired to do that on your own. If I can be of service, I'll shine my light on yours.

In-spiration has to do with breath. If you focus more on your breath than on your fears, something will inevitably come knocking at your inner door. "Write me down, I'm good for you!" it may, in essence say. So, write it down. Be interested in your own process. Explore how the creative life takes root and opens doors in you.

It will enhance your life. Creativity isn't a property owned by anyone. It is the very nature of life. It's yours.

Naomi consults with writers individually in person in the San Francisco Bay Area. She also works by phone and/or email with her out-of-area, international clientele. She teaches periodic workshops, classes, and other events on Writing from the Deeper Self, book writing, creativity, and money and the inner life. Learn more at www.naomirose.net.

©2008 Molly J. Anderson-Childers and Naomi Rose. All rights reserved.

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