This past week I finally was able to attend a meeting of our local writer’s group. I’d been wanting to go but somehow I never could make it work. I’ve felt the need to be part of a critique group so I could get feedback on my writing, which I believe will help me to grow in my craft.
Being my first meeting, and feeling brave, I offered to read the Foreword to my book that I’m writing. As I sat and listened to other writers reading their work and getting feedback, I began to feel a little anxious. Though there was a mixture of the positive and negative, some of the negative seemed to be a little harsh and inane. Each person giving feedback was expressing their opinion and reflecting what they considered to be acceptable, correct, and properly written.
When it was my turn to read I was very nervous, because by this time I was sensing that the majority of this group would not be interested in the subject matter I was writing about. I almost backed out, but being a risk-taker I decided, “what the heck” and plunged in head first and read my piece. There was silence in the room when I finished reading, and I was thinking “Uh-oh, here we go.” Finally, a lady said, “May I ask you a question?”
My heart pounding, I replied, “Yes, you may.”
“What are your credentials?”
I sat dumfounded not quite knowing how to answer. Even though I knew what my answer to that type of question would be, I had trouble coming up with a response. What I heard in her question was, “Who are you to write a self-help book?” Finally, stumbling all over myself I spouted out some ridiculous answer that didn’t even make sense to me, and had nothing to do with why I was writing this book. I’d tell you what I said, but I can’t remember.
From there, the feedback for the most part went downhill for me. My personal beliefs, that are the basis for the book, were called into question and were labeled as clichés. In all fairness, there were some positive comments also that I felt were very constructive. I made notes on what I felt I could use and sat there feeling dejected and wondering what made me think I should be writing this book. I was very upset with myself for offering to read and all I wanted to do was go home and lick my wounds.
As I was telling my husband about what happened at the meeting and how I was feeling, I realized that I was doubting my ability as a writer. Perhaps I needed to put this nonsense about writing away and go find a job. I went to bed still upset and embarrassed that I’d gone to that meeting and presented myself as a writer. Obviously, this book I was working on was not something I should be doing. I felt a heaviness in my heart, and I fell asleep questioning my ability to write a self-help book.
I woke up quite a few times during the night and always had the same question on my heart for Spirit, which was,” Please show me what I need to see and help me learn what I need to learn in all of this.” I’d then fall back to sleep, but I must say, I had a disturbing night.
When I woke up the next morning, I got my coffee and went to my meditation chair where I sit almost every morning. It’s my quiet spot, my rocker that seems to reach its arms out and hold me as I sit. It’s my place of comfort where I can look outdoors at nature and quietly listen to the voice within. As I rocked, I began thinking about the night before. I started writing,which is what I do when I need to make sense of something, and I suddenly had an aha moment. I remembered one of my favorite quotes from Bob Mandell, “present in each upset is a setup.” I’ve believed this quote for years and have experienced how universal, intelligent energy sets us up to experience whatever our heart is crying for. And the setup many times comes in the form of an upset.
As I was able to back away from my ego and just be with my raw pain, I put myself in a position to see the gift that was inherent in the upset. One thing I know for a certainty, is when I feel emotional pain I’m at a crossroads in life. At that moment I can choose to either be with the pain and find the gift spirit is presenting, or I can stay stuck in ego and let the pain morph into anger. I know I’m in ego when I justify to myself that I don’t deserve what happened, and question, “who do they think they are anyway?”
Upsets are not about the other person, they’re always about us and the emotions and reactions that have been triggered. As I allowed myself to remember this great truth about life, I saw the gift I was given at that meeting. Thinking about the lady who asked me about my credentials, made me realize the importance of being a responsible writer. Since I’m writing a day book, I need to be very careful to validate my writings and processes with substance. Just telling people how I feel and what I know, and offering them a written process to assist them in getting to a different place in their life is not going to be enough. My readers need to have the information I have had that has enabled me to see life in a different perspective and slide comfortably into the healing processes I have experienced. I know I do not need a PhD behind my name to write the type of book I’m writing. I have what many PhD’s do not have, and that is first hand knowledge and experience about my topic. I believe I can lead people down a path of peace and contentment in life because I’ve been down that road. But, I need to give the readers something solid to stand on if they choose to take that path.
Because the other writers at the meeting questioned the validity of some of the statements I made in the Foreword, labeling them as clichés, I understood the importance of including evidence to show these truths to be time-honored and valid. I’d been in a rush to get this book done so I could get it out before the new year, but I realized I needed to take my time and make sure I offered important links and stories to my work. I’d already finished the first three months of the book , but after hearing what was said I decided to go back to page one and re-read everything and add the substance that was missing. As I started looking back at the work I’d done, I saw a lot of fluff and knew that my readers deserved more. Instead of trying to finish my book by October 2011, I’ve decided it’s more important to take my time and create a book that is truthful, clear, substantive and of value to the reader.
I’m grateful that Spirit reminded me to look for the gift in the upset. I’m a writer and I’m being called to do this work at this time in my life and I want to do it with integrity and with a listening heart. It’s imperative that I stay open to feedback, and be ever mindful of chewing the meat and spitting out the bone. In this situation the meat was the critiquing, the bone was the spirit in which some of the feedback was given. I will continue to attend these meetings and be a part of this group and hopefully to grow as a writer. And I can do this as long as I remember to be mindful of the setup in all of the upsets.
My prompts from Paul for this week were: rushed (duh!), paste, log, and spoil.