Empowered. That word is so overused it’s borderline cliche. The concept has been commodified and marketed so much that we need to strip off the cheap slogans like shag carpet from parquet floors.
How we achieve real empowerment has been the subject of debate with a new friend.
“Can I ask you an honest question? Why are you doing this? The writing, I mean. What are you getting out of it?” she asked me on the phone as I headed out for a walk. Great question. I made a mental note to ask this of myself more often.
That word popped into my head again. Empowered. For me, writing leads to mental clarity and reveals purpose—that’s power. Not to mention it’s the best kept wellness secret and I want to share it with anyone who will listen. We have the answers inside us, all we have to do is get a pen and paper and free them from our subconscious mind.
But that’s not how I responded. I told her a story instead.
We don’t learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.
After I wrote a book and started building my author platform, the marketing guy observed that I seemed to want to encourage other people to write their own stories instead of drawing them in to read mine. His tone suggested that as a writer, I should be doing the latter. But he had me pegged. I really did want to encourage others to tell their stories. And why wouldn’t I? It had transformed my life. I am not suggesting everyone stop what they are doing and get to work on a manuscript, but a journaling practice a few times a week is doable for anyone. And the benefits are well worth the time.
Releasing old stories from my body and putting them down on the page has liberated me from an old identity. One that held me responsible for the pain I experienced as a kid. We all naturally do that. It’s called the Just World Fallacy—people tend to believe the world is fair and we get what we deserve. But I didn’t cause the rejection, judgment or abandonment that I experienced and I’m all done shouldering the blame for it. And, interestingly, once I got those stories out of me, a couple family members decided they were done with me too. And they’ve never even seen the book. Some folks don’t want to take ownership of their stuff. I’d prefer growth over denial any day. Author Martha Beck says to be truly happy, we need to let go of family trauma and what the culture expects of us. Society wants us to make nice. I’ve opted out.
Don’t set yourself on fire just to keep other people warm.
Writing has allowed me to let go of some major baggage but its also empowered me to share more of who I really am and inspired me to explore deeper truths in every aspect of my life. When readers respond that my story has resonated with them and they share their own truth, it closes the loop. Truth begets truth. And if they do the prompt and let me know they’ve learned something, that’s the cherry on the icing on the cake.
I want to help other people understand themselves better. When you write your story, you know who gets to say what it all means? Who gets to assign the reason why this crazy thing happened? You do. Every single thing you have been through has lead you to where you are right now. And if you are going through something, you can explore it in real time. We have all experienced hardship and pain. Reflecting on your resilience can transform you—help you to see yourself. My stories got me here and I am exactly where I need to be.
You may be wondering, how does that work exactly? When you put your words down in black and white, your body speaks them into being. The meaning you give what happened to you can build you up or tear you down, you get to decide. I chose a powerful meaning to every challenge I ever had. At the end of my book, I conclude that an unlimited supply of everything I need has always been available inside me. Ultimately, other people’s failings do not reflect on me whatsoever.
Until I began writing, I had looked for the answers outside myself, but, not surprisingly, I couldn’t find them. I didn’t know that all I needed was a door in, i.e., a simple writing prompt. When you are ready to write, all you have to do is grab a journal and let ‘er rip. And if prompts help you, I post a new one daily in my story on Instagram @elizabethheise1. All the past ones are archived in the Writing Prompt story highlight. A whole list of Writing Prompts are also in the menu on elizabethheise.com. The one you select will be the exact one you need. When you write without judgment, it will take you where you are supposed to go. Just keep the pen moving even if you write I don’t know what to say. That’s just the mental noise blocking out your real thoughts. In the coming months, I will be developing a program to get that story out of you, once and for all.
And now I am taking the next step in my creative journey. I am making room for new stories. I even cleaned out my closet and medicine chest—I heard that helps. I have a tendency to hang on to EVERYTHING for way longer than I should just to feel safe, including old narratives that no longer serve me. I have no more time for that. I am embracing growth and change.
Pay attention to what makes you feel energized, connected and stimulated, follow your intuition. Do what you love and you will do more than succeed. You will soar.
In that spirit, I am heading to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala for Joyce Maynard’s Write By The Lake. We had been in touch about Scrappy and she suggested I bring it to this workshop before querying. I decided instead that I want to write new stories. Scrappy is not in the mood to be tinkered with and her trajectory is TBA. Joyce is a story surgeon and I can’t wait to see her extract stories from each one of these writers, including me.
While I am out of the country, a fellow writer will guest post here on my Friday stories. Her piece is fabulous and I would love to hear what you think.
When we let go of our old stories and create space for a new version of ourselves to emerge, we get the sense that it’s all going to be okay.
Writing Prompt: What makes you feel energized, connected and stimulated? How much time do you spend doing it?
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