We tend to put ourselves through more unnecessary distress and suffering than anybody else could possibly inflict upon us. Most creative people encounter what I did in my late twenties as I ventured out on my own to build my private practice and write my first book. I felt like a big fake. Who was I to counsel people? Who was I to author a book? This is known as the imposter syndrome and is understood clinically as the psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. We just don’t know our own capabilities! We doubt our capacities. We are constantly limiting ourselves or letting outside circumstances limit us. My spiritual teacher at the time said that he would be worried about me if i hadn’t had these internal struggles of inadequacy. He assured me that this phenomenon is common and that we should be reluctant to trust someone who doesn’t have such internal conversations.
When the imposter syndrome is activated we often put our life on hold; we tend to put things off because we don’t believe in ourselves. Since creativity relies on one’s efforts, you could say everything responds to this creative effort. But we resist such efforts and come up with many reasons for putting life on hold—an aversion to risk, fear of the unknown and of exposure, and the intimacy of the creative life. When feeling inadequate somehow we seek to keep ourselves safe in the norm of inactivity or business.
In his book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield explores the battle between the unlived life and the life we live. “Between the two,” he shows, “stands resistance.” we put our lives on hold because we have to heal first, or get into the right relationship, or have enough time or money to create our masterpiece, or find the perfect space or home that will sustain our creative life.
You get this, don’t you? Clutter is often a manifestation of this agreement to put our creative life on hold. As the piles of paper, waste, and stuff accumulate; it gives us more and more things we have to get to before we can get to our creative lives. then, the door closes and it is too late.
Many people share that they feel selfish when pursuing a dream or a passion. this feeling may actually point to how they are finally taking care of themselves.
From then on I took this psychological phenomenon of feeling like a fake as a pointer to just keep going. (This syndrome rises up with every new endeavor of mine, though, less intensely).
No one knows fully where personal inspiration originates. Most scholars and experts at critical junctures of creativity feel as if they don’t know what they are doing. But they keep going anyway. And each of us can too.
Just keep going; keep writing.
Anyone doing something truly inventive or creative will encounter this imposter syndrome or some flavor of resistance. The method behind creativity and success relies on our willingness to keep moving. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from don Quixote: “until death it is all life.”
Want to buy this Writing Sherpa a cup of coffee? Here's how: Click here: A Cuppa Java for Julie.
Mind•Body•Word: 3 Days of Yoga & Writing at Holy Wisdom Monastery YOGA & Writing Retreat this August, 2019. August 27, 28, and 29. Explore True Self on the mat and page with yoga teacher (and blogger) Molly Chanson and Writing Sherpa and counselor, Julie Tallard Johnson Three days of attending to mind, body and word in a beautiful, natural setting. Includes meals, writing prompts, retreat time, time to write, yoga for any level, inspiration. $150.00 To register contact: Molly Chanson at firstname.lastname@example.org. 773-259-1202
Monthly Transformative Circle: The Red Thread: Touching Reality in our Everyday Lives at Healing Services on the River in Prairie Du Sac, WI Meets monthly on the 2nd THURSDAY evening of each month, 6 to 9 pm starts AUGUST, 2019. Gather together with others once a month for a year to explore what is truly meaningful and possible for you. We will use two of my books: The The Zero Point Agreement: How To Be Who You Already Are, along with, The Red Thread: Touching Reality in our Everyday Lives through Contemplation and Action. THE RED THREAD BOOK's publication date: April 2020! The Red Thread book and circles are based on the core teachings and Circles of Trust by Parker J Palmer. Connect more strongly to what matters to you. This is my 3rd decade of offering such circles. This circle is open to 11 participants. Learn more and sign up.
LAUNCHING NEW ON-LINE COURSE: (How to) BE THE CAUSE OF YOUR LIFE (rather than the effect). Starts Friday June 14th. Take any time, and at your own pace. This course is an invitation to increase your authenticity through strengthening your personal boundaries and developing your courage. There is so much that hinders us in accessing our inner truth, trusting our experience, and living freely. How to BE THE CAUSE OF YOUR LIFE series is a way to ignite or reignite your truest, most authentic self. The course gives you simple means to be yourself, to be the cause of your life. This course is a means to develop and trust your intuition, your inner-knowing. Where all lessons are simple, they are also quite profound in their transformative abilities. You will awaken more to yourself, your confidence and your knowingness through the application of these lessons. You will know what is yours to deal with and what is not yours. We start with a free-20 minute phone consultation. Learn more and sign up.
"It’s never too late for a happy childhood." –A popular bumper sticker
We are always writing from the past. Everything but this very moment is memory. In fiction and nonfiction alike we create stories from what we remember. Just so with life, we live off our past . . . everything we thought, chose, did and ignored got us to here. Pretty powerful really, when you think about it.
Think about it.
"Everything," as John Muir said, "is connected to everything else." For the writer we want to make sure that our narrative and all the dramas and events connect. In memoir we can't just report what happened. We have to have many entry points and narratives to help the reader stay with our story. We have to show them the connections (not tell them). We have to trust ourselves as we listen in on our past.
Many nonfiction writers ask about what Voice and perspective to use: the one from the past or the one writing the story in the present? My answer is: both!
You have two voices and perspectives when writing memoir or autobiographical pieces -- the one who had the experience and the one I refer to as the Wisdom Keeper. The one having the experience is written from what you knew or didn't know then, what you experienced then. The past voice will be almost all show and no tell . . . though, you will have thoughts to share as your past self. The Wisdom Keeper Voice gets to slip in that wisdom from the present -- something you know now that you didn't know then (likely a hell of a lot!). The Wisdom Keeper Voice holds the hand of the reader, they feel you there as they read. They know you are likely going to make it through most your troubles but the reader doesn't know how. You don't point out to the reader these two distinct voices, you simply hold them in your consciousness as you write. You know when you are writing from the past; and, you know when you are writing using the wisdom accumulated from all your experiences. The reader will hear the difference. Sometimes you will refer to this present day wisdom, but don't hit the reader over the head with this.
In fiction, your characters may have these two perspectives as well, and as the writer you will distinguish these for the reader.
A good practice is to contemplate the present scene of your life or the life of a fictional character in lieu of the past. What did it take to get here?
Go ahead, take a look. I have a hold of your hand.
Your beliefs become your thoughts,
your thoughts become your words,
your words become your actions,
your actions become your habits,
your habits become your values,
your values become your destiny. –Mahatma Gandhi
Want to buy this Writing Sherpa a cup of coffee? Here's how: Click here: A Cuppa Java for Julie. (So, I'm trying this out. My All Write Wednesday blogs will always be free. And I will always offer up free consultations at various times and places. I so enjoy helping and inspiring writers, like you. I also believe that everything I do as a writer, educator and counselor (as well as parent and citizen) sets an example. I believe writers should get paid for their work. So thank you for your support, in all its manifestations.)
Our subtle body exists deep underneath our physical form and our ego mind. It holds secrets and wisdom, pain and truth. This emotional and soulful part of us is our True Self. To explore it through our yoga practice, we quiet our thoughts, lead with our heart, and observe the sensations.
But then what? I’ve draped my body over my leg in Pigeon Pose, when tears emerge and start falling from my eyes. I allow, and I try to make sense of it after class. But how, and what does it mean?
It’s a process, but with practice, listening to your body through yoga and interpreting the subtle aspects gets easier and more intuitive. After a while, your awareness of the subtle body spills into your daily life and even into your dreams. You receive messages all around you. You learn to trust yourself. You learn to stay, rather than run. You learn to accept your emotions and your pain. You learn that you don’t need to hide. You learn that you actually CAN.
Digging deep during your yoga practice takes strength, bravery, and compassion. Twisting out grief and opening Chakras requires endurance and forgiveness. Getting your thoughts out, by writing them down, is yet another form of listening to your body. And a great next step to exploring your true self through yoga. Writing validates and gives voice to your experience and your sensations. It’s a great tool to open, and make sense of it all.
I started writing around the time I felt my marriage coming apart. I had no idea what was happening, or what would soon unfold, but I’m so glad I listened to my body’s call to write. The page is a space to heal, a space to explore, a nonjudgmental space to “speak” your truth.
Writing and yoga go so well together because they both grant access to the same hidden space in our body, but they unearth the blocks through very different processes. While yoga brings us to awareness, an up-close and personal look at reality, writing illuminates that awareness, and creates a tangible word on the page that articulates how we feel. Voicing our emotions, writing them down, heals. It’s like opening our throat chakra in Fish Pose or confiding in a friend over coffee.
Any pain you are holding, any struggle you are facing, any new venture you are embarking, all can be explored and understood through writing.
But I’m not a writer!?
When you write, you do not need to be an expert. Like a yoga practice, it does not matter if you are flexible or seasoned. It does not matter if you write eloquently - you benefit from the PRACTICE regardless.
The myth of the artist and the writer prevents those who feel they are not “creative” enough to write. Writing is merely a form of self-expression which means it’s inside of all of us. It’s a way to create an impact with our voice - whether that impact is professional or personal. If your writing impacts you and your awareness of Self, that is enough, and your practice is worthwhile.
I’m so impressed with where my yoga and writing practices have taken me - through my divorce, through my addiction, through my anxiety and depression, through my loneliness, my confusion, my triumphs, my motherhood, and my womanhood. Man or woman, writing and yoga can do the same for you.
I’m joining forces with my amazing writing sherpa, Julie Tallard Johnson, a transpersonal counselor, teacher, and author of 11 books, to offer our first retreat, Mind, Body, Word: 3 Days of Yoga and Writing in beautiful Madison, WI. With daily yoga, meditation, writing prompts, and personal time for reflection, we’ll explore the subtle body and hidden self and allow our intuitive and creative spirit to access our soul. Come open and leave inspired and renewed. I’m excited to share all I learn from my teacher training, as well as my 25 years of yoga experience, in order to guide you through whatever it is your body needs.
Here is more info on the retreat and the link to sign up: Mind•Body•Word: 3 Day Yoga & Writing Retreat.
In the meantime, continue on, dear Yogi, and consider keeping a journal next to your mat - you’ll be surprised at what comes up.
when I walked down the road
taking only You,
until the noise became less—and the light more true, then
the river began to flow again
under my skin.
"Even the most devastating experiences can be doorways to contemplation.” Parker J. Palmer
I am finishing up the final touches to my Red Thread manuscript before I send it on to the publisher. The book is peppered with verses and poems by Rebecca Cecchini and quotes from Parker J Palmer. These offerings are like sutras, and provide gaps in my narrative and teachings to allow the reader to take pause and contemplate.
Pausing and contemplating. Sounds good, yes?
“The kind of truth that matters does not make itself known to those who shout for it to come out and then try to batter down the door. The truth that matters must trust us before we can have a relationship with it.” –Parker J. Palmer, The Promise of Paradox
When we pause and contemplate in our writing and life our words and life speak to us. Our life experience answers all the questions we have about who we are, what we want and what's working and not working. Is our life flowing forward? How does this relationship or job feel in our body? What am I giving my time to? Where is my joy? What am I grieving? Is this the story I want to be writing? Are we pounding on closed doors?
“As often happens on the spiritual journey, we have arrived at the heart of a paradox: each time a door closes, the rest of the world opens up. All we need to do is stop pounding on the door that just closed, turn around-which puts the door behind us-and welcome the largeness of life that now lies open to our souls. The door that closed kept us from entering a room, but what now lies before us is the rest of reality.” (Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak)
Take time today, every day ideally, to pause and to check in with yourself. Your life and writing needs no forcing or pounding. . . as life naturally moves forward. Be still and know.
Listen to your life.
It is not we who are to be tested in the trials that await,
but those principles on which we stand. In this knowing should be our comfort and peace.
blind in a way are all our travels and trusting.
don't try to keep your heart from breaking. That is as it should be.
but trust the metal of love more than anything else as your beam, and when you fall, fall
full-knowing into the strong arms of compassion. even those
you can't see. —Rebecca Cecchini
Mind•Body•Word: 3 Days of Yoga & Writing at Holy Wisdom Monastery
YOGA & Writing Retreat this August 27, 28, and 29: Includes all meals and classes.
Explore True Self on the mat and page with yoga teacher (and blogger) Molly Chanson and writing sherpa and counselor, Julie Tallard Johnson. Three days of attending to mind, body and word in a beautiful, natural setting. To register contact: Molly Chanson at email@example.com. 773-259-1202
From Journal to Reader
4 Evenings of Turning Your Ideas, Experiences & Journals into Blogs, Articles, Essays, or Books
Create something meaningful for readers from your JOURNALS and NOTES. Or learn how to USE YOUR JOURNALS and notes to make a great written piece. From Journal to Reader: 4 Evenings of Turning Your Ideas and Journals into Blogs, Articles, Essays, or Book for Readers. 4 Thursday nights, two in June and two in July at Healing Services on the River in Prairie du Sac. June 13th and 27th; July 11th and 25th. 5:30 pm till 9:00. Room for 10. Register soon, as this will fill up. Your investment is $220.00, includes personal attention and consultation and critique of 10 pages. You will leave with a solid template and path to sharing your ideas with the world. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“How would we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.” W.H. Auden, taken from, The More Loving One
Being appreciated and recognized as a writer is lovely. – Acceptance and recognition is something that we want but rejections, being edited and rebuffed are part of the writer's life. However, when we do get an acceptance from a publisher or editor, we often forget all the rejections it took to get there. I could wall paper my home with the rejections I received on my first manuscript. I landed Doubleday with that book. I had rejections from agents and publishers for my latest manuscript (my 11th book), until I received a contract from Shanti Arts. A perfect publisher for this book and its message.
I see that all my acceptances (even in personal relationships) are built on upon a multitude of rejections.
So, viva la rejections. This literally translates into LIVE THE REJECTIONS.
Then, after the acceptances, comes the editing, which becomes another dance of letting go on what we thought our piece would look like. The editor will reject some of your sentences, and challenge your ideas and how you present them on the page. Excellent! These mini rejets are again what will lead to something beautifully written.
So viva the mini rejections!
I submitted a feature article to the local paper, not having all the skills for this particular genre of writing. The editor accepted my article but I had to work on the craft of writing for a paper. So, his mini rejets made for a better article.
"Love the piece more than yourself," Matt Geiger, executive editor of the local paper said to me (as he challenged some of my writing!). Such great advice to all of us writers: make the piece more important than feeding your ego. Have our focus be on making something beautiful, or at least something of interest to our readers.
In this weeks consultation with the I Ching I received: "Concern yourself not with the form things take but with there content." An invitation to cut through my bravado and concerns about appearances . Instead, I can focus on what makes this piece genuine and meaningful to me, and hopefully, to my readers.
Create something meaningful for readers from your JOURNALS and NOTES. Or learn how to USE YOUR JOURNALS and notes to make a great written piece. From Journal to Reader: 4 Evenings of Turning Your Ideas and Journals into Blogs, Articles, Essays, or Book for Readers. 4 Thursday nights, two in June and two in July at Healing Services on the River in Prairie du Sac. June 14th and 28th; July 11th and 25th. 5:30 pm till 9:00. Room for 10. Register soon, as this will fill up fast. Your investment is $220.00, includes personal attention and consultation and critique of 10 pages. You will leave with a solid template and path to sharing your ideas with the world. Contact me at email@example.com.
“You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.” Neil Gaiman
Join up with other writers, agents, authors, writing mentors and coaches at UW, Continuing Studies 30th Writers’ Institute. April 4-7th, on the beautiful (and historical) Madison campus.
Jane Friedman and Jennie Nash are the Keynote Speakers. (Jane alone would be worth the admission.) But the benefits, connections and resources only start here! Explore a plethora of possible avenues to writing success with a personalized pathway to publication.
I will be offering advanced manuscript critiques (a few slots left). And, I will be one of the coaches for this year’s PATHWAY TO PUBLICATION mentorship program. If 2020 is your year to complete your manuscript or to get published, this is the program for you. Take advantage of this EXCLUSIVE publishing opportunity for attendees of the 2019 Writers’ Institute.
Okay, hope to see you there.
"Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and adventures are the shadow truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes and forgotten." Neil Gaiman
"Once one has eyes to see it, wholeness can always be found, hidden beneath the broken surface of things." Parker J Palmer, On The Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity and Getting Older.
Whether the brokenness comes from within or without, writing can open a way in and through our brokenness.
We all fall, get our hearts broken, experience disappointment and loss, get scared and feel our separateness from others. To write gives us a way to be present with all the brokenness and then to discover its hidden wholeness. A wholeness that consistently resides within and around us. Writing gives permission to our vulnerability and a way to be intimate with all that scares us. Writing is both a way to contemplate the world and a way to stay engaged.
My book, The Zero Point Agreement, was (unknown to me at the time), a love letter to my future self and readers. A way to lay a path down and give myself a place to go. What I find to be true is, what we experience as we write is experienced by the reader as they read.
My novel (which is nearing completion!) is a place for me to play, learn and explore. I get to go into places through fiction writing that are off limits elsewhere.
Now, my up and coming book, The Red Thread, based in part on conversations with, and teachings of Parker J Palmer, helped me to live more whole and courageously in a broken world. I intend my future readers to tap further into their courage and wholeness. On Valentines Day I received a contract to publish this book with Shanti Arts.
I am grateful to the time I give myself to write and to read. I have traveled on the page places I would otherwise have missed.
apparent in the world
Beyond that world of opposites
is an unseen, but experienced,
unity and identity in us all"
– Joseph Campbell, Reflections on the Art of Living
Write about that.
Meet up with me and other writers at Sjolinds in Mount Horeb Friday March 1st, 10 till 1:00, to write and visit. I will happily consult with you on your writing.
Here is a thing my heart wishes
the world had more of:
I heard it in the air of one night
when I listened to a mother
singing softly to a child
restless and angry in the darkness. Carl Sandburg, WindSong
Poetry helped me make sense of my teenage years. I still have my copy of Wind Song by Carl Sandburg along with Leanord Cohen’s Selected Poems and Rumi. If I open Wind Song too far or too fast the binder will snap. I would likely have been more alone, and my mind less connected to the metaphorical reality of life if it weren’t for my poets. Poems and metaphors make connections where there appears to be none. Metaphor and poetry don’t render us stuck on just one thing – one idea or perception, or relying on someone else’s idea; poetry lets us come to understand something in our own way.
Meet Matt Geiger. I met Matt by responding to an ad in the local Buyers Guide. I was new to Mount Horeb and searching for connection and opportunities to meet my neighbors. So, instead of throwing out the Guide, I took a look. (It was a lonely night and one never knows where inspiration and connection can be found.) I didn't find anything until up in the right-hand corner on the last page was a small ad for a reporter. I applied and Matt (the Managing editor) asked me to send my resume and a writing example. I sent him a recent All Write Wednesday blog. I figured he wouldn't be interested. I figured wrong. I have been writing articles on the Town of Blue Mounds board meeting for 5 months now. When I shared my new writing job with a friend she gave me Matt's first book, “Raised by Wolves & Other Stories.” He has since visited my writing circles where he has astonished and inspired us all. Matt Geiger’s debut book, “Raised by Wolves & Other Stories” won First Prize in the Midwest Book Awards and was named as a Finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the American Book Fest. His new book, “Astonishing Tales!” was named by Cyrus Webb as one of the best non-fiction books of 2018. He currently lives in Wisconsin with his wife and their four-year-old daughter.
Playing With Words by Matt Geiger
We are a narrative species.
Each animal has its own special adaptations that allow it to survive, and sometimes even thrive, in a hostile world. Giraffes have their long necks. Cheetahs have their speed. Birds of paradise have their resplendent plumage. Turtles have their shells. Wolverines have mandibles shellacked in bone marrow.
And we have our stories.
When other species are young, they play with their gifts, honing their adaptations to a razor’s edge. The baby pronghorn jumps and runs, practicing maneuvers that will one day keep its haunches just out of a pursuing wolf’s snapping jaws. The baby tiger stalks a leaf.
We play, too. We play with words. And once we are good enough, we play with stories. Because stories are how we survive. They are how we elude the devils that pursue us, and they are how we give meaning to magnificent little lives that, when you think about the scale of the cosmos, and billions of years that our earth has been here, and the 200,000 years that our species has been walking and wondering, are so very small.
One of the most important things stories do is to help us really see the world around us.
There is a bumper sticker, popular in the part of the country where I live, that proclaims: “If you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention!” I think the opposite is true. Outrage is easy. Outrage will come to you. You don’t even have to try. Your phone will deliver outrage directly to your eyes, which will instantly transfer it to your amygdala, where it will fester and eventually cause you to lash out at your fellow human beings, before it eventually gives you a heart attack or a stroke.
You don’t have to pay attention to be outraged. Outrage is for the lazy. What you really need to pay attention in order to see, is all the beauty, and all the humor, that paint the spaces between the anger in our vast world. Those are real, and they are here with us, but it is they that require effort on our part. It is they that require vision. If you don’t see them, you aren’t paying attention.
And that is where stories come in. You have to be observant, and you have to assume your readers are not. Yet.
Stories help us see the world around us. They disrupt our habitual perception of the world, shaking us out of the autopilot we use to get through our days. They make us really see. And once we start really seeing the world, what we find is not horrible, cruel, evil, ugly things - which we knew were there all along - but rather beautiful, funny, wonderful things.
Beauty and humor mean nothing if you do not see them. You, as a writer, show them to people, really put them in front of people, and say, “look!”
The first step is simply to stop and see the things right in front of you, which is what most novels and short stories do. There is even a word for it (in Russian): “Ostrananie.” It means “to make strange” or to “defamiliarize.” When writers employ ostranenie, they use semantic or linguistic shifts to slightly change the reader’s perspective, and they give the gift of sight. They make the reader really see the things in the story, by showing them in the illumination of strangeness, and the result is a gift.
And with that strangeness comes intimacy, and the opportunity to share.
I’ve written before that there are really only two times in life when we really, really see things. The first time, and the last. What you try to do when you write, is to let people back into the world, so that they can see it as if for the first time, but before it’s the last.
Out minds already know this. Each night while we slumber in darkness, our brains go to work, flooding themselves with ideas and images from our ordinary lives, but made strange. And in your dreams, when your mother rides in on a Huguenot, or your boss morphs into a homunculus in a jar of spirits on the desk in front of you, your mind sees the problems that lay before you in the real world, and works to solve the puzzles of everyday life.
If you write humor, you want your readers to laugh more; not just when you tell a joke in your book, but out there, in the big, messy world. You want your stories to make them see more humor in the real world.
If you write horror, you don’t just want your readers to jump on page 130, when a monster jumps out of the shadows; you want their skin to crawl a month later, when they have to go into the basement to change a lightbulb.
If you write romance, you don’t just want them to fall in love with your characters; you want them to be more able to give and receive love in the real world.
Words are merely symbols. “Love,” “hate,” “beauty,” “death” - they are not the things they represent. But they can make you see the things they represent.
Anton Chekhov, one of the greatest writers of humor and tragedy, knew that a comprehensive view of the world is impossible, but he also showed us, through his stories, that little bursts of insight, meaning, and humor are possible. That’s why we have our stories, our species’ adaptation, which help us to see the world, and to share it with those around us.
Click on book cover to purchase book at Amazon.
In my work with writers I give a lot of attention to the writer’s life and the writing experience. When we set up the conditions for a writer’s life, we will write. When we write, our writing will naturally improve. Our voices will emerge from the words; our ideas will move along the page; we will discover ourselves, our stories and what is meaningful to us. When we cultivate a writer’s life, –– blogs, articles, poems, and books will emerge from our busy lives.
We will flourish as writers.
All Write Wednesdays: World into Word
All Write Wednesdays is a blog about living the writer's life. Everything in our lives is material. Read all of the All Write Wednesdays posts.
Zero Point Blog
The Zero Point blog shares my teachings about living your life from the inside out and becoming the cause rather than the effect of your life. Read all of the Zero Point posts.
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Julie lives in Mount Horeb WI where she walks her dog through Stewart Park, gardens her corner lot, attends yoga at Bliss Flow Yoga in Madison and waits for spring 11 months of the year. She is author of The Zero Point Agreement & ten other books. She also writes for the local Mount Horeb paper and in her free time listens in on others' conversations at Sjolinds.