Path to Publication, pt 17: It’s happening! (pt2). Subtitle: ARGH, the Critic!

Good grief.

Nine months ago I wrote a post in celebration of the fact that the first draft of the book manuscript was imminent and that layout was finished, meaning in just a few months more the book — a (mostly) visual biography of a local historian and writer — would be ready for publication.

HAHA… heh.

Yeah. No, that didn’t happen. Why?

EDITING.

Holy edits, Batman! Nine months of re-writing and adjusting the layout to make the text and graphics work together, and rewriting again, and adjusting. Again. Granted, I was working with a committee each of whom had lives beyond the book, and there was also a break while members of the committee was Googling and making phone calls and sending out forms trying to track down editors and photographers seeking permissions and credits. And then those pages of names had to designed and placed in the book. Then that had to be edited too. It was a pro-o-o-cess.

So, here we are six months later than planned, but we finally have a launch date (in three weeks!). I officially signed off on the proof yesterday and the cover art was finalized.

And I’m freaking out.

Signing that final approval to go to print felt like, let’s see, clicking send on an email containing your resume and cover letter, or submitting your thesis, or signing the final form of a closing document to buy a new house. Every cell in my body was screaming, WHAT IF I’VE MADE A MISTAKE?!?!

Oh, the inner critic is having a field day right now. There’s one thing in particular that I’m not sure will look right in the printed copy (I only had access to a digital proof, much to my discomfort), and it’s eating me alive. Yes, one thing on one page… out of 92 pages, the rest of which, OK, I’ll admit, are pretty damn good-lookin’!

Will anyone else even notice? Probably not. Will it matter in five, ten years time? Of course not. It probably won’t matter ever.

There will be mistakes which will be discovered after the fact. Of course there will. And I will lie awake fussing about them, kicking myself… as if my mistakes are ME.

Yup, big lesson here. I’ve made mistakes, in this book, in my lifetime, and I will make many, many more. Some will be misplaced commas, others will be far more offensive. I might even one day write a Facebook post and use “your” when I meant “you’re” (please, NO!!)

But I am NOT my mistakes. Yes, my mistakes help make up who I am — everyone is a learning, an opportunity for growth — but even when/if something I have done has royally failed, I am not a royal failure. And neither is this whole book a failure because of one thing that may or may not look right to my eyes.

OK, so this post has turned out to be a self-indulgent pep rally as I try to quell my fears and self-doubt… just imagine what emotional self-coaching I’ll have to do when it’s my memoir about to be made public… oh, goodness.

Moral of this story:

EDIT.

EDIT AGAIN.

MAKE A MISTAKE.

EDIT SOME MORE.

MISS A MISTAKE.

TAKE A BREATH.

CARRY ON.

(Also, read/look at lots of other books in the style you’re going for before writing/designing yours… yeah, do that. I didn’t. *Kicks self again.* But I am prepared for the next one! *Pulls another memoir off the to-be-read pile*)

 

(A note for locals: The launch of Lilian Baker Carlisle: Vermont Historian, Burlington Treasure; A Scrapbook Memoir will be held Sunday, June 25th at 3pm at Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont. It is open to the public.)

Hear myself out

This is one poem in a series from the “Write to Recover” group I facilitate. I put them together from phrases that resonate with me while participants read, adding nothing but punctuation and the occasional conjunction. This one is comprised of the words of four participants who were writing on the theme, “Your own voice.

Distractions of the necessary,

Ants scurrying around the concrete of life.

 

But I am not spineless;

My spirit can fly.

A shimmer of aliveness,

Fresh,

Like a baby carries a big lot of love.

 

I remain quiet

To protect my being,

The true essence of me;

This gnarly mess–

My very “I am” self,

A fresh flowing fearless frequency.

 

Sit gently like

A grain of sand in time — rock time

To hear myself out,

Another human hand holding hope, and

Nurture lovingly and meaningfully

Because I am real and worthy of love.

I’m not here to teach you anything: Some thoughts on facilitating

I originally wrote this post in 2014 for the blog of tlanetwork.org, the website of the Transformative Language Arts Network. It seems appropriate to re-post as I am preparing a graduate course on Expressive Writing in the classroom for Castleton University’s Center for Schools. Although in this situation I will be technically a lecturer/teacher/professor rather than a facilitator and I will be imparting more information than I would in a workshop, I will still apply the methods I know best and which have proven to be helpful to participants.

~

Justus Sustermans - Portrait of Galileo Galilei, 1636

Justus Sustermans – Portrait of Galileo Galilei, 1636

“I am not here to teach you anything.”

Expressions of confusion flicker across the faces of those circled around me. Wasn’t the very reason they signed up for this workshop to learn something?

I continue: “I am here to show you how you can learn from yourself.”

Smiles break out and the workshop begins.

While this is not intended to be an op-ed on the benefits of teaching critical thinking, how I facilitate is how I believe children should be taught: Teach them to learn for themselves. And this is how I approach my workshops. I give guidance, I provide prompts, and then I sit back and witness my “students” learning from and for themselves (and from the words of others in the room) — not to impress me, the “teacher.”

How does this work with TLA? Galileo Galilei said, “You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself.” Transformative Language Arts, or any form of self-expression which facilitates healing change within a person, is, by its very nature, a way to tap into something within: a wisdom, a knowledge, a gnosis that we may not immediately know on a conscious level. It is only when we can know why we do the things we do or feel the way we do, that we can truly learn about ourselves. And when we know we can grow. I could talk until I was blue in the face about the benefits of writing, but until they try it themselves and see that it works, that they have the ability to discover their own truth, I have taught nothing.

While many people want to learn definitive tools, to come away from the class with a bulleted list of techniques or goals accomplished, it is the job of a facilitator to show them why it works. By all means, give them the list to take home (so they can continue self-teaching after the workshop), but it is only by doing it will they truly understand the how and why.

Yes, you may be the “expert” and you do have much information to impart. Indeed, I sometimes get so excited by everything factoid and bit of research I have learned that I want to share it all. But it doesn’t help be a talking head.

Jim Henson wrote: “[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.” If you are a facilitator, I would assume (hope!) you have done the work yourself. You know the ups and downs of writing on your own road to self-discovery and healing. This knowledge, this self-awareness will show more than you could ever tell.

Yes, give them the tools, the safe space, the opportunity, but then get out of the way. The best teachers instruct by asking questions. When you provide the opportunity for your “students” to ask themselves the deepest questions they may have ever faced, you are giving them a great gift: How to learn from themselves.

Scars to prove I showed up

This is one poem in a series from the “Write to Recover” group I facilitate. I put them together from phrases that resonate with me while participants read, adding nothing but punctuation and the occasional conjunction. This one is comprised of the words of five participants who were writing on the theme “Overcoming an obstacle.”

mountainI am a letter written to the world,

Trying to be self among all this chaotic happening,

Scared to be anyone but me.

`

Madness, the veil of darkness,

The gift of my mother,

My normal has been misconstrued.

My demons pretend they have healed me,

Then I blow away on the next strong breeze.

`

My biggest obstacle has been me,

Sinking down of my hopeful self.

What do I trust? What is real?

`

I have scars to prove I showed up,

Survived to face another one,

Another corner to turn.

I keep the breath coming,

Attempting to win completeness.

`

Take three steps away from me and see me,

Inside I am all good,

I am beautiful —

Like an old leather shoe.

Focusing on being focused,

Awaring I am.

`

I will always be part of that mountain,

Breathing through the gap.

Release the sunshine,

Come out to shine.

Authentic Voice Project: B is for Belief

The Authentic Voice Project: Week 2

books

I was near tears already. Angry-sad tears at the current state of affairs in our country and world. So it wasn’t with the most gracious heart that I took in the message on the frame around the license plate of the SUV parked in front me:

“If you are living as if there is no God, you better hope you’re right!”

To this I thought:

If you claim there is God but are living with a Belief that dictates that Roe vs. Wade should be reversed or claims all Muslims are evil, LGBT rights should be denied, or that Black Lives don’t matter, you better hope you’re WRONG.

Because I’m pretty sure I remember learning “God is Love,” not “God is Dismiss Those Whose Experience/Belief is Different Than Yours.”

BELIEF OR FACT?

Yes, Belief, when professed to be Fact, can be dangerous.

For some, Belief is Truth. There can be no wavering, no room for questions or doubt, and therefore, no room for possibility. When Belief becomes Certainty, any one else’s Belief must be wrong.

Dismissing other people’s versions of the “truth” can lead us to dismisses the actual human-beings who hold those different beliefs, opinions, or perspectives.

Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh in The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life, write:

Our certainty that we are absolutely correct in our views on organized religion or standardized testing, abortion or euthanasia can make us less receptive to other people’s perspectives, putting up insurmountable walls between ourselves and others. […]

This sort of thinking leads us away from … a state in which everything is inter-related, with no distinctions.

In other words, it leads us away from Love. Belief can, if it has concretized into Certainty, turn love on its head and look and act suspiciously like hate.

To me, to love is to act knowing everything is connected, that we are all One; that to, “do for the least of your brothers and sisters, you do for me.” (I’m not saying that’s always easy or that I’m never guilty of forgetting this.)

BELIEF IN STORY

To truly love, one must be willing to listen — and hear — the story behind the person or event. While it may seem like a strength, Certainty in religion or politics or any other arena, eliminates the power of story. A person’s story, a place’s history, or a situation’s backstory highlights its many, often mysterious and always changing, facets.

Until we accept that people are multi-faceted, that they are more than just one story, we are blind to our shared humanity. Until we see there is as many Right Ways of Being as there are people in the world, we imply that one “brand” of human matters more than another. Until then, we will all remain Other.

Every person is, The Path tells us, “an individual with a complex set of sensibilities, habits, emotions, and behaviors.” And this complexity, when coupled with the complex instability of everyday life, provides an element of mystery to everyone’s personality, their way of life, and the decisions they make. It is nobody else’s place to take away that mystery, to declare it wrong, by claiming there is only One Answer.

BELIEF IN THE QUESTIONS

Belief should be instead (I believe) a never-ending series of questions: What is the story here? Does it look like anything in my own life? What can I learn from it? And what is the story now? Has it changed? Has it changed me? How can it open me up to infinite possibilities and love?

I have read, although there seems to be some disagreement on this, that the word Believe comes from the same root as Be Love. Even if the etymology is off, it can’t possibly be a bad thing to ask yourself when you express an opinion or express a Belief as Fact:

Am I Be-Loving in this Belief?

And so now with a more gracious heart, I can say (now that I’m less emotional), that I don’t assume you, Mr. and/or Mrs. SUV hold the particular beliefs I accused you of at the beginning of this post. I know full well that not all Christians feel this way, just as I know that not all political conservatives do either. I don’t know you, I don’t know your story, and so I can’t be Certain of anything about you. I choose today to believe that you too strive to Be-Love.

Shape of shade and shadow

This is one poem in a series from the “Write to Recover” group I facilitate. I put them together from phrases that resonate with me while participants read. I add nothing but punctuation and the occasional conjunction. This one is comprised of the words of four participants who were writing on the prompt, “A fellow traveler…”

(Note: This particular poem is a first. This is exactly how I wrote it down during the session. I haven’t rearranged the lines or added a thing.)

shadows

To be in conflict with self is a horror

I want to be the conqueror

Not be controlled by the mess

Unloveable because of my stuff?

I am an aware person

Allow myself space

Under the sky and crows

Sharing presence

Alive face

Intensity and thought

Evil self, have his way

But I did not follow him

To be alone and to be with God

Showing and glowing with love

Fluid and rigid

Molding me into this Unbeing

Not be in fear of the loud bully

Beside the love that wants to blossom

The No-thing of being

Shape of shade and shadow

I will survive and remove his presence

The struggle is tiring

God and friends to help me

A is for Anger

The Authentic Voice Project: Week 1

voice quest wordleAUTHENTIC VOICE

As we are beginning with A, I will take a moment to define Authentic Voice as I understand it.

I believe we all have an Authentic Voice. It is the one that comes to us from various sources:

  • intuitive insights
  • dreams
  • emotion-body reactions (such as butterflies in the stomach, the tight chest of anxiety or anger, the sore throat of suppressed tears, etc.)
  • expressive writing (“I didn’t know I was going to write that!” or “where did that come from?!”), and other artistic expressions
  • gut reactions and “Freudian slips”

It is the voice that many of us suppress in the name of “reason” or convention. It is a voice many of us don’t even know – on a conscious level – that we process. It is that voice that, as Carol Gilligan records in her book, In a Different Voice, caused a female student to stop short when she heard herself say, “If I were to speak for myself…” Deep down we do know we have this voice and the suppression of it causes pain. It triggers emotional reactions in us we may not completely understand. It is the wisdom of our body, of our unconscious, of the collective unconscious. And if we are to pursue our full potential as human beings we must access it because it holds the balance of the truth of who we are.

And now onto the first word of our project…

steam-stacksANGER

Society says: Anger is dangerous. Anger is violent. Anger should be suppressed. Anger is particularly unseemly for women. Anger is an unhealthy emotion. A “nice” person doesn’t get angry. Anger is not productive.

I say: Anger is a flag on the field, a check engine light, a high temperature indicating an infection. Anger is an emotion, which like all emotions, is a message. And like all emotions, we must heed it. Notice it. Acknowledge it. Listen to it. When and why did it get triggered? Where in the body is it manifesting? And how? Is it a pressure, a pain, a tingling?

Many times anger is the only emotion we can notice or it is the go-to one when the grief, hurt, pain, disappointment, rejection, sadness, frustration, loneliness, powerlessness, anxiety or fear is too uncomfortable. But then the guilt kicks in because we are not supposed to be angry. It’s not socially acceptable. Well, it hurts and pushes other people away. In fact, sometimes we use to push them away. Use it as our barrier… and then wonder why we are so lonely and sad.

BUT, anger can be useful if we take as an invitation to dig deeper into our unconscious to find our true, unexpressed feelings. All our feelings are legitimate. It is how we choose to use them that makes the difference. Anger expressed in rage, manipulation, violence, suppression, or physical or emotional attacks on others is merely a way of pushing our discomfort onto others, hoping it will relieve us. But by taking our anger and working with it – using it as an positive energy – we can use it to take action in our lives. As Sue Monk Kidd did, take your rage and turn it to outrage — use it as a call to action and a chance to usher in change.

Anger: Just a message.

Prompt: “I am angry about…”