How to Harness the Power of Authenticity in Your Writing and Your Life

freesia stem with hyacinths(Hi, there. I’m having to do some scary maintenance over at the server and fix a few problems caused when I recently upgraded some plugins. Technology is my nemesis! ūüôĀ Until I post something new, here’s my favourite oldie-but-goodie sticky post. ~Janice )

Authenticity is not for the faint of heart. To fly in the face of history, circumstance and uncertainty, with your truth fully unfurled, takes some serious moxy. When you want to love and be loved (and what else is there really?) your truth becomes a very tender thing, and sharing it is a mighty gift. So perhaps being genuine is an every day act of heroism. ~ Danielle Laporte  and Carrie McCarthy (from Style Statement: Live by Your Own Design)

This is a long post; it wasn’t meant to be. It blossomed. I could have chopped it up, spread it out, but¬†I chose not to. I feel it’s important.

It dawned on me that I can just leave this¬†post ¬†up for a while, let you sit with it, give you time to maybe come back and share some of your responses and creations with us. I had a dream of this being a soulfood caf√©-bistro, so this is a long, leisurely Greek meal of a read, with a variety of mezedhes, salads, main dishes, bread, fruit and wine. I¬†hope you find something you like. Why don’t you grab a glass of something fresh or put the kettle on…

This is a taste of what¬†I¬†hope to be exploring in the coming weeks. This is my heart, who¬†I am. It’s my way of saying thank you for visiting. There are many wonderful blogs out there. I’m glad you came here.

If you want to know how to harness the power of authenticity, to improve your writing¬† – and your life – here are the answers; ¬†it’s up to you to live the questions. You have time. You have a lifetime.

Enjoy being as much as doing.

Try writing a To be/Do/Have list and not just a To Do list. Maybe just try a To Be list for the day and stick to it. Today, I want to be a devoted mum, a serene friend, an inspiring writer. What about you?

Be you.

Don’t just skim this one. Are you trying to be the next ………? How about being the first YOU. In this blog, you’ll always find questions to discover who you are. It’s like drinking water. One glass may be¬†good for you, but it doesn’t end there.

Strive to be your¬†best self…

Overdeliver, in everything you do. Build reserves of trust, respect, energy, goodwill, wellbeing. Edit like you were going for a Pullitzer, even if you’re the boss of your own blog. Write endless drafts, but cherish the best. Write like you’re writing to repay the gift of life itself.

…but love your whole self.

Strive to be your best self, but love yourself with the unconditional love you’d give a baby, or a toddler who’s just learning. All of our drafts are necessary. In the big scheme of things, we’re all children of the universe, learning from our mistakes every day of our lives, overwhelmed and striving to keep up; our memes are exploding exponentially while our genes¬† – a relic of earlier millenia – can just about handle love, fear, anger and the need to belong.

Be comfortable with silence.

Inspiration slips in through the silences between the thoughts.

Be present.

Give what you’re doing this very second your undivided attention. This is the only moment of life you will ever have. The past is gone; the future does not exist. This is it. Make it good. Thank you for reading this. To gift our community¬† with your presence is awesome.

Listen to others with your whole being.

It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give anyone, listening with empathy, love, respect, kindness – not chomping at the bit, preparing your own response, desperate to give advice or talk about yourself, even if it’s to prove your credentials for being able to empathise. If you give people this attention while you listen, when you read, it will be returned¬† – by the people you need it from and by the universe itself.

Taking notes, immortalising quotes¬†as you read a book or a blog is sending a message to the universe that you’re really listening, that you’re open to the wisdom of others, to signposts sent straight to your soul.

Listen to the sound of your inner voice.

Listen to its wisdom, its colours, its rhythm. That’s your unique voice, right there. Transcribe it!

You have the answers already; all you need are the right questions to unlock them. Check in with your gut. How does your body feel about your choices? Is there discomfort? Learn to trust your instincts, really trust them.

And listen to the voice that speaks, that reads aloud in your head. Write it down: listen to which words it stresses, to the increased peaks and dips where your natural intonation goes up and down, when you’re excited, gushing and happy; listen to how it slows down when you’re stressed, sad…weary. Capture those rhythms, inflections, silences.

I’ll be doing further posts on this. It’s an obsession,¬†a passion of mine.

Love details  Рlive details with all of your senses.

Another obsession. How can you be happy if you’re not grateful? How can you be grateful if you don’t notice? How can you attract abundance if you’re not grateful for what you already have?

We all need to have a big picture, a framework for our lives, the border of our jigsaw, the fabric of our tapestry – but it’s the details that make us feel rich, make us feel alive, make us unique. Use all of your senses. Listen more, smell more, relish every morsel of life, make every day a feast for the senses.

Discover your essence.

What would be left if your body evaporated and your mind, heart and soul were transplanted? The clues are in everything and everyone you love.

Discover what you adore.

Your choices, your preferences, your passions, what you choose to filter through you are all windows to who you are. So choose with your heart and soul, not just your head. But choose! If you’re lucky enough to be able to eat an apple, drink clean, clear water, why would you want to choose to drink¬† litres of brown sweeteners, carbon dioxide and chemicals?

Express that essence.

Why skim, scrape, swipe, emulate and live on the surface, in the shadows when you could be telling the only story that hasn’t been told yet – yours!

Express your essence in what you wear, what you read, what you eat, who you keep company with, what you contribute, how you celebrate your rituals, how you adorn your home, how you listen, how you converse, how you bring flavour and fragrance and music and movement to your life. Express your essence in every semi colon, font, plugin, widget, button, colour and photo on your website, in every word, syllable and silence of your writing.

Strunk and White have this advice for all writers: ” Your whole duty as a writer is to please and satisfy yourself, and the true writer always plays to an audience of one.”

The same applies to being yourself, to loving yourself. How can we love others as ourselves – as we are told to do by every religion – if we do not first love ourselves, and love ourselves well.

Long to connect.

If you treat people like traffic passing through your life, someday you’ll be run over, or left behind to smother in the smog.

There are hearts out there to capture, real people to reach and inspire and support with your gifts. Money’s good – it buys food, clothes¬†and education, medicine and shelter, entertainment and art. The more you have, the more good you can do. But it’s not the only form of currency. Don’t buy financial abundance with your soul.

Long to leave a legacy.

The love and memories you leave behind, the people you touch, your words and gestures scattered across the internet, around the world,¬†they’re your legacy. If you want to know how to harness the power of authenticity, to improve your writing¬† – and your life – here are the answers; ¬†it’s up to you to live the questions. You have time. You have a lifetime.

Be brave, be vulnerable.

Be brave enough to explore the depths, to find a way out and shine a light for others to find theirs. Don’t be scared to live, to hold out your heart in both hands like a trembling bird and say “Here I am, love me as I am or leave me.” Be more afraid to die with your song still in you, to cheat your loved ones, your readers and the world of the greatest gift you have to give. You.

~~~~~~~x~~~

…”Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.”¬† This moral observation would have no place in a rule book were it not that style is the writer, and therefore what you are, rather than what you know, will at last determine your style. ~ Strunk and White, (from The Elements of Style)

It’s¬†a lot to take in. Here are a few questions to help you discover your real self. Sit with them a while…roll them around in your soul. Add a “Why?” to any of them and you have a personal safari to discover fuel for your writing. I promise, your writing will improve. So will your life.

What scares you?

What thrills you?

What do you want more of?

What do you want less of?

What do you say YES! to?

What do you say no to?

What expands you?

What contracts you?

If your writing was a drink, what would it be? What would you like it to be?

What do you find yourself longing for?

That voice that whispers in the depths of night, what does it say?

If you were a fragrance, what would you be?

Who do you long to reach? What do you want them to feel?

If you could carry one object in your pocket that represents you, what would it be?

If you were an animal, what would you be?

If you were a colour what would you be?

~~~~~~~x~~~

Has it been a while since you wrote poetry? Try writing and randomly rearranging your answers to some of the questions above. You may surprise yourself. This is off the top of my head…

a sea green pebble

worn smooth by the restless tides

a gift from the sea

Deciduous Blogging, Soul Gardening and Cherishing our Children

baby rainbow fingersIt is…the parent willing to nurture a child that will decide our fate. ~ Barack Obama, in his inauguration speech.

A few months ago, I coined the phrase ‘deciduous blogger’.¬†¬†It¬†seems I have a natural¬†tendency to¬†take frequent breaks from blogging; my blog often lies dormant while I gather strength, ready to reach for the sun, put out fresh new growth and blossom again.

I used to have a love-hate relationship with blogging; I’d periodically¬†succumb to blogweariness, not only from writing and commenting at length, but from visiting dozens of blogs every day and spreading myself too thin in¬†an attempt to participate in supportive, reciprocal blogging.

In that depleted state, I’d become more aware of the tribal drums of blogging and¬†the underlying currents of hypocrisy, egotism and exploitation that so often leave me feeling queasy. Now, if blogweariness or cynicism sets in, I simply have¬† a break.

These past few months, however, I haven’t been going through a spell of deciduous blogging. I’ve actually been battling a wind that’s felled dreams, washed away blossom overnight and threatened to uproot me. My roots ache from having to hold on so tight, even though I know that every storm they weather strengthens them. Sometimes, letting go is simply not an option.

Despite a notebook full of drafts and a camera full of photos to share, I’ve been resting after a confluence of losses, bad news, family health problems, teenage exams, financial blows and a minor but confidence wrecking car crash. Even when I wanted to log on to explain, and to bask in the warmth of my online friendships, I spent a part of my time away virtually immobilised with back pain; sitting at a computer was impossible.

I’m a very¬†honest writer and cherish authenticity and integrity; I¬†believe in looking for the learning in challenging situations, but in two months that have included a short spell in hospital, doctors’ visits, physiotherapy, friends’¬† battles with cancer,¬†and¬†a medical diagnosis¬†that threatens to blight my son’s adolescence,¬†every bird, bee, cloud and sign from the universe has told me to lay low, rest, fill up the jug and focus on my own health and that of my family. That’s the only way I can replenish my soul and my writing so that some day, I can turn it all into something that might touch, help or resonate with others.

So often we advise extreme self care but are the last to practise it. I love my family, my friends and online buddies, but if I don’t take care of myself, I have nothing of quality to give – and this beautiful world of ours deserves the best we can give, not half hearted love on automatic pilot.

I hope to be writing again soon, here and at my Kitchen Table Space; a comment¬† response I left there the last time I logged on formed the core of this post. I adore my wee blog; I¬†built it with love, hard work, time, energy, laughter, tears and a genuine desire to connect at the heart, to contribute something¬†of value¬†to the world, even if it’s just a splash of floral colour on a dreary day. I don’t¬†get writer’s block; when I have an overwhelming need to stop writing and start living more, to clean house and do some soul gardening, I’ve learned to listen.

I hope you’ll bear with me while I tentatively dip my toes back into blogging waters.

In the meantime, here’s a video I’d urge you to watch if you’re an educator or have kids, nieces, nephews, young neighbours or grandchildren. As you know, I’ve had an organic, patchwork career which has included teaching, so I really resonated with Sir Ken Robinson’s latest TED talk. (I posted his 2006 TED video here when I started out blogging.)

In this latest talk, he discusses  principles and beliefs that my husband and I actually live by when it comes to our kids. (To read more about how we try to nurture their talents, please check out my piece called Sharing the Journey.)

The poem in Sir Ken’s video is also deeply personal and special to me; used in this context – and because of the pain both my kids have been through these last few months – it had me in tears. I logged off weeks ago to cherish my loved ones and my health and I’m glad I did. I posted today because I wanted, more than anything else, to connect with you again.

Janice

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How to Write like Adam Lambert (revisited)

Sorry I haven’t been writing or visiting blogs for a while. The volcano in Iceland turned a spur of the moment week away into an expensive and traumatic travel saga! We were very lucky; hundreds of thousands of people were stranded further afield in much more difficult circumstances, but the two day journey across France, the English Channel, England and Scotland was exhausting and we’re still a bit disorientated from the effects of sleep deprivation. It’s chastening to remember that most of the planet’s inhabitants are this tired all of the time and never have the luxury of a holiday in the first place.

We did have a fantastic time on the actual holiday, though, and I hope to share some highlights with you, but posting will have to wait while I decimate dust bunnies and catch up on email, laundry and sleep…

In the meantime, for those of you who are enjoying my blog-birthday wanderings through the archives, here’s another post from my first month of blogging in April last year. It’s one of the best pieces of advice to blogwriters I’ve ever written. Coincidentally,¬† Adam Lambert was recently a mentor to this year’s hopefuls on American Idol, and he gave some excellent advice. He’s a consummate performer and his voice thrills me, really hits the spot.

See you soon. ~ Janice

 

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adam lambert

How to Write like Adam Lambert.

We watch American Idol every season, a small nuclear family sitting in a Scottish living room, eating pizza, my husband and I drinking wine, all of us enjoying not only the talent, but the stage-managed drama and entertainment of it all.  It cuts across the age gap and gives us common ground to discuss.

This year, Adam Lambert has been our favourite from the start. But here’s why he got me thinking about writing the other day.

Talent alone is not enough.

Millions of people want to sing or write,  to touch hearts with their voices. Millions would love to make masses of money from doing it, too.  But what makes some people stand out?

Adam Lambert started young, that’s clear to see, and I reckon he’s had the support of his loved ones since the moment he figured out what he was born to do. I loved when his dad pointed out, against a backdrop of childhood photos of Adam dressing up and performing, that he was never much into sports.

He’s not a new phenomenon. He’s put in hard graft, earning a living from delivering Broadway performances every night, week in, week out. Maybe he even failed a few auditions along the way and learned from those, too.

He’s honed his talent with hard work and determination, and has learned how to command a stage, create presence and connect with an audience.

He chose to go the American Idol route, confident that the time was right. Impeccable timing and choosing the right platform are crucial for all artists who want to take their work to a wider audience.

He came to the show, daring not only to be different, but to be himself and different. The hair, the earrings, the painted nails, they’re simply symbols that say I’m not afraid to be me.

And just when we were getting used to that, the hair got slicked back and the image changed, just to mix things up.

He’s been versatile, experimenting with a variety of styles yet always, always letting his unique brilliance shine through.

Sometimes understated, sometimes over the top entertaining. That clear, haunting, passionate voice, that core of self-belief and keen sense of what he wants to do, where he wants to go and who he wants to connect with ‚Äď it comes out in everything he does.

My teenage daughter sings, writes and acts.¬†Some Idol performances get her ranting or raving, others leave her indifferent. ¬†But Adam Lambert‚Äôs performance of ‚ÄėMad World‚Äô ‚Äď a song that she herself sings ‚Äď stunned her, left us all transfixed.

We felt we’d had a glimpse of genius. The pain, the passion and the experiences he distilled into every syllable connected straight to that part of the soul where empathy lives. He made an already beautiful song his own. He made it an anthem.

He sang like a part of his very soul would die if he didn’t. I wish more people would aim to do that in their writing.

Some days I feel myself wanting to scream at fellow writers that it’s not all about the money, the fame and the glory. When you’re hard-working, passionate, driven to hone your talent, your gift, your life’s work, till it’s gem-bright and brilliant, the money follows.

Make people cry. Make them smile as they sit alone reading your words. Stun them into silence. Make them say Wow! with wide open eyes and gaping mouths. Don’t settle for mediocrity or pander to the people who pay. Be brilliant. Be yourself. Be your best self.

A Patchwork Post: Writing Tips, Christmas Tips and Susan Boyle…

M's xmas cushion

Are you working on a novel for NaNoWriMo at the moment? Having a creativity crisis? Or simply in need of ¬†a blogging boost? Are you hoping to collate your best blog posts into a published book some day?¬† Here’s a book I’d recommend by Hugh Macleod of Gaping Void, a blogger who did just that.

ignore everybodyI’m not going to wax lyrical; you don’t have time for that. Let me just share a few quotes from¬†it with you and tell you that I’ve re-read¬†the book¬† twice.¬†Yes, twice. It’s an incredibly easy read because¬†each chapter is blog post length.¬†I warn you; you’ll be twitching to jot things down in your quotebook.

If you’re looking at a blank piece of paper and nothing comes to you, then go do something else. Writer’s block is just a symptom of feeling like you have nothing to say, combined with the rather weird idea that you should feel the need to say something.¬† ~ Hugh MacLeod

A Picasso always looks like a Picasso painted it. Hemingway always sounds like Hemingway. A Beethoven symphony always sounds like a Beethoven symphony. Part of being a master is learning how to sing in nobody else’s voice but your own. ~ Hugh MacLeod

You can’t love a crowd the same way you can love a person.

And a crowd can’t love you the way a single person can love you.

Intimacy doesn’t scale. Not really. Intimacy is a one-on-one phenomenon.

It’s not a big deal. Whether you’re writing to an audience of one, five, a thousand, ten million, there’s really only one way to truly connect. One way that actually works:

Write from the heart. ~ Hugh MacLeod.

Never compare your inside with someone else’s outside.¬† ~ Hugh MacLeod

Hugh’s book Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity¬†would make a great gift for any creative adults in your life.

Embrace your real life and be aware of what makes you happy…

Are you wondering what that photo of a hand-crocheted Christmas cushion has to do with inspiration, creativity or writing? Well, those of you who’ve¬†read a lot of my pieces will know that I do my best writing when I’m away from the computer, out in the real world, in caf√©s¬†or at my¬†kitchen table. I need to live well to be able to write well; I need be aware, present and open to experience and inspiration for the jug to fill to overflowing.

Over at The Kitchen Table Space,¬†my monthly¬†column at The Calm Space, I’ve written a piece about one of my favourite Christmas rituals – keeping a Christmas book. It combines my¬†triplet¬†¬†passions – family life,¬† homelife coaching and writing. Truth is, I’d write about the Festive Season every day if I could. It’s the season that restores my faith, my soul and my energy¬†more than any other time of the year.

Please drop in for a cyber coffee and a chat about Christmas; I love having friends at my kitchen table.

Take a break from writing and listen to some music that makes you cry…

As I seem to have blogging¬†OCD and have followed a dearth of posts with one that thinks it’s a magazine – go figure –¬† I leave you with a song I heard this morning from fellow Scot Susan Boyle. I’ve heard it before but this time it caught me unawares as I was looking out of the kitchen window; I was¬† stunned by its beauty. These were¬†the only words I could make out as my throat ached and my eyes¬†welled up with unshed tears… “Wild horses..”

A Patchwork Post: Authenticity Quotes, Book Giveaway Winners, Link Love and Spiritual Pioneering

It takes courage to speak out, to challenge conformity and tradition; to go first and weather the attacks, ridicule and criticisms of others; to be different. It takes courage to be free, to claim our voice, to own our power, to let the world hear the music inside us. ~ Lance Secretan

I’ve had a great blogging week that’s helped me get some perspective back into my life.

Are you a Spiritual Pioneer?

I have a guest post about blogging integrity, authenticity, honesty and bravery over at Write to Done called Are You a Spiritual Pioneer? which I’m very proud of.¬† Having Mary¬†and Leo’s endorsement means a lot to me. While I worried¬†that I didn’t generate much response in the comments boxes, Mary reminded me with a twinkle in her eye that comment numbers and reader numbers¬†are not the same.

I also have a guest post over at Goodlife Zen today and I’d love if you could check it out. (There’s a temporary hitch with paragraph spacing but I’m sure Mary will fix it soon.) It’s a celebration of uniqueness, inspiration and authenticity.

Authenticity and re-invention.

I’ve also had a good week over here. I’ve been delighted with the responses I’ve had to my post on harnessing the power of authenticity and especially to the post called Re-invention 101. It’s affirmed for me that there is a sea change coming in the blogging world, a stronger focus on authenticity and integrity, spirituality and presence, community and connection.

We have comments in these boxes as good as¬†many blog ¬†posts. Please check them out if you don’t usually subscribe to comment threads. I adore my comments boxes; it’s where my blog title Sharing the Journey really comes to life and¬†our boxes here¬†are full of marvellous, spiritual, interesting, authentic people who share themselves to support others; here are just a few excerpts from some of the inspiring responses¬†our¬†growing community has¬†been gifted with:

I wish I could have written ‚ÄúA Return To Love‚ÄĚ by Marianne Williamson. That book spoke to my soul when I first read it and it still does. I liked how she wrote with honesty and integrity. She did not write from the mind but from her heart. She shared her pain and how she grew from it. I could tell from her writing she was the real deal. She walked the walk and talked the talk. She had struggled to achieve her sense of peace and I admired her authenticity.¬† ~¬† Nadia

One day I was organizing stuff in my closet and ran across some assignments I had written when I was in University. I sat down in the closet and read them all and said to myself, ‚ÄúWhat on earth happened to this woman? Where did she disappear to?‚ÄĚ Amidst my tears and papers I pulled myself together and realized I didn‚Äôt have to reinvent myself. I had to find out who I had once been because I had LIKED myself then. ~ Maureen

My dream is to write and publish a romantic suspense novel one day. I have also attended some business seminars on starting your own business. I have been playing around with the idea of starting a home-based business in order to generate some income, while still looking for regular employment. I have definitely learned to appreciate and not take for granted anything anymore. I value my friends, family and life more now than ever . This change in my life has led me to a path in which I can enjoy each moment of each day more and pursue my goal of writing. ~ Ana

I’m not re-inventing myself; I am RE-re-inventing myself.

Caring for my father at the end of his life and dealing with the emotions that experience brought up prompted me to start looking for answers to questions I‚Äôd never voiced, not even inside my head. It took years, but I created a life I really liked…I‚Äôm working my way back to who I was, and hopefully into an even better version of me. ~ Ann Elise

I agree with the author that the concept of living a charmed life changes in the wink of an eye. It is not grounded in what you do but how you feel. Some of my completed manuscripts simply await the right moment to be published. Dreams can prevent people from awakening or, act as the catalyst to jog the mind and spirit out ot a timeless temporary slumber. ~Liara

That authenticity is something so many of us are working to have come through in our writing (and life) and we work so hard at it rather than let it simply shine through from our ‚Äėbeing‚Äô. ~ Melinda

I also loved ‚Äúlove the details‚Äô I was just out in my yard today, digging away in the dirt. I marveled at the ‚Äėweeds‚Äô (well others consider them weeds, to me they are beautiful and useful food and medicinals) I was flooded with gratitude that I had these wonderful plants volunteer to grow there, and further that I had such a wonderful space to grow them. I was filled with inspiration of ideas of how I will improve my yard space even further. I was out for 2 hours ‚Äėworking‚Äô in the yard, it was not ‚Äėwork‚Äô unless you want to call it ‚Äėwork‚Äô as an artist does of their beloved pieces. ~ Angie

It is liberating and at the same time I feel like a doe staring at the headlights. It is amazing how vast the information is and how fast it moves. Most days I am inspired and some days I feel completely overwhelmed and unsure which way to navigate my efforts. I remind myself every day to enjoy every moment and remain mindful that my life is filled with vitality and a beautiful family to share this great journey we call life. ~ Cindy

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Victoria Moran Book Giveaways – we have two winners!

My kids – taking it as seriously as stars announcing Oscar winners – pulled two names from a hat hand painted soup bowl.

Randi from Foreign Quang will be receiving a fee signed copy of The love Powered Diet, and Tess of The Bold Life will be receiving a signed copy of Living a Charmed Life.

I loved all of the comments and am so pleased I did it as a random draw or else I wouldn’t have¬†been able to choose two winners.

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A few quotes to inspire you to begin your day, your week Рa whole new month Рwith authenticity and courage!

The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is insincerity. ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

If  I choose to ignore myself when I am in desperate need of my own attention, I will resent those I have deemed more important than me. Even though I might spend the day trying to be happy and pleasant, underneath I will feel depleted because I have made a choice that has depleted me. ~ Debbie Ford

Instead of trying to hide the emotional refuse that is festering with rot, bring it to light and stick it in the compost bin to be transformed into useful fertiliser that will grow your future better self. ~ Kathryn L.Robyn and Dawn Ritchie

What we are really looking for is a sense of the real and an experience of true significance, true meaning. That can only come from one source. Deep down inside, every human being hears the echo of the experience of unity and wants it back. So we live our whole lives with only a vague sense of what it is we want but with the absolute knowledge that we had it once and it’s possible to have it again if only we knew how. ~ Sarah Susanka

When you are adrift from your core, the space between your surface and your depth fills up with anxiety. Too much time away from your inner home leads to homesickness. ~ Carrie McCarthy and Danielle La Porte

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In order not to cheat yourself, you have to make writing a high priority. You have to make it very nearly sacred. But you have to live the rest of your life. too; you have to allow room for all that makes you you, for all that feeds you. In my mind, being more than a writer means you’re more of a writer. ~ Elizabeth Berg

We are not powerless specks of dust drifting around in the wind, blown by random destiny. We are, each of us, like beautiful snowflakes –¬† unique, born for a specific reason and purpose. ~ Elizabeth K√ľbler-Ross

When you do not seek or need external approval, you are at your most powerful. Nobody can disempower you emotionally or psychologically…You cannot live for prolonged periods of time within the polarity of being true to yourself and needing the approval of others. ~ Caroline Myss

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Which of these quotes resonates with you most? What kind of a week have you had? What do you plan to do to buff up your authentic shine this month?

How to Blog With Integrity: Be a Spiritual Pioneer!

Photo by Amy Palko

We all have the opportunity to be spiritual pioneers in some way. When you put relationships before results, live with integrity, and care about how your actions affect the greater community, you too add spiritual value to the world. ~ Cheryl Richardson

Are you a spiritual pioneer?

Whether you blog to express yourself, to share information, make money or entertain, it makes sense to do it with honour and integrity. How can you check in with your integrity-ometer to see if that’s what you’re doing?

  • Are you willing to risk losing readers by telling the truth, in your posts and in your comments?
  • Are you scared to stay silent for a few days?
  • Do you form alliances simply on the basis of their usefulness to you?
  • Are you pandering to your audience by day but tossing and turning at night, feeling you’ve sold out?
  • Do you really believe in fostering a sense of community or are you stat-building by the back door?
  • Do you skim blogs you don’t enjoy, simply to leave a comment?

If any of those gave you inklings of ickiness in your gut, read on.

Who are the spiritual pioneers in your feed reader?

Write to Done has been one of my favourite blogs since its creation. Mary and Leo’s pieces embody what authentic leadership means.

As people, they represent the power of forming strong alliances built on resonance and friendship; they harmonise with and complement each other.

As professionals, their aim has been the ultimate win/win – to empower other writers. No-one with fierce egos would ever consider doing this.

Sean Platt and Dave Wright at  Collective Inkwell  have managed this ego-less marriage of minds too, by co-creating a serialised work of fiction and a new community of writers.

Some pioneers blaze new trails, profit from their innovations but manage to make people feel like fresh flesh at a vampire fest in the process.

Spiritual pioneers, on the other hand – like Mary and Leo – steadily make their way forward; along the way, they embrace new challenges, create communities and learn from the detours and diversions that almost entice them from the path they’re clearing towards their own fulfilment and what used to be called The Greater Good.

They showcase, link to and support other bloggers. For me, that’s the ultimate blogging win/win. Mary was the fairy godmother to my own blog launch, and for that I’ll be eternally grateful.

What does it take to be a spiritual pioneer?

A vision of where you want to go and a heart full of courage, integrity, loyalty and honesty.

Courage and Honesty

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeated. ~ Helen Keller

  • Be brave enough to spend time getting to know yourself well¬† so that you have something authentic to offer the world. There is only one you – there has never been another, nor will there be. Get to know your roles in life and your values for each role. If blogging means you go to bed at night feeling you’ve let down your loved ones, you need a rethink.
  • Be brave enough to stand up to the fear of ridicule, self doubt and wingclipping advice that inevitably follow bold new ventures.
  • Be brave enough to know when something isn’t working and let go. My friend Eric Hamm, created 5 new websites in four months and has only kept the best. Mary tried out¬† new formula at Goodlife Zen and her posts have gone viral.
  • Be brave enough to up the quality and length of your posts and cut the frequency if it works for you; you may be gifting your readers with a few days’ breathing space to catch up on your posts.
  • Be brave enough to cut down on the quantity, frequency and length of the comments you leave on other blogs. You’ll know in your heart if commenting is interfering with the quality of your own writing or the time you spend reading and living your non-cyber life.
  • Be brave enough to withdraw from social networking till you see what’s the absolute minimum that’s beneficial to your business and emotional welfare.

Integrity and Loyalty

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. ~ Ghandi

  • Don’t follow templates or advice that make you feel uncomfortable or sad. Your gut will know if you’re going against your true nature, ignoring your inner voice.
  • If your posts go viral and Twitter explodes your posts exponentially, don’t make your original readers feel left out and neglected, especially if you decide to stop replying to individual comments or emails. Write a small post explaining your new decision to keep your inbox and your daily commenting manageable. Do you really want to hurt the very same people who supported you daily when your comments read ¬†{6 COMMENTS} or the ones who emailed you to tell you to keep going?
  • Use links with integrity. Ask yourself some deep honest questions about why you use Comment Luv, as a blog host or a visitor.
  • When you visit a blog daily, ask yourself if you’re loyal, or just scared to miss the opportunity to advertise your latest posts through Comment Luv.
  • Do your comments add more than your silence would?
  • How many of your readers become friends? How many leave when your blog goes silent? Do you describe all visitors to your blog as ‘traffic’ without giving it a second thought?
  • Do your Twitter stats reveal loyalty – or tribal fear?

Clearing the way

To be any kind of pioneer, you have to clear a path through the unknown; you have to have a clear vision of who you are and where you’re going.

Here are some coaching questions to help you get to know yourself more deeply:

~ If time and money were not an issue, what would you most like to do with your life?

~ What expands you? What contracts you?

~ What would you like someone to say about the kind of person you were and how you lived your life?

~ If you could lead five parallel lives, all as you, which different ‘yous’ would you be in each of them?

Spiritual pioneers travel light. Get rid of anything that’s dulling your shine and draining your energy.

Eliminate…

  • Self limiting beliefs
  • The need to constantly blame others
  • Clutter in your home, your computer, your calendar and your thinking
  • Too much talking, too many words
  • ¬†People who drain you or leave you feeling competitive or inferior

What are your thoughts on spiritual pioneering?

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This post appeared as a guest post over at Write to Done. You can find the comments there.

How to Harness the Power of Authenticity in Your Writing and Your Life

Style Statement coverAuthenticity is not for the faint of heart. To fly in the face of history, circumstance and uncertainty, with your truth fully unfurled, takes some serious moxy. When you want to love and be loved (and what else is there really?) your truth becomes a very tender thing, and sharing it is a mighty gift. So perhaps being genuine is an every day act of heroism. ~ Danielle Laporte  and Carrie McCarthy (from Style Statement: Live by Your Own Design)

This is a long post; it wasn’t meant to be. It blossomed. I could have chopped it up, spread it out, but¬†I chose not to. I feel it’s important.

It dawned on me that I can just leave this¬†post ¬†up for a while, let you sit with it, give you time to maybe come back and share some of your responses and creations with us. I had a dream of this being a soulfood caf√©-bistro, so this is a long, leisurely Greek meal of a read, with a variety of mezedhes, salads, main dishes, bread, fruit and wine. I¬†hope you find something you like. Why don’t you grab a glass of something fresh or put the kettle on…

This is a taste of what¬†I¬†hope to be exploring in the coming weeks. This is my heart, who¬†I am. It’s my way of saying thank you for visiting. There are many wonderful blogs out there. I’m glad you came here.

If you want to know how to harness the power of authenticity, to improve your writing¬† – and your life – here are the answers; ¬†it’s up to you to live the questions. You have time. You have a lifetime.

Enjoy being as much as doing.

Try writing a To be/Do/Have list and not just a To Do list. Maybe just try a To Be list for the day and stick to it. Today, I want to be a devoted mum, a serene friend, an inspiring writer. What about you?

Be you.

Don’t just skim this one. Are you trying to be the next ………? How about being the first YOU. In this blog, you’ll always find questions to discover who you are. It’s like drinking water. One glass may be¬†good for you, but it doesn’t end there.

Strive to be your¬†best self…

Overdeliver, in everything you do. Build reserves of trust, respect, energy, goodwill, wellbeing. Edit like you were going for a Pullitzer, even if you’re the boss of your own blog. Write endless drafts, but cherish the best. Write like you’re writing to repay the gift of life itself.

…but love your whole self.

Strive to be your best self, but love yourself with the unconditional love you’d give a baby, or a toddler who’s just learning. All of our drafts are necessary. In the big scheme of things, we’re all children of the universe, learning from our mistakes every day of our lives, overwhelmed and striving to keep up; our memes are exploding exponentially while our genes¬† – a relic of earlier millenia – can just about handle love, fear, anger and the need to belong.

Be comfortable with silence.

Inspiration slips in through the silences between the thoughts.

Be present.

Give what you’re doing this very second your undivided attention. This is the only moment of life you will ever have. The past is gone; the future does not exist. This is it. Make it good. Thank you for reading this. To gift our community¬† with your presence is awesome.

Listen to others with your whole being.

It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give anyone, listening with empathy, love, respect, kindness – not chomping at the bit, preparing your own response, desperate to give advice or talk about yourself, even if it’s to prove your credentials for being able to empathise. If you give people this attention while you listen, when you read, it will be returned¬† – by the people you need it from and by the universe itself.

Taking notes, immortalising quotes¬†as you read a book or a blog is sending a message to the universe that you’re really listening, that you’re open to the wisdom of others, to signposts sent straight to your soul.

Listen to the sound of your inner voice.

Listen to its wisdom, its colours, its rhythm. That’s your unique voice, right there. Transcribe it!

You have the answers already; all you need are the right questions to unlock them. Check in with your gut. How does your body feel about your choices? Is there discomfort? Learn to trust your instincts, really trust them.

And listen to the voice that speaks, that reads aloud in your head. Write it down: listen to which words it stresses, to the increased peaks and dips where your natural intonation goes up and down, when you’re excited, gushing and happy; listen to how it slows down when you’re stressed, sad…weary. Capture those rhythms, inflections, silences.

I’ll be doing further posts on this. It’s an obsession,¬†a passion of mine.

Love details  Рlive details with all of your senses.

Another obsession. How can you be happy if you’re not grateful? How can you be grateful if you don’t notice? How can you attract abundance if you’re not grateful for what you already have?

We all need to have a big picture, a framework for our lives, the border of our jigsaw, the fabric of our tapestry – but it’s the details that make us feel rich, make us feel alive, make us unique. Use all of your senses. Listen more, smell more, relish every morsel of life, make every day a feast for the senses.

Discover your essence.

What would be left if your body evaporated and your mind, heart and soul were transplanted? The clues are in everything and everyone you love.

Discover what you adore.

Your choices, your preferences, your passions, what you choose to filter through you are all windows to who you are. So choose with your heart and soul, not just your head. But choose! If you’re lucky enough to be able to eat an apple, drink clean, clear water, why would you want to choose to drink¬† litres of brown sweeteners, carbon dioxide and chemicals?

Express that essence.

Why skim, scrape, swipe, emulate and live on the surface, in the shadows when you could be telling the only story that hasn’t been told yet – yours!

Express your essence in what you wear, what you read, what you eat, who you keep company with, what you contribute, how you celebrate your rituals, how you adorn your home, how you listen, how you converse, how you bring flavour and fragrance and music and movement to your life. Express your essence in every semi colon, font, plugin, widget, button, colour and photo on your website, in every word, syllable and silence of your writing.

Strunk and White have this advice for all writers: ” Your whole duty as a writer is to please and satisfy yourself, and the true writer always plays to an audience of one.”

The same applies to being yourself, to loving yourself. How can we love others as ourselves – as we are told to do by every religion – if we do not first love ourselves, and love ourselves well.

Long to connect.

If you treat people like traffic passing through your life, someday you’ll be run over, or left behind to smother in the smog.

There are hearts out there to capture, real people to reach and inspire and support with your gifts. Money’s good – it buys food, clothes¬†and education, medicine and shelter, entertainment and art. The more you have, the more good you can do. But it’s not the only form of currency. Don’t buy financial abundance with your soul.

Long to leave a legacy.

The love and memories you leave behind, the people you touch, your words and gestures scattered across the internet, around the world,¬†they’re your legacy. What’s your message, your authentic message, the voice that makes you unique?

Be brave, be vulnerable.

Be brave enough to explore the depths, to find a way out and shine a light for others to find theirs. Don’t be scared to live, to hold out your heart in both hands like a trembling bird and say “Here I am, love me as I am or leave me.” Be more afraid to die with your song still in you, to cheat your loved ones, your readers and the world of the greatest gift you have to give. You.

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…”Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.”¬† This moral observation would have no place in a rule book were it not that style is the writer, and therefore what you are, rather than what you know, will at last determine your style. ~ Strunk and White, (from The Elements of Style)

It’s¬†a lot to take in. Here are a few questions to help you discover your real self. There will be more in the months to come. Sit with them a while…roll them around in your soul. Add a “Why?” to any of them and you have a personal safari to discover fuel for your writing. I promise, your writing will improve. So will your life.

What scares you?

What thrills you?

What do you want more of?

What do you want less of?

What do you say YES! to?

What do you say no to?

What expands you?

What contracts you?

If your writing was a drink, what would it be? What would you like it to be?

What do you find yourself longing for?

That voice that whispers in the depths of night, what does it say?

If you were a fragrance, what would you be?

Who do you long to reach? What do you want them to feel?

If you could carry one object in your pocket that represents you, what would it be?

If you were an animal, what would you be?

If you were a colour what would you be?

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Has it been a while since you wrote poetry? Try writing and randomly rearranging your answers to some of the questions above. You may surprise yourself. This is off the top of my head…

a sea green pebble

worn smooth by the restless tides

a gift from the sea

My Journey to Ithaka

I nearly gave up blogging today, not for the first time these last few weeks. After writing a comment on someone else’s blog, I made a coffee and¬†was led to¬†this poem in a book of Greek poetry my best friend Kostas gave me, a few days after we first met. Neither of us knew then that the thoughts and wishes in this poem would be the message he would¬†leave me as a legacy¬†when he died a decade later. Kostas never let me¬† – never lets me – give up on anything without exploring it fully; this is his way of telling me I’m on track. I’m just having one of those days when I wish I could be having this conversation with him¬†in our favourite seafront caf√©.

Ithaka

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon-don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon-you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind-
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

(From C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems: Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992. As a professional translator from Greek into English, this is one of the best translations I’ve come across. If you want to see the original Greek too, I’d recommend The Collected Poems: with parallel Greek text (Oxford World’s Classics))

From the Pieces of our Lives

If you have to spend long hours at a computer,¬†synchronicity surfing is¬†a fantastic way to take a break, get to see new places, new paradigms, meet new people and find lovely pieces of art as souvenirs. I find I’m never more than a few clicks away¬†from an Etsy shop or someone’s hand-crafted goods.

Those sudden finds while we’re relaxed and following links from one site to another can often be signposts sent by the universe about our personal style, a vital part of finding our unique ‘voice’.

I’ve always loved mosaics, but had forgotten just how much. While visiting a newcomer to our blog the other day, I found these beautiful mosaics in the Flikr stream of Diana Maus¬†. I’m usually drawn to those made from small pieces of ceramics, but I found these bead creations captivating. If you’re looking for inspiration for Mother’s Day, you could check out¬†Diana’s Etsy shop.

Mosaics symbolise the art we can create when we decide to make something beautiful and new from all the pieces of our lives.

suddenly-in-sunlight-by-diana-maus

volcano-love-song-by-diana-maus

dreams-heal-many-hearts-by-diana-maus

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If you were to close your eyes and visualise a mosaic of your life, what would all the important pieces of your past and present be? The patterns? The places and people that have meant the most? The heroes who turned your life around? The gems and jewels? What would be the colour palette? Which symbols would represent recurring themes in your life? Which creatures or elements of nature?

Have a look around your home and your wardrobes, your jewellery box and the view outside your windows. Does it represent the mosaic you visualised a moment ago? What kind of mosaic would an artist like Diana make of the life she sees there today?

Finding Your Voice in the Silence

Everything in life responds to the song of the heart. ~ Ernest Holmes

Coaches know the vital importance of listening out for recurring words, moods, themes and images as clients share their issues.

Readers feel these woven themes.

Parents’ instincts go on red alert when the same issues come up again and again in a t(w)eenager’s conversation or¬†a toddler’s chatter.

If your lover mentions a name often, it’s enough to set off warning bells.

Which themes weave their way through your life as well as your writing?

I’ve come to realise that I’m obsessed with the themes of silence and voices. Whether I’m writing about music or birds,¬†those twins will¬†appear¬† somewhere. Communication is¬†embroidered through the fabric of my soul. Language teacher, translator, singer, writer…it took me a while, but I finally started to see the pattern. In there, too, are the ghosts of childhood trauma that I’ve tried to¬†exorcise¬† – or¬†make peace with¬† – by being the best mum I can be,¬†by¬†helping my children find their unique voices.

As part of this week’s theme of excavating your¬†authentic self, I’d like you to do some more work on silence and voice. Please answer these questions in your journal or better still, if you can, please share them with our little community, anonymously if you prefer; we have coaches here who can¬†support you.¬†These simple questions can¬†help you find your authentic self and maybe even give you some inspiration for your writing.

  • What does silence¬†symbolise¬†for you?
  • Follow the threads of your life embroidery through to the present day; which major events have made you feel like you found your voice?
  • When has silence terrified you?
  • Which singer has a voice that could be the voice of your very own soul?

You can find some of my own answers in the following piece, which I wrote before I finally went on to pass the practical part of my coaching exam. Apologies to those of you who’ve already discovered this piece in my archives, in a¬†previous post or in my free ebook. I thought of it today as I was writing a description of a silent moment; I¬†felt an echo of something I’d already written.

The Sound of Music

Everything in life responds to the song of the heart. ~ Ernest Holmes

I love hearing silence used beautifully. The perfect pause that reaches out like ripples around a pebble in a dark pool. A poem where the unspoken word can say more than the most carefully crafted chapter. The silence between the notes that makes the music.

I went to a Scottish folk concert last night and sat in awe as the fiddles and pipes had a spirited conversation, the flute became a voice, the guitar wrapped itself around them all and the drumbeat turned into a heartbeat, a handclapping, footstomping hall full of joy and applause. As I sat listening to the band, watching the stage lights pick out their foot tapping, swaying forms in beams of changing coloured light on the dark stage, I remembered how I used to feel performing my own songs in the heat of the lights, savouring the silence between the fading of the last note and the start of the clapping.

I sang my way around Europe when I worked as a language teacher and translator; my voice was a vital part of who I was and what I did.  After I had my kids, I moved back to Scotland and slowly, imperceptibly, I stopped writing, stopped singing, stopped playing the guitar and even stopped speaking the foreign languages I was fluent in. Silence gently settled around my soul like snow.

When I drifted into life coaching, on my journey out of what I now realise was low grade chronic depression, my passion to tell the whole world about it bubbled up, spilled over and finally gushed out in the torrent that helped me rediscover my voice.

Meeting other coaches in teleclasses and online was a bonus, like watching a film with a cast of wonderful, colourful characters. I have a colleague who coaches with the quiet, understated elegance of a Grace Kelly. One coaching buddy has the gentle strength and loving radiance of a spiritual leader РI’ve never met her but I just know  she has a twinkle in her eye! Another has a voice like hot chocolate; her coaching sessions are like a studio where you turn yourself and your life into a work of art. And we all know someone who coaches like Bette Davis on a bad day, right? So who would you be?

I suspect I‚Äôd be Maria from The Sound of Music, twirling around on a mountain top, squashing innocent edelweiss underfoot, tripping my way clumsily through cobbled streets and coaching sessions oblivious to the fact that I was knocking people over with my swinging guitar case as I sang ‚ÄúI have confidence in sunshine‚Ķ!‚ÄĚ

It didn’t surprise me when I failed Step 2 of the IAC exam. I gush, I interrupt inappropriately and I have this overwhelming urge to fix things, to make children’s clothes out of curtains and get people singing about their favourite things.

Can I see myself ever getting certified?¬† Well, Maria never did make it as a nun, although, thanks to her Mother Superior‚Äôs glorious rendition of¬† ‚ÄúClimb every mountain‚ÄĚ, she got the handsome husband, the home full of happy kids and found her dream. Am I glad to have my voice back, a spirited, life loving, world worshipping voice? Oh yes. Oh, dear God, YES!!!