After weeks of stalled progress, my brain can think again, and I have lots of time to write. I don’t know about you, but when I go through a significant healing period, I usually come out the other side with a fresher mind and with many new ideas. It’s as if a complete layer of blockage has been removed allowing the waters of creativity to flow unimpeded again.
I recently did a writing course with Oxford University on Novel writing. I have been writing for years but never wanted to be ‘taught’. I have always liked the self-taught’ route, thinking that I knew what I needed to do and I didn’t want ‘authorities’ telling me how to do it. The result of that belief meant I jumped from one book on writing to another; I listened to podcasts, watched videos, all in an effort to learn. But in hindsight, it was like grasping at balloons in the air. Nothing was structured; styles and other people’s opinions floated around and although my writing improved a little, I spent more time rewriting and re-editing, but never knowing if it was actually any good.
I felt stymied. But I published the first book, after many trials. My main problem, the one that led to so much resistance, was that the book was channelled. I received it chapter by chapter. Standing at the kitchen sink, or hoovering, or doing other mundane routine activities, the first line of a chapter, of any number of stories, would come into my head. Then I grabbed a pen and paper while the words were dictated to me, coming into my mind, sentence by sentence. I listened, and I wrote down what I heard. While I listened, I could both see and feel what was happening in the story as if I was watching a movie. But I never seemed to have any control over it. I used to say that I received the bones of the story and I fleshed it out, which is still true, but, as I discovered, bones can be moved about.
While I wrote the first book, and I could have focussed on any book that they had given me the first chapters for, I thought I had to write it in the order in which I received it. So that’s what I did. I understood that the ‘message’ was important, and I didn’t want to mess it up. That is where the fear of having it edited, as if it was a regular novel, came in. I didn’t know what I was ‘allowed’ to remove, believing that everything had to be added in exactly the order in which I had received it. It was very restrictive. And yet, I see now that I was being trained to write this way, just as I have been trained to do earth-healing the way I do.
I also needed to find an editor who understood this type of writing but most didn’t. I was led to an editor in Egypt and she challenged me to make some changes I was scared to make in case I ruined the order! I still kept to the original format, however, only removing one chapter she felt didn’t move the story forward. She was right. Last year, I published it on Amazon. Again, self-publishing gave me control! I wanted to choose the cover, the blurb and I wanted to learn the publishing process. There are still things to learn. Next time, I will publish on Ingram Sparks and see how that works.
I have been writing the sequel to that first book for the last two years and as I grow in confidence; the process has changed. Now, rather than receiving the chapters in sequence, I am given bridging chapters that act as prompts, and the rest is up to me. Bridging chapters are the significant beginnings of entire sections of the book; surprising new beginnings which turn the book in directions I had not anticipated, but which are exciting to write. Sometimes, when those bridges appear, I feel confused. Where do they fit in? Once again, I go back over what I have written and juggle the new material until it forms a cohesive, onward moving story. When I receive these chapters, I can see some way down the line and see elements of that part of the story. All I have to do is trust what I see and write it down. Like a normal writer! Now, much more of the story, once I have received the bridges, comes from my own experiences, both as a human trying to negotiate life on earth, and as a Soul trying to do the same, all of it held deeply in my subconscious. Because I’m sure I’ve been a dragon in many of my previous lifetimes!
I’m joking, of course, but in my writing world, dragons have feelings too!
The course at Oxford was a game-changer. In doing it, I was allowing others to teach me. And I also discovered I wasn’t that bad a writer! (My greatest fear was that I was a terrible writer and that doing things properly would prove that to me). I always believed that I couldn’t ‘make-things-up’, but doing this course taught me that I can write about anything – if I choose to.
The course was well structured, and involved assignments and challenges which opened me up gently. Instead of losing what I thought was my autonomy, I discovered the freedom of letting my mind roam into unknown territory. I received great feedback, from peers and tutor alike, and learned to give feedback on other people’s writing. That part was tricky as I am not possessed of a ‘technical’ mind. Being slightly dyslexic, I don’t remember the jargon, the names for things. I take a while to put label to action. I also learned to recognise my own weaknesses. I’m good with dialogue, and characters, but struggle with description. Also, knowing that I have someone who is going to mark a piece of writing, I work much harder to get it right without killing it completely. We didn’t have years of editing to get through. Work had a deadline which I worked well with. Another surprising discovery!
I knew immediately, as soon as I first saw the course online, that this was absolutely the right thing to do. The centre of my being, what I call the hara-center (After Barbara Brennan), was open and there was no resistance to parting with all the money I had in my bank account. Which, as it happens, was exactly the right amount. (Another valuable lesson on when to know you are choosing the right thing and your decision is not simply your mind telling you it’s the right thing. I will always recognise this feeling now).
Because of the course, I have also decided to rewrite the first book. I will leave the first version as it is, because it is a good example of what happens when you do a significant rewrite and it might be useful to other writers who channel their material too and don’t know what the limitations are… yet. Plus, many people liked the first version and were surprised that I was rewriting it as they liked it as it was. But when they read the first rewrite, they liked that too. So it’s all good… as they say.
And I’m still learning. In April, I start another course on creative writing, so it can only get better. Right?