where the writers are
On Being Precious
The Octopus Ride

 

 

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” ~ Buddha

 

Last weekend I participated in the Crystalline Light Expo. The expo was a gathering of holistic healers, empaths, and people who have an appreciation of the metaphysical. The chance to work the expo fell into my lap, and although initially I was not sure what I would do there, I thought it would be a great opportunity to get my feet wet in the local community of spiritually progressive people. (That is how I choose to define the sort of people who attend these gatherings. I do not feel labeling these individuals as being of an “alternative religion” is fair. Alternative to what, exactly? So I identify with those who frequent these types of events, as a spiritual progressive.) These are people who like to think as much as they like to sense. After all, isn’t the nature of holistic living about true balance? Championing balance, I wanted to determine where I fit into this event as a vendor, which seemed to be how I was being led to interact. 

 

Recently I have been studying the writing philosophies of Natalie Goldberg. In her book Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, Goldberg documents an experiment in unconsciousness and writing. Goldberg would sponsor a “Spontaneous Writing” booth. She called her products “poems in the moment.”  For a small fee she would write a page worth of narrative. The focus was on flow--seeing what would come out and not judging it. There was no focus on perfection. The goal was to get the words to the page without worry of revision or polish. I liked Goldberg’s concept the moment I read it in her book. I wanted to add my own empathic spin to it. 

 

I have been highly intuitive for as long as I can remember. My mother has told me stories of how as a child I could see spirits and ghosts. I also come from a long line of healers, empaths, and otherwise spiritual people. I wanted to try a more creative form of automatic writing. I would write using both sides of my brain, to integrate the creative into the psychic subconscious. It is only now that I’m writing this that I can appreciate why I was called to be at the expo, which became an incredibly profound experience for me. 

 

The effect it had on me as a writer was surprising to me. One of my favorite words of advice given to me by my graduate school adviser, Deborah Brevoort, was never to believe that my writing is precious. Until the weekend of the expo I only thought I understood what she meant. I looked at that statement as an affirmation on how not to be hurt when your work is changed or not embraced, loved, or nurtured. I had limited the meaning of her words with the overlay of my own prior experience and knowledge. 

 

What experience had shown me to that point was that people, especially other writers, are guilty of placing art in categories or genres. I cannot express to you my annoyance with writing colleagues, throughout many conversations we’ve had, about classifying themselves and fellow writers by format. 

 

“I’m a poet.”  

“I’m a playwright.” 

“I write fiction...” 

It baffles me. I see myself as a writer. I write. 

 

I recall sitting with a peer of mine several years ago discussing the publication of his upcoming book of poetry. I admire his writing and at the time I was neck deep in my own creative thesis project, a full length play. I told him I’d love to see him write a play, and I was shocked by his response. He looked as if I’d asked him to automatically turn his clothes inside out by merely waving his arms in the air like a literary Houdini. 

 

“I couldn’t do that. I’m a poet.” 

 

I hid my heartache from him in that moment while he made excuses about an inability to write dialogue, because I knew that he had the talent to write a play and that he was limiting himself within his own extraordinary abilities. Writing is just writing, and if you have the gift and desire to guide you, it will happen, I thought. I believed I knew what defines writing. I just forgot to factor into the equation one crucial variable: How being a writer was defining me as an individual. 

 

I arrived late to the expo. I always arrive late. I set up quickly while assessing the other tables and vendors in the banquet hall. Immediately I realized what I was offering was very different from the rest of the fare.  Suddenly I had to define myself for people who might want to pay me for a service, a service that made sense to me, but which I was now having a difficult time explaining to them. 

 

At my core I know I’m a writer. I am happiest when I am writing. Even when my writing brings me to tears, I am happy. Now, I had to share that happiness... and it wasn’t until the expo had concluded that I realized how selfish and unfocused I have been. 

 

My first client sat down and asked for a writing. I asked her name, date of birth, and favorite color. From there I just wrote. I wrote what I sensed, what I noticed, and what I heard spoken in my head. The words seeped onto the page from my pen channeled by my gifts as an empath. It went quickly and I made my best efforts not to judge what I was doing.  It was approximately five minutes from the time I began writing to the time I ripped the purple page of paper from the legal pad I wrote on. With the tearing of the page I sensed an unease in myself.  

 

In that moment I couldn’t identify from where that feeling stemmed, except that it felt exhilarating in the same way it had waiting in line to ride the Octopus ride at the carnival when I was a kid. My family went to the carnival nearly every year when I was a child, and we sold barbecue from a cart. I loved the Octopus and the way the ride undulated up and down while traveling in circles as each individual compartment twisted to the beat of arena rock from the 1970s and 1980s. I cannot remember ever feeling so alive or lost in pure joy. I liked the idea of being flung about back and forth in the universe. When I was a girl I didn’t assess how this might be a metaphor for my way of thinking. I just enjoyed the ride. 

 

With each page I tore from the brand new legal pad, purchased specially for this experience, I began to feel like I was letting a very personal piece of myself go, again and again. It wasn’t until the expo had concluded and I was sitting in my car crying that I realized how much being a writer defines me. In fact, my writing was so much a part of me that the idea of giving it away so freely, even for a brief moment, sent me into a bout of anxiety. I would never see those sentences or sentiments again. What if I had just let go of some of the best parts of my soul? I felt fear creeping through my chest and radiating into my heart, my heart that loves so intensely. The realization hit me that I identify myself as my writing, and because I love to write I might be afraid to give my love away without overanalyzing what was in it for me.  I had come to believe that my writing and I in combination were precious, and yet maybe not quite as special when separated.

 

The process of being balanced is the basis. I have spent so much time and effort on being happy, intelligent, and loved but somehow I had lost sight on being truly balanced. Balance is the foundation of all other growth and without it the process of enlightenment and being your higher self becomes stagnant and spins hopelessly in circles. I have been spinning in circles and so in love with the motions of the ride that I was unable to see that I was simply rotating in place. I know I’m strong enough to get off this ride, identify bad patterns, and work toward what will truly make me happy.  I am working on the understanding that giving something away, especially love, will not diminish who I am. And, I know I have vast amounts of love to give.