So you want to be a TLA (writing for healing/change) facilitator?

This evening I was asked by one of my online students how to start a TLA (Transformative Language Arts) — Writing for Change or Healing — practice/business. That is a big question and not one easily answered. There are too many factors to consider: location, niche, experience, education, personality, and financial situation, among others. So, instead I will tell my story, as briefly possible.

How to (possibly) start a TLA practice:

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  1. Start a diary at age twelve. Keep writing daily through high school. Stop writing during college except for sappy and maudlin poems after break-ups with each new love of your life and consequently completely lose sight of who you are.
  2. Read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and artistsway-tstart writing “Morning Pages” like your life depends on it. (It kinda does.) Fill binder after binder with complaints and dreams for the next few years. Start calling yourself an Aspiring Writer as you write (embarrassingly pitiful) stories and essays early in the morning.
  3. Leave your job and the state to become a stay-at-home mother. Get bored real fast and design a journaling workshop and offer it at the local bookstore. Discover the Center for Journal Therapy and start the instructor certification.
  4. Move again and take part time jobs while finishing the certification and caring for two young kids.
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  5. Finish the certification, get marketing materials (business cards, fliers, website, social media pages) together, and start offering workshops at the local wellness centers, bookstores, coffee shops (including a monthly one for free to get your name out there).
  6. Contact/join writing groups/centers, networking and social service organizations, colleges and schools, and get your name on a list of alternative practitioners.
  7. Keep offering workshops despite low turn-out and cancellations. Get posters up wherever you can and blast social media. Do this for … years.
  8. Keep writing. Finally get the courage to call yourself a Writer. Get published. Start freelancing. Put your “facilitator” in your mini bio at the end of each article.flyer_Lower Stress Write Way
  9. Ask, and accept invitations to speak at networking, wellness, and writing events. Collaborate with other facilitators and organizations.
  10. Discover there is a Masters program in this field in your home state (at Goddard College) and spend the next three years transforming your life in the most amazing way imaginable.
  11. Open your own writing center and offer weekly workshops. Start getting more name recognition, more speaking engagements, and more writing work.

So, that’s my story in a very small nutshell. But my journey from designing my first workshop to today was a not a short one — at all. My daughter was two when I began and she is about to turn thirteen! And it has been almost seven years since I got certified and I am only just beginning to feel I am “making it.”

Here are some factors specific to my situation which I believe have helped along the way:

  1. I live in a small town. I know many people.
  2. I live in a small, rural state and am one of very few who does this kind of work.
  3. I said yes to every opportunity until I found my niche (I can  adapt my work to many areas and populations).
  4. I am a freelance columnist. My name is in the paper every week.
  5. My connections through the Center of Journal Therapy,  Goddard College, and the Transformative Language Arts Network have allowed me many opportunities.TLAN-Banner-940x198

Here are some factors specific to my situation which I believe have hurt along the way:

  1. I live in a small town. There is not a huge population to draw from.
  2. I live in a small, rural state. Writing as wellness is not considered a mainstream activity.
  3. I said yes to every opportunity and took a long time to get focused enough to find my niche and in what/with whom I worked best. My “brand” and “elevator speech” have therefore been unclear — trying to be too many things for too many people.
  4. (Related to #3) I don’t enjoy marketing myself and may have not always used the most successful methods.

What I believe you don’t have to do that I did:

  1. Get a MA or other advanced degree in this field. Experience is the best teacher.

What I believe you do need to do:

  1. Be passionate about this work.
  2. Do the work yourself. Be introspective and Write. Write. Write.
  3. Have some training/experience in ethical and successful facilitation practices. Creating safe space for your clients is a priority.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the theories and modalities of TLA/Writing for Change (through the TLA Certification, for example.)
  5. Collaborate!
  6. Find your niche(s). Find your people. Stay focused. (But be willing/prepared to puzzle-piece your career together with lots of different projects and collaborations).
  7. Be confident that your work is of value and you should be paid accordingly.

But my number one piece of advice:

Never stop believing you can make this work because if you can’t imagine doing anything else, you will.

 

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Danger: Toxic levels of self-bashing

This post is a bit of an off-shoot for me but as I write it I will somehow figure out how to make a journaling prompt out of it. And I also know many of you will relate to what I am about to say.

I got rejected.

By a home-cleaning professional.

Let me explain. I don’t like chaos or clutter. My preferred living arrangement is tidy and beautifully decorated; OK, it’s more eclectic than beautiful, but everything has a place, everything in its place. That’s how it is supposed to be, however, I have two young kids: Clutter Happens. I am a Virgo: I don’t like doing the same things over and over.

I JUST vacuumed this rug, did you HAVE to bring a plate of rice crispies (a plate? of cereal? seriously?) in here and lick them up like you’re a dog? Seriously?!

And I hate, hate, hate to clean. I was absent the day they were giving out the cleaning gene. Consequence: My house is a mess! Yes, I go through when I can no longer see the floor daily and pick up the socks, toys, shoes, wrappers, escaped rabbits, backpacks, papers strewn around and get the house looking marginally like somewhere I might enjoy living. But to be honest, once the rabbit-trapping game is over I have no energy left to get out a dust rag. In fact, I don’t even have the energy to even see the layer of dust that is holding the piano together. In other words, if you come over you may be impressed by the cozy furniture arrangement, art on the walls, and homemade pillows on the couch, but please don’t look too closely at anything. Let’s put it this way, there might as well be a Spider Safe Zone sign on my front door. No arachnid need fear for their life here: my home is your home, Mr. and Mrs. Legs. Dust bunnies are also welcome to multiply to their dust bunny delight.

Most of the time I turn a blind eye to my greasy microwave and be-crumbed counter corners, but once in a while it all comes uncomfortably into focus and I tearfully bemoan my lack of housewifery skill. That’s when Hubby and I have the conversation we have had countless times before: Let’s get a cleaner. OK, OK, I’ll make some calls… but I never do. Why? That is a mystery only my therapist can help me unravel. But at last this week when I admitted it was crazy to be putting myself under so much pressure to do something I detest and frankly, suck at, I made a call.

So, she came over. I promised not to clean up before she came. The house wasn’t in too bad a shape to my eyes. Well, it was tidy, at least. Still it felt like she was peering into my unconscious and finding it to be a scary place. She looked around, we decided on a number of hours and what exactly she would be expected to do. Thanks for coming by, hear from you soon about starting date? Yes, nice to meet you too. Yes, goodbye.

Two days later I got The Call. She was going to have to pass on the job. The time slot she was planning to give to me didn’t open up as she was expecting and she had to be honest with herself about her own schedule and energy level. OK, no problem. I understand. Good for you for looking after yourself. Bye.

Suddenly I feel rejected. Was my house even too dirty for a house cleaner?? Seriously, do I suck that badly? I was taking it personally. Because I’m not very nice to myself.

As I scrubbed my kitchen counters and swept the floor this morning I realized there was a bash session going on in my head that I hadn’t been invited to:

You are a TERRIBLE housewife! You can’t even keep the counters clear? Look in that corner! And under there! And, oh, good job on cleaning the oven… I can still smell the smoke from the burnt piece of, what was that? Last week’s pizza? And what the hell is that mush in the back of the fridge? Ugh!

On and on it went as I wiped and de-crumbed. It was kind of like having a drill sergeant in my head: What is it, Young? Scared of a little cleaning? You wuss! You failure as a woman! Drop and give me 50 scrubs of that floor!

But then I stood up straight and fired back at that ugly, yelling fathead. I don’t HAVE to be good at this. So there!

Just because I’m a woman it doesn’t mean I was born knowing how, or liking to scrub toilets. It’s not required. No one expects me to know how – or want – to paint a picture, build a house, fill potholes, or solve global warming. But for some reason cleaning house (and cooking – don’t enjoy that either) is a requirement of my gender. I pay someone to do my taxes, fix my car, and cut my hair, why should I feel any different about cleaning my house? Worst of all, I put this expectation on myself.

Someone once said: Don’t get good at what you don’t want to be doing. Right then, I won’t! I want to be writing and studying. I want to be a happier, less stressed mom and wife. I want to live in a clean house that fills me with contentment not reminders of my “failure.” I want to be authentic! Do what you love and leave the rest to someone else. I’ll make another call. Someone out there is looking for work. I can be a happier failure as a housewife, get my own much-enjoyed work done, and help someone else. Score!

And here are your Prompts (told you I’d find something to journal about!): What are you getting good at but would rather not be? What’s your drill sergeant saying? Do you believe him/her?

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Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization and almost everything in between.
Private coaching – Customized to help you re-INK your own life – available in person or via email.

Trust the process, pt 1 (The Arrival)

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credit: Tiffany Beard

How do even begin to write about my week? It was intense, exhausting, relaxing, exhilarating, freeing, validating, educational, empowering.

On Thursday evening I drove into Goddard College in Plainfield, VT. I felt ill with nerves. Even a walk around the stunningly beautiful campus couldn’t settle the raging butterflies. (This is a campus like no other – an English garden-type maze, a water garden with fountains, garden house complete with carved animal heads, trellised walkways, a clock house… and a barn converted into the community center and Haybarn theater. This also included the silo room – or as my advising group came to call it – the Womb Room.)

I was about to embark on a life-changing adventure as a graduate student. I was facing a week, semester, two years of unknowns. And I’d have a room mate. This was a major challenge to me. Having never gone away to college as an undergrad, I had not experienced the right of passage that is sharing a room the size of a bath tub with a complete stranger. Walking into the room for the first time I was taken aback by the close proximity of the two miniature beds. What if she talked too much, snored, farted… what if I did?

Although I was beyond excited and anxious to start something I had been wanting to do for 15 years, the Unknown was eating away my insides. But once my husband left I became calmer. Stronger. Empowered. I unpacked my clothes and my confidence and went off to meet my fellow graduates.

Now, I don’t mingle well. My shy teenage-self is who usually shows up when the my role (i.e. mother, teacher, bank teller) is undefined and “just me” is standing there, exposed. When I walked into this first “check -in” I quickly realized this was one of those times. I felt my shoulders itching to concave, my eyes to cast down and my acne to pop. But before I had a chance to find a dark corner in which to dissolve, a tall, blond man from Wisconsin asked if I was a newbie. I said I was (could he tell by my deer-in-the-headlights stare?). He welcomed me and asked me what I was going to study. I began to relax and by the end of the evening, thanks to the incredibly welcoming returning students and faculty, I had pulled it off (I think). Joanna: Graduate Student.

That evening sitting on my crunchy bed (sans roomie still) feeling slightly forlorn, I wrote in my journal:

I have this song running through my head: “What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here…” But I do belong here [Our minds love to tell us crazy untruths.]…. A first step on a strange new journey – fearful, excited and a little overwhelmed by the hugeness of it all.

I let those voices of  fear rob me of an opportunity by convincing me not to go away to school at 18 because of The Unknown, of looking foolish in front of strangers and distrust of my own abilities. No more. I ignored the voices and faced my fears. Instead I listened to my passion and believed the path would become visible once I took that step forward.

It did.

Prompt: If I could not fail, I would….

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Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization and almost everything in between.

Private coaching – Customized to help you re-INK your own life – available in person or via email.

I write to know I Am

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The following post is recycled. I happened upon it this morning and it seemed appropriate today to re-post. I have been evaluating my Purpose lately and bottom line is: I need to write. I have no choice in this matter, it is my calling, my need, my salvation. Denying it would be like dragging my spirit along a dirt road; after not too long it would battered, bruised and bleeding.

~~~

It’s not like I write anything personal…

This was me defending my blog. The reaction from a family member was one of disbelief. Griping about my life and sharing my children’s antics is apparently way out of the comfort zone for some. But for me, the day-to-day mundanity of my existence on this planet – the struggles and the milestones – are not anything I am ashamed of or feel the need to hide. In fact, I need to share it, whether anyone reads it or not, so I know that I am alive and here for a reason.

At a family gathering this past weekend there was a discussion about the personal nature and vulnerability of art and various other occupations. Among the nine adults present were two writers, five artists/designers, three teachers, two hairdressers, a nurse, two counselors, and a preacher (most of us were some combination of these). It was agreed that the very act of creating of any kind is a bearing of the soul. The teachers/preachers/counselors also felt the vulnerability of their trade as they tell of their own experience to help others with theirs.

… hanging one of my paintings on the wall is like standing up naked in front of everyone…

When I write it is me that goes into those words. Me is all I know. So, on that plane the very act of writing is intimately personal. When you read my blog you are tasting my essence. And I am willing to give this to you. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be a writer.

When I open the pages of a magazine like Brain, Child I am sometimes astounded by the honesty of the writing. These women lay their very souls down on the page and allow us, the readers, to poke around in their humanity. But it is this very vulnerability that allows us to understand we are not alone – and there’s always someone worse off than us. Recently, a mother told of being arrested for child neglect when she left her pre-teens at the mall with some younger siblings. I have to admit, I myself was surprised, as were many other readers. Consequently, the author has been sorely criticized (beyond reason in some cases) and her story has spread throughout the media channels. She took a chance with the honest telling of her story and suffered for it. At this point in my life I would not have the guts to tell the truth quite so, well, truthfully.

But there is a need for me to tell you things. I feel compelled to. Although, you’re not the one(s) I am speaking to primarily – it is myself. I re-live, assess, and understand my life by putting it into words. Anais Nin wrote,

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.

I remember reading this in my early 20s and understanding exactly what she meant – I have to record my life to better live and appreciate it. The fact that I have allowed you, my readers, into my world and and believe you care is an arrogance. But it is also a yearning for community. I want to share the truth as I see it so I might connect with others who see it the same way – or don’t, but have another, equally valid opinion.

We all yearn to belong, to be a part of something, to believe someone cares about our lives. The meaningful conversations where we actually talk about the way we feel are, in general, missing from our everyday lives. We feel judged and ashamed of the way we feel (we can’t help the way we feel) and so we hide behind brainless chatter. I believe this is why Facebook, Twitter, and texting are so popular. But unfortunately, it has gone to extremes: I don’t care if you are going to the store to buy toilet paper and I didn’t really need to read that a FB friend had “afternoon delight.”

There is a quote from C.S. Lewis that I read when younger which really spoke to me:

We read to know we are not alone.

So I write for those who read so they may know they are not alone. I write to know I have purpose. I write to understand myself. I write to feel alive. And if I happen to inspire someone or help them feel less alone along the way then I have done my job as a writer.

_______

Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization and almost everything in between.

Private coaching – Customized to help you re-INK your own life – available in person or via email.

Because I have been taking myself too seriously…

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I realized something this morning. I miss writing. While I write something everyday – my journal, an article or just a facebook status (does that count?) – I miss what I do best (humble, I know): Write.

I loved everything about blogging when I began writing at jlucymuses.blogspot.com. My days and activities were all potential blog posts and I would stay up late doing what I enjoy the most and which blesses me with FLOW – seeing my words spin into sentences and paragraphs. I loved that I had followers and people who related to the antics of my children or my frustrations as a mother. And writing about those things helped me laugh at myself and take life a little less seriously.

But my ambition took over my love. I had read that I should focus on one blog and I was so intent on doing this online presence thing “right” that I denied my own needs. Please don’t get me wrong, I am passionate about journaling and helping others to gain self-awareness through writing, but I also need to write. And not just about journaling. I want to record the funny image of my naked son running around with only a sheer ballet skirt for a modicum of decency, shouting, “I am a Ballerina Wolf Dad!” I want scream on screen at the washing machine which, in mid-cycle, clunked to a stop, leaving my still-accident-prone son only 10 dripping wet and sudsy pairs of underwear. And I want to share the simple joy of finally planting the barrel in my front yard with flowers.

I have put a part of myself on hold and thrown everything into this venture called Wisdom Within, Ink but the truth is I am not using my own “ink” enough. I am not feeling whole. And even if no one reads these ramblings at least I will be capturing and celebrating the precious moments of my own life in my own words for myself – which in the end is really all that matters.

If you care to join me, I will start writing again at jlucymuses.blogspot.com very soon. If not, I’ll still be here too.

_______

Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization and almost everything in between.

Steppingstones to a new life

Yesterday morning in my journal I wrote:

I am blessed with abundance. I am blessed with the answer. I am a magnet to all the resources I need. What is the answer? I need to know what path to go down today.

This morning I wrote:

Oh, lawd! I feel like a puzzle piece just snapped into place. Thank you! Yesterday I wrote that the answer would come. Yesterday I didn’t know… but today I have my next step in life.

Ira Progoff calls them Steppingstones. They are the moments, the decisions, the experiences that have carried you to the place you are today. Today, the dissonant notes of my life came crashing together and fell into perfect harmony.

I was raised in a fundamental church. As a child I felt loved and cherished surrounded by many “aunties” and “uncles” in a family which segregated itself from, while living and working in, The World. But by the time we moved to America in my early teenage years, the shiny veneer of this community had begun to tarnish.

The next fifteen years were ones of anger, grief, denial and pain. I do not exaggerate when I say I was experiencing the after effects of trauma – emotional trauma. By my early 30s after much reading and self-exploration through journaling, I had finally come to a place of peace and acceptance. I was still searching for meaning in a spiritual sense but at one with the knowledge in my heart that I believed in one thing – Love.

And then last week someone said something to me that ripped my wound open. It became very clear to me that I needed to purge this pain and grief once and for all. But how?

From age 5 I wanted to be a writer. From age 13 I kept a diary. From age 22 I kept a journal. At age 33 I began to call myself an Aspiring Writer and realized I wanted to teach others how to journal. And at 35 I told the world I was a Writer and a Certified Journal Writing Instructor. Two different things. Similar in their love of words but not the same. I started two blogs, one just my musings and the other for journal prompts. I’d write personal essays for various outlets and then I’d go out into the world to share my love and passion for the power of journal writing. I want to empower everyone I meet and I am passionate for them to believe in their dreams, their talents and their potential. Two different worlds: words for me, words for you.

From the moment I was handed the certificate that claimed I had a Bachelor of Arts degree and all the “rights and privileges pertaining thereto” I wanted to go onto grad school. Problem was I had no idea what to go for. 16 years, two states, 5 houses, 7 cats, 2 children later, and approximately 5012 journal entries later, I finally figured it out.

When I finished my certification as a journaling instructor I thought I wanted to go on to study journal/poetry therapy but the medical implications of that did not appeal to me. But I also wanted to write – creative writing. How could I tie my two writing worlds together? I wasn’t sure what to do next.

Then I discovered there is such thing as a self-designed degree in Transformative Language Arts. Very few colleges in the country offer this program and the one recommended in my field just happens to be in my home state, only two hours away from where I live! And because it is self-designed I can incorporate both creative writing and journal writing. But how exactly?

Yesterday while pondering in my journal the next step with my journal workshops I had written that there might be “a slight pull towards religious people.” Why on earth?! Because I want to understand the thinking and maybe help those who have experienced the similar “religious trauma” as me. I wrote, “I’ll look into [grad school] today and see if this is the direction I want to go. What new worlds could that open???”

Then today: Light Bulb! I could write a book as my Masters study – my religious trauma and the healing I get from writing about it and how I could then help others with similar issues.

Stopped in my pen tracks! Fear. Excitement. Doubt. Overwhelm. Combination of both worlds. One giant therapy session! Yesterday I didn’t know I’d be able to combine this curiosity about religion and a degree. And today I have an answer. THANK YOU!

Steppingstones. When you step from one to the other you may feel like they are islands, isolated and disconnected. Just a way to get from here to there. But then you reach a new shore and you turn around to see, that although they are all different – some big, some small, some wobbly and scary – they were all leading to the same place.

And when you bring your journal along to record each step, it can serve as travel agent, telescope, compass, map, and travel log. Today mine is a celebration of self-exploration. Where to next?

Prompt: What are the steppingstones in your life that have gotten you to where you are today?

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P.S. Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization, and almost everything in between.

Sharing your light

I have a friend who used to volunteer as a reading tutor. Her Christmas letter informing me there is nothing as gratifying as helping another person sent me into a self-indulgent, self-hate-fest. I used to complain to my journal or Hubby that I never did anything to help anyone else. I had no desire to volunteer anywhere and I interpreted this as selfishness.

When I worked in customer service at a bank, I admit I went out of my way to help the poor, clueless soul who thought the ATM had mind-reading skills and that the balance on the slip reflected the amount of the check she just wrote at the grocery store five minutes earlier. When I balanced her checkbook at no cost it made me feel good – even though I was later admonished for taking too much time with a non-lucrative customer.

But when I worked at a non-profit youth orchestra I was amazed by the retirees and parents who would take a few hours out of their day to help me stuff and seal thousands of fundraising letters or tune and price-tag dusty violins so they could be placed under the chin of a budding musician. On my day off, that would be the last thing on earth I’d want to be to doing.

Then I found something I believed in. Something I can do, something I love to do and know I do well. Now I want to tell the whole world and I’d do it for free if I could! And that makes all the difference.

Today I received a email from a friend who is going through a difficult time. I had encouraged her to write when she was ready, which she did. This was the final sentence of her message:

Thanks  for showing me a way to sort out thoughts and take control of my life.  You have helped more than you know and I would put that in any brochure or marketing tool you would like!!!!

This is better than a paycheck any day – and it made me cry.

I now know that my earlier “selfishness” was lack of self-esteem, lack of direction, and lack of passion. I now want nothing more than to help people. And I have the knowledge to be able to and the confidence to know that what I have to offer is something I would be selfish NOT to share!

I now know that my friend was right – there is nothing so gratifying as giving of your gifts, talents and knowledge for the benefit of another. And don’t underestimate what you have to offer. There is a certain joy that comes from giving the gift of yourself.

PROMPT: The ability, gift, or special knowledge I have that I could be sharing with others is…