Somehow, you've always known it: your brightest, richest, clearest writing emerges from the core of your being--from your creative wellspring. If you feel the truth of this, if you yearn to write from this place anytime you wish, then Writing with Your Ever-Present Muse may be for you.
What is your ever-present muse?
In these pages, I cast the muse as a dynamic agent, an ally that plays in our awareness and prompts us when we write. It is versatile and palpable, and it connects us with our creative wellspring.
In one sense, the ever-present muse lives in the body's fascia, in the gossamer, liquid, intelligent matrix that enfolds every structure from our cells on up. We may sense its tugs, nudges, and erotic energy flows in our body, moving us where the writing wants to go.
In another sense, it lives in the intuitive mind as sense perception, and in the thinking mind as perspective. It may come to us in sudden visions and inner voices, in flickers and flashes of insight that reveal constellations where once there were only stars. In our writing, it may help us connect the previously unconnected.
We may feel the ever-present muse vibrating in our inmost heart. Boundless compassion, forgiveness, gratitude, love trust, and joy may course through us as we write. The ever-present muse also sounds the soul. We may feel an unfathomable yearning and urgency to write what really matters.
The ever-present muse may also come to us in the form of an inner teacher, a radiant messenger, or even a super-conscious self with crystalline perception. Whole compositions may drop into our awareness, and it may take us years to unpack them.
Now, imagine unsealing those inner reaches and writing with greater ease, speed, and creativity--at the drop of a hat--and being heard. That is the power and promise of writing with your ever-present muse. If you want to make this your everyday way of writing, then let me show you how.
Who is this book for?
Whether you are a wannabe writer, a seasoned writer, a wounded writer, or a stymied writer, I invite you to try out this experiential and practical workbook. It is especially helpful for writers who do not trust their creative intelligence, who search for inspiration outside themselves, and who write primarily head first, the way most of us were educated and socialized to write. It is also useful for creative souls in any field.
This book is not about the craft of writing. It is not about learning a mechanical or magical formula so you can write on autopilot. It is not about shortcuts. At bottom, it's about flowering into the kind of person who writes freely from an open, fluid, and inspired state of consciousness. If this appeals to you, then read on.
What's in this book?
Picture a wildflower with five overlapping petals. At the centre of the flower is the ever-present muse. Each petal serves a dual purpose: it focuses on a specific aspect of writing, and it offers a distinct writing practice for writing with your ever-present muse.
If you prefer, imagine five adventures, radiating from a common root--the ever-present muse. Each adventure takes you to a different section of the writer's world and provides a different experience of writing with your ever-present muse.
Opening to Wonder drops you into the undivided visible and invisible reality of the writer's page. It shimmers with the magic and mystery of writing, and you approach it with the wide-eyed wonder of a child. Before writing, you let curiosity overtake you and invite your ever-present muse to surprise you.
Risking the Heart leads you through the undivided light and dark of the writer's journey, one littered with anxieties and lit with epiphanies. Here, you breath into your inmost heart and invite your ever-present muse to embolden you.
Following the Energy immerses you in the undivided ebb and flow of the writer's process. This process pulses with the creative current, the same current that runs through your being. You sense the flowing of energy and invite your ever-present muse to quicken you.
Freeing the Mind lifts the curtain on the undivided action and awareness of the writer's theatre. Herein lies spacious creativity, beyond the conventional mind box. Now you relax in the vast sky of your awareness and invite your ever-present muse to unfurl you.
Expressing with Presence brings you home to the undivided sound and silence of the writer's voice. Here you break free of your conditioning and commune with various audiences. Before writing, you inhabit your innate wholeness and invite your ever-present muse to uncork you.
The five petals--or adventures, if you prefer--unfold, one after the other, in symmetrical fashion. There is an initial bursting, a few growing pains, and then a coming into fullness. In one sense, each petal, each adventure, is complete in itself. Yet when they are joined at the centre, a new image emerges.
Flowers depend on nutrients to survive and thrive, and adventurers on provisions to sustain them. The seventy-five catalytic reads, wisdom pockets, and living experiments provide such sustenance.
The catalytic reads are highly experiential and begin with "Experience this." Just play along as if they are true for you. Using this method will let you feel into a deeply attuned way of writing.
For greatest impact and benefit, read each one aloud. Feel free to stop after every sentence and feel it in your body, in your emotions, in your mind. Taste each word and image without an agenda.
About two-thirds of the way through a particular section, you will encounter four growing pains. The "ouch" in a title lets you know. You are given options for future reference. You can kiss the pain with awareness, meaning that you simply notice it, with kindness, whenever it arises. You can meet it with curiosity, which allows you to gain insight into your hidden patterns. And you can try the suggested remedies.
While some catalytic reads will create a whole-being reality, others will become feelings. And some will remain just words. Don't expect yourself to get into all the experiences offered, described, or suggested. If a particular catalytic read is irrelevant or too rich for your taste, just let it wash through you without trying to make logical meaning of it. Then proceed to the following wisdom pocket.
The wisdom pockets provide context and perspective. They are geared towards your thinking mind, the one that insists on distance from experience. Each wisdom pocket begins with "Consider this." While they may sound definitive, be sure to hold them lightly and pass over whatever doesn't ring true for you
These pithy reflections are like a stew with many ingredients and blended flavours. At bottom, they are grounded in my experience of writing in various fields. They arise from personal experiments with creative flow and states of awareness. They are also funneled through my knowledge of adult development and integral meta-maps. The wisdom pockets likely contain overtones of writing advice I've picked up along the way from sources I no longer recall. Mostly, they come from decades of doing action inquiry as I write.
Some wisdom pockets simply restate the preceding catalytic read in simpler language. Others offer an interpretive framework. Still others serve as bridges between a particular element of a catalytic read and a related living experiment.
The living experiments begin with "Try this." If you do them in real time, from beginning to end, they will disrupt unproductive writing habits, dissolve writing blocks, and heal writing wounds that could be holding you back. They will also stimulate new neural pathways to the extent that you are engaged. Most importantly, they will help you develop an intimate and collaborative relationship with your ever-present muse.
These living experiments are more than writing exercises. They incorporate biofeedback and audience feedback, and they keep you connected to your ever-present muse even when you are not writing. The catalytic reads and wisdom pockets only get you up to the front door; the living experiments take you across the threshold.
Essentially, the living experiments are brief bursts of focused free-writing that unfold as a consistent process.
To begin, you attune to a specific aspect of yourself and invite your ever-present muse to serve you in a specific way.
Then you focus your attention and set your timer for seven minutes. This quirky time limit frees you from having to think about time. It disables your inner censor, critic, and procrastinator. And it bypasses your habituated mind. More importantly, its narrow channel generates creative friction and momentum.
Now you are ready to write, to riff off a given spark or writing prompt. This is only meant to get you started. Feel free to take the suggestion in any direction you like.
After you've written, you verify the impact by reading your little piece aloud. If you are your own audience notice the effect it creates within you. If you have a live audience, request the specific type of response suggested, one that is solely related to your audience's experience. Criticism, praise, and objective comments about you or your writing are out of bounds here. Invite only precise, subjective impact statements.
Finally, you unfold this little piece of pre-writing. You begin by asking a specific question and holding it lightly. Then you allow your awareness to open. This attunes you to the promptings of your ever-present muse even when you are not writing.
There are five different twists on the living experiment. These twists constitute channels through which the ever-present muse sends signals. The more you build your repertoire of sensing and responding to your ever-present muse, the more you will find yourself writing from an open, fluid, and inspired state of consciousness.
What is the deeper why behind this book?
Time and again, I've seen this way of writing work. I've witnessed people with serious writing challenges blossom in the course of a workshop, even people with paralyzing writing fears or dyslexia. They write freely, drop their insecurities, read their writing aloud, let their voices break free, and shatter us. Such moments are deeply transformative for everyone in the room.
History and personal experience tell us that writing is a transformative medium for self, readers, and society. This is what emboldens me to send this unconventional yet timely book out into the world--a world that needs voices flowing from a greater sense of wholeness.
How did it come to be?
This workbook has been decades in the making. The content, style, and approach have morphed along with me each time I've outgrown a cramped version of myself.
It started with quiet desperation. My brain was fried. I was overloaded at school with too many exams and papers. On impulse, I attuned to my non-thinking mind and asked it to work on those papers in the background while I focused on more pressing schoolwork. A few weeks later, when it came to write those papers, fully formed ideas arose out of nowhere and organized themselves like flocks of geese. The papers were top-notch and I was both pleased and surprised.
A while later, I got in over my head at work. This time, I decided to attune to my inner senses. One by one, they woke up and tiptoed gingerly to the front of my awareness until I could feel, see, and hear when my writing was on or off. By reading my writing aloud, I refined my inner gauge.
But could I trust this gauge in the real world? My results-driven work in various organizations formed the ideal laboratory. After crafting a piece of writing, I would check my audience's feedback against my inner gauge. The more I fine-tuned my gauge, the more my confidence and writing blossomed. I decided to make this attuned way of writing my default setting through consistent practice.
The next shift occurred when I left the organizational world, and immersed myself in writing projects that aligned with my integrity. My curious nature, coupled with previous journalism experience, had shaped me into a walking question mark. Now, I parlayed that bent into my writing process. For example, while writing, I might ask: Where should I go next? What do I need to know now? What am I not seeing? Then I'd attune to my inner self and stay alert for the answer. I might sense it as a physical pull, a momentary flicker, a soft murmur, a fluctuation of energy, or direct knowing. I would then write or revise in response to the answer.
When I wrote in this attuned way, hours flew by like minutes, or time stopped altogether. Physical discomforts disappeared, background noises evaporated, ho-hum thoughts dissolved, until there was only creative flow. I no longer wrote my way to the finish line by using willpower. The more I practiced, the shorter the lag time between sensing and responding. Writing felt like a seamless game of ping-pong.
And then the bottom fell out. A peer reviewer commented that my writing was not sufficiently heart-centred or embodied, was too cerebral. So I stepped away from a golden yet ill-fitting publication opportunity, and I began to live this question: What would it take to write from my whole self?
Training my awareness was the first crucial step. Before writing, I'd arrive in the moment and gather myself. Then, I'd attune to a particular aspect of my inner workings--whether my heart, my body, my soul, my mind--and write from that. This was like learning to ride the bicycle of myself, part by part, then integrating the parts into a whole-being experience.
I wanted to take it further. So I decided to step off my garden hose and give way to writing that wanted to flow through me. Each morning for the better part of a year, I snuck away from my writing projects and let the robes of authorship slip from my shoulders. Then I'd attune to writing on the cusp of arrival. In the silence and stillness of non-expectation I waited, face pressed against the unknown, until a two- or three-line poem came pouring through. These compact poems seemed to come from beyond me, yet they had my fingerprints all over them. Eventually, I set a time limit of less than ten minutes. This quickened and intensified the flow, like the rush of water between canyon walls.
Then, a leap. Without willing it, my perception shifted. My awareness opened, and I attuned to that. While writing, I'd often feel a sense of dynamic presence, and a crystal clarity that made everything seem so obvious. Things felt gathered together and coherent. A simultaneity in which everything came all at once. In this curious non-thinking place, I felt like some weird organism composed of tendrils of awareness that bumped up against boundaries and poked holes through them. Unfolding, enfolding whatever it touched, and folding in on itself. I felt fully present while writing, and my writing had more presence.
I began to wonder whether other writers might benefit from my experiments with attuned writing. And whether the metaphor of the ever-present muse might help them cultivate a relationship with their creative wellspring. My work in coaching and facilitating writing workshops offered the ideal testing ground. Over the course of a decade, I created a dynamic writing process that helped various kinds of writers unseal their inner reaches, write more freely, and have impact.
Although my approach to writing keeps evolving, it's time to launch it into the wider world and to share it with you.
We all come to writing in different ways. I promise that your experience of writing with your ever-present muse will feel different, sound different, and unfold differently than mine. So use my words wisely and trust your experience more than anything I say. Let the practice of writing with your ever-present muse open your own creative wellspring naturally and appropriately.
If you are ready to accept this invitation, then let me suggest this. Start at the beginning of this workbook and move through each section sequentially, leisurely, and completely. Every few days or so, immerse yourself in a catalytic read, sift through a wisdom pocket, and cycle all the way through a living experiment. The more slowly you go, the more you will gain.
At the end of each section, take a moment to pause and to smile upon the adventure that has just completed, the petal that has just unfolded.
Ready or not, shall we?