“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he (or she) does not become a monster.” Friedrich Nietzsche
The monsters, villains, antagonists, and antiheroes are here for one purpose and one purpose only: to awaken the hero. In each of us. The Trouble Makers, as it turns out, are a great asset to us both individually and collectively. Just as there is no good story without a villain, there is no life without them either.
They’re here. Sometimes they are hidden behind the scenes, sometimes they are out in the open.
In my Buddhist practice we approach our Trouble Makers as our teachers. If not for them we may get all lazy and complacent. We may not see the true value of applying our principles and ethics. We may even forget our dreams and intentions. They also bring us to our practice. We are less likely to practice when our life is all puppies and rainbows. And your readers are not going to identify with a protagonist who isn’t fighting a villain. Boring. Sleepy land.
In nature, everything must break apart, be destroyed for creation to happen. The seed must be destroyed if the stem is to break through the dirt and reach the light. Natural fires allow for a balanced ecosystem. You know: you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. The old typically has to fall apart to make room for the new.
There’s now a monster in the White House. And if our collective story unfolds as it can (and often does), he and his cronies will bring out the Best in each of us. Getting lazy may be an option but only at the demise of our democracy and personal and collective integrity.
So, put pen to paper. Help fight the monsters.
My writing circles for this round are filled up. But I will be offering retreats and classes, some through the UW, Madison at Writers’ Institute and Write-By-The-Lake.
I do have openings in my RED THREAD Circle that starts up in November: Monthly Spiritual Circle: Taking Hold of the Red Thread: Touching Reality in our Everyday Lives. Gather together with others who are the heroes in their own story.
In one of my writing circles Someone said “I’m in,” after she checked in. Most of us tend to say, “I’m done.” This idea of being “in” rather than “done” took hold and now several people when finished with their check-ins say, “I’m in.”
Acknowledging that we are in demonstrates the difference between saying we are friends and being in a friendship. Being married or being in a marriage. We may have lots of friends on Facebook but only a few can claim a true friendship. In, is active, means you are engaged and showing up for yourself and others. I’m in is a commitment and acknowledgment of willing participation.
In writing you want to be all in. It’s one thing to say you’re a writer and another to be in your writing. “I’m in” shows up on the page for the reader because an engaged writer narrates better than one that is forcing some process or isn’t all in. An “I’m in” writer lets the writing take us where it will.
2018–2019 Consultation Circle for Writers: Work with an established Author & Instructor Starts in OCTOBER, 2018
Starting in OCTOBER of 2018 I will begin my next Year-long Writing Consultation Circle. We meet the first Wednesday of the month for a year
The cost is $35 a month and includes my critiquing up to 4 pages, writing partnership with other writers, monthly guidance, writing prompts and tools, instruction and support.
IF YOU ARE WORKING ON A BOOK or book idea this circle is for you! It helps a great deal to be part of such a circle, even if it means only meeting once a month and exchanging a few pages with your writing partner and with me. Most successful writers rely on support from others who have written and are living the writer’s life.
Write Meaningful Nonfiction: Turn Your Personal Experiences, Knowledge, and Journaling into an Inspiring Book, Blogs, or Other Writing
Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat
Some time in June, 2018
9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. each day
Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St., Madison
Write meaningful nonfiction based on your personal experiences and knowledge.
Write a book based on just an idea or theme.
Write on a subject that has captivated your attention.
Write a book taken from your blogs.
Write a book, blog or article based from your field notebooks.
Write transformational nonfiction based on journal entries or letters.
Write a book based on your travels, spiritual experience, encounters or views.
It’s not about trying to fit into our clothes, rather, having clothes that fit. Every scene in our life holds the potential for presence and connection. Vulnerability is our best protection. A little yoga goes a long way. If a sentence, job, scene, or relationship doesn’t work stop trying to force things along. There are no secrets. We have nothing to prove to anyone (and everything to learn). We are here to discover. Grief takes as long as it takes. A divided life is exhausting. (If you are living a divided life you are likely exhausted). Practice meeting everyone and …
I tend to write more from my life than about my life. Journal writing is a way to be in conversation with all that is going on around us and inside of us. That’s one reason I don’t leave home without a field notebook. Often my blogs (as you have likely come to realize) are about what is happening right now, what I’m figuring out or encountering at this time. This is how I’ve written most of my books and now how I am approaching my novel.
I have developed what I call a Conversational Arc that helps writers explore a question and theme. Because life at its core is conversational, anything that keeps us engaged in this conversation helps us achieve our creative intentions. (I have an upcoming retreat/writeshop on Staying In The Conversations: A Transformational Writers’ Writeshop FRIDAY, January 11th.)
After seven months away from writing my novel, I re-joined Julie’s monthly writing circle ready to begin again. I’d finally finished the first draft on Christmas Eve, 2015. The next step was clear: spend the next year writing the second draft.
Julie uses the analogy of climbing a mountain to frame our approach to our writing and writing circle. We were at the base camp, about to begin our climb. What’s our intentions as we begin this journey? What keeps us going? What do we need to complete the climb?
Buddhist teachings reveal how distraction from the moment, and the reality of the moment, leads to confusion, apathy and misinterpretation of reality. But too many pasttimes are just that – built in to distract us.
One of the great distractions is television, now extended to the screens of our computers and phones. Advertisements brag how we can watch our favorite shows any where, any time. Why wait in line in silence, or in conversation with those around you, when you can watch the little screen on your phone? I remember when going on a road trip meant we shared in conversation and games as the scenes and landscape changed.
And our landscape is changing, right now.
One of my favorite writing coaches is Steven Pressfield, author of War of Art. His Wednesday blog: Writing Wednesday is consistently worth my time. Today he writes about Elements of a Great Villain, both the external ones and the internal ones in great stories.
“What qualities do these Hall of Fame antagonists have in common?
We writers and spiritual pilgrims are world builders, shape shifters; we make heroes, and, we identify and fight villains. We can be the hero in our own lives and stories. We discover personal truth where ever we are courageous enough to explore; we can consider any possibility. We can risk everything or risk nothing.
Over the past few weeks I have heard a certain reference multiple times: We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.
In my writing, teaching and counseling, as well as in my own spiritual and relational life, the shaping of my experiences gets down to a willingness to keep an explorer’s mind. Instead of going into something all sure of what it is about, we open our heart and mind to the experience. I do the same as I write. Even as I write this blog for you I maintain a curiosity about my subject. I explore. I hold a conversation with my ideas. This way I discover a lot more than if I came in with a set idea of what is suppose to happen, or what I “should” write about.
Life at its essence is conversational.
Most important is to have your own thoughts, build your worlds and views. Establish a foundation and communication with your true self, your heart and soul. For this, John O’donahue recommends that we develop a language of, and with, our own soul. My book, Wheel of Initiation helps each of us create our own soul language. “We must find ourselves in ourselves,” as Dostoevsky said. Too many people do not know the sacred language of their own souls. They don’t know what they are truly saying to themselves. Because we are an “eternal essence,” (John O’donahue, Anam Cara), a spiritual being having a human experience, the Mystery of who we are cannot be limited to our work, roles or whatever scam our ego may be selling us. And, it can never be who others say, or insist, we are.
“Some nights stay up till dawn as the moon sometimes does for the sun. Be a full bucket, pulled up the dark way of well then lifted out into the light. Something opens our wings, something makes boredom and hurt disappear. Someone fills the cup in front of us, we taste only sacredness.” ( -Thirteenth-century Persian prayer, translated by Robert Bly)
Want help with your exploring? Contact me for a session. For the month of May and June I am offering discounted consultations for my blog readers.
About the Author
Julie Tallard Johnson lives outside of Spring Green Wisconsin on 40 acres of woodland and prairie. She is author of The Zero Point Agreement and 10 other books.