I’ve had a rich, gratifying year full of connection, friendship, learning and inspiration. Curiously, though, my stats declare that in some ways, it’s all been downhill since that first day; because I launched with a simultaneous guest post over at Write to Done, Zen Habits’ sister blog, I got hundreds of hits in a few hours, and have never had that many since! That was probably my first lesson in blogging – don’t get obsessed with statistics or you’ll get depressed and fry your brain!
Since then, I’ve learned that I am what I call a “deciduous blogger”. I need periods of dormancy so I can grow and blossom. I also need frequent integrity checks, as there are aspects of the blogging world that don’t sit well with me. Here’s how I expressed it in my post Guest House:
Writing helps the soul breathe, but blogging is a different beast. It makes me feel like a madwoman most days, swinging between highs of connection, learning, new friendships and self expression and lows of paranoia, frustration, exhaustion and queasiness at the underlying hypocrisy and unmentioned stalking and plunder that goes on in the shadows.
Some days I gush, full of the overflowing inspiration I feel the need to share, grateful for the gift of every single page view or subscription; some days I long to lash out and rant.
I relish our humanity – mine, yours and that blogger over there’s, the one who bugs us both. But I know, from living every detail of my journey, that I’m not positive every day, that I’ve needed my darkness to make me reach out for better days, like a plant craving the sun’s embrace. The huge discrepancy between my subscriber numbers and the comments boxes makes me wonder if I’ll ever learn enough in the silence between the comments to know what you want to read, what you’d like me to share.
One thing I do know, I appreciate you, for taking the time to come here and read. It’s all a writer really needs, that one-to one connection. Everything else is a bonus. I’ve cut and saved the rest of this draft to post later – it started to sound embarrassingly like a weepy, grateful Oscar acceptance speech – but for now, here’s the piece that marked the beginning of my journey.
Quote-Hunting: How to Improve your Writing and your Life
Big claim. How on earth can capturing quotes in a notebook improve our lives? I’m guessing you’re a book lover as well as a wordsmith. Or an avid reader of other people’s blogs? If we use our skills as quote-hunters with integrity, we can sharpen our writing and invite presence, openness, connection, focus and inspiration into everything we do.
Being open to inspiration and guidance
As a writer, you should have a sticky soul; the act of continually taking things in should be as much a part of you as your hair color. ~ Elizabeth Berg
I never go out without a pen, a notebook and a book to read. When I read a book with a ‘quotebook’ and a pen handy, it’s a signal I send to myself and to the universe. It says “I’m open. I expect nothing, but I’m prepared to be moved, enlightened or entertained. I’m a student, ready and willing to learn from the lives and the wisdom of others.” In my Filofax, stuck on the fridge, pinned to my pinboard and incorporated into my art work, albums and blog, quotes serve as flashes of inspiration, mini mission statements and signposts to keep me on track. Dead poets become heroes, strangers become mentors.
Right in the middle of Barack Obama’s inauguration speech, I jotted down the words that became the header quote for a multi-threaded article I’d written about school decisions, coaching, my daughter and the new president, called Sharing the Journey. I’d been hunting for the right quote for hours and I felt like he was speaking to me directly when he said, “It is…the parent willing to nurture a child that will decide our fate.” It brought the whole piece together and set the tone.
Focus and attention
“You see, what catches our attention might be more than a coincidence – it might also be a potential incident of inspiration.” ~ Wayne Dyer
Using a quote by someone else can add freshness and a different perspective to what you’re expressing, like a photo used to illustrate a blog post. At the beginning of a piece, it can stimulate curiosity and provide a taste of
what’s to come or it can highlight an important concept. In the middle of a piece, it can link sections or bind ideas like a ribbon around a bouquet.
Finding the perfect quote that illustrates several sentiments or pulls together a complex train of thought is similar to recognising one of life’s Aha! moments. It’s synchronicity’s way of helping us focus and pay attention. Highlighting sections of your own writing, either as a header or in a text box, can help clarify your aims, intensify your intention or mirror your message. We all have different ways of processing the world; it’s a sign of respect to others if we try and find a way to repackage what we’re saying in ways that resonate.
Connection, magical moments and collages
“Cling to simplicity, sincerity and the power of truth.” ~ from the I Ching
Our first instincts are often the ones that bypass our censors and cruel inner critics which is why many quotes become deeply personal and precious to us. They’re like messages sent from our own souls.
Every time you choose a quote that resonates with you, don’t stop to ask why; just write it down and keep it safe. Quotes are like photographs, snapshots of who you are, who you were. They’re music that moves you, lyrics that leave you scarred. They’re memories of a moment when you came upon someone else’s words and felt connected, not only to another human being, but to the moment, the thought and the feeling that overflowed from them and cried out to be heard. The ‘Me too!!’ or ‘That’s it exactly!!’ moment.
As writers, isn’t that what we want to achieve in our own work?
Being open to connecting with others in this way makes us more grateful and humble, more open as human beings, more able to create this kind of connection in our own writing. It’s our unique life experience and how we channel, choose and arrange the moments, the music and the words that makes us writers, creating collages that turn our lives into works of art – living, breathing works of art that we want to share with others.
(This piece appeared as a guest post in Write to Done . It was was adapted from my Coaching Moments article Treasure Hunting, which was edited by Linda Dessau and appeared in the March 2009 issue of VOICE.)