What does it mean to write with integrity?
In one sense, integrity means being truthful and principled in what, how, and why we write. On the surface, this looks easy. After all, most of us know the difference between truth-telling and lying, and the importance of getting our facts right. And we know the difference between the truth of art and the truth of day-to-day life.
However, it's not so obvious. When we create artifice in any genre, we make subtle moment-to-moment choices; we pick a certain slant; we impose narrative order on facts; we light up certain truths and leave others in shadow; we use language and structure to hook our reader. We make such choices as writers in service to our craft and as wordsmiths vying, in a noisy world, for a reader's attention.
In another sense, integrity means writing from our wholeness. There are no arbitrary cuts in wholeness. Not between our body, heart, mind, and rhizomatic self. Not between our past, present, and future selves. Not between human and nonhuman. Not even between living and dying.
The modern, conceptual, slice-dice-and-julienne mind is ill-equipped to write from wholeness. Wholeness is experiential. It includes all beings, all things, and all times. We can't think, or pray, or struggle, or pretend our way there.
Wholeness is something we lean into, tune into, feel into, leap into, relax into. A meditative state can usher us in. So can the simple feeling of being. So can opening our awareness and extending our non-physical feelers beyond the membranes of our body and mind. So can intensifying our creative participation and entanglement with all that is. So can writing in the zone or flow, writing in response to what is, in this moment.
Like truthfulness, wholeness is something we can perceive and practice, moment-to-moment. We come from wholeness and, simultaneously, we flower into it. We are it.
The next time you write, why not lean into your innate wholeness, your integrity, and notice what happens?
To what do you attune when you write?
There's no best answer. It's just about getting real with yourself. About slowing down and noticing what's in the background and foreground of your awareness while you write.
Perhaps you attune to the ghosts of old school teachers. To the babble of your inner critic. To the conventional wisdom of popular writing gurus. Perhaps you attune to the perceived wants and needs of your readers. To the marketplace buzz about what's hot and what's not. Perhaps you attune to the zeitgeist of our howling times. Or to something deep inside. Maybe it's a bit of each.
In my writing book, I offer five practices for attuning to your ever-present muse. Letting curiosity overtake you, and inviting your muse to surprising you. Breathing into your inmost heart, and inviting your muse to embolden you. Sensing the flow of energy, and inviting your muse to quicken you. Relaxing in the vast sky of your awareness, and inviting your to unfurl you. Inhabiting your innate wholeness, and inviting your ever-present muse to uncork you.
There are other ways, too. Sometimes, at the start of writing session, I'll attune a particular quality that I want my writing to express. I'll sit quietly for a few minutes, open my awareness, and allow the images, words, or feelings connected with that quality to emerge. Then I'll let all that go and begin writing.
Mostly, though, I attune to the drumbeat of what wants to be written--while I am writing--and to the emergent feeling of things. This relaxed and open place of moment-to-moment listening and feeling is my go-to way of writing.
I've found that attuned writing is a conscious practice, a matter of intention and attention. The more I do it, the more it becomes second nature. While other voices may haunt the edges of my awareness, they are powerless to pull me into their vortex.
The next time you write, why not notice what you're attuning to, and choose it consciously?