Ever since I could read and write, the dream of being a ‘real’ writer has lived in a patient place within me. Writing is my version of Virginia Wolf’s Room of Her Own, the one place where the logic and linear world gets suspended, and my vast inner universe, unapologetically, can breathe, explore and express. Writing is a natural way for me to make sense of and share the deeper, more poetic and reflective self with the world. Writing allows me to deepen my experience of human existence and my connection to all things. It offers inquiry and allows me to learn from everything.
I take to the pen or keyboard when I feel my soul stirs. Usually, inspiration strikes when I’m intrigued, amused, haunted or otherwise touched by events and emotions. When writing I loose myself into what I can best describe as a vast sea of presence and creation flows through me, through my fingers, with inexplicable fire and fury. It's ecstatic. It's surrender.
Just like when I photograph and capture a 'right feeling' moment, I get goosebumps or wet eyes or my spirit does an inner happy-dance, when something beautiful, poetic and true and to myself surprising comes through my words. Perhaps writing is where I am best in touch with the universal soul and imagination. Perhaps writing is where I feel the most at home.
you can’t rush stories nor your own readiness to tell them
What inspired me to write Seeing Red? Sometimes it’s not what we think.
More than a decade ago I took a writing class with Linda Watanabe McFerrin. She recognized the writer in me and immediately saw my Tibet journey as a great travel story. ‘Write a book,” she encouraged. Why not, I thought, and wrote a 400+ page travelogue about the group I led on a sacred pilgrimage to Mount Kailas in Tibet. Everything from my prior traveling life went into the pages and by the time the first draft was done, I felt strangely disappointed. This wasn’t the powerful book I'd felt in my belly. At the time I’d won a prestigious award for first draft chapters, put together a big proposal and gotten an agent in New York. She didn’t sell the book in first round and lost interest in me. 9/11 happened and I put the project aside.
A few years later I took it up again. I wanted to learn how to write a real book and add more complexity to the story. I worked with a developmental editor, told myself that this was my MBA in writing, but still, after another stint with the manuscript, I lost conviction and poured all my energy into building my photography business, Lolo’s Boudoir, instead.
It was only when I divorced and my life began to unravel that I suddenly felt the book pull at me again. I sent my mentor a check and said, “I can write the real story now, help make me finish it.”
The real story turned out to be about my dance with truth, power and the sacred.
The first draft focused more on the other people than myself. The second draft tried to weave a complex story of human relationship and what happened at the mountain. With the third draft I was able to see myself with the naked eye and be honest about my relationship to men, power, the longing for a more sacred way of being. One can only write a true and touching story when willing to be honest.
Honesty is hard, because honesty beckons actioN
Why didn't I just dump the project? I kept returning to the story, because I was haunted by what had happened at the mountain in Tibet. Not only was the experience a terribly failure to me – I felt I failed as group leader and lover and the magical spiritual journey I'd envisioned had quickly turned into a very human drama instead. A deep spiritual symbolism was embedded in the landscape and mythology around Mount Kailas – nothing short of the cosmic union of yin-yang, masculine-feminine, body-spirit, heaven-earth and I was intrigued.
In truth, I had to live a lot of life, do the power dance within my marriage, go through a miscarriage and a divorce, heal my relationship with women and do a lot of inner and outer excavation of my life, before the Kailas experience and spiritual symbolism made sense to me and I was able to integrate the wisdom into my own inner landscape. And it was only with this distance, I was courageous enough to put myself on the line and get naked on the page.
Everything you write Might be a reflection of yourself, but a true story is universal
The writing of Seeing Red helped me deal with my ‘inner mountain’ creatively, and I think it’s fair to say I’ve climbed that mountain several times over.
The times I’ve wavered and felt fearful of speaking my truth, or worried I was writing about other people (whose identities I did protect), I realized that a) all of it was in fact a reflection of myself and b) it wasn't just my truth or fear.
I'd tapped into an ancient fear accumulated through cultures and centuries of women, who'd become afraid to speak up about who we are and what it feels like to be imprisoned by both the self-created and imposed cages of patriarchy's dominant structures of power, roles and identities. When my own fear of judgment felt out of proportion to the actual risk at hand, I knew I was feeling women’s fear of being judged, rejected, even burned, metaphorically, on the stakes. At times I also tuned into men’s fear of losing stance and power against the wild, emotional and strong women or their misunderstood desire to protect their daughter or wife from peril. I saw it all around me. My journey was to face this fear head on and forge ahead.
During the third rewrite I finally saw that the red thread through the story was power. It could have been any focus really, but I wanted to illustrate what a woman’s journey to self and personal power can look like in the 21st century. As an independent woman who’s lived a free and courageous life, I was shocked to learn the many subtle ways in which I, especially in my relations, was willing to avoid, hand over, give up or otherwise circumvent my sovereignty and personal power. This gave me the final fuel to finish the book. I knew this was not just my story, this was everywoman's story. A journey of liberating oneself from conditioning, shame, fears, attachments and illusions. A journey of surrendering to the soul.
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