An October Story for the Children of the Moon and the Daughters of the Earth

An October Story for the Children of the Moon and the Daughters of the Earth

Conversations with my daughter enliven and exhaust me sometimes, especially when we’re trying to sort through stories about our beautiful, brutal, complicated world. Trying to put things into words she can understand when I realize I don’t even have the words...

Ultimately, these conversations offer the best stories and make me a better storyteller.

The secret behind your post-election writer's block

got-writers-blockSomeday, it might be fun to tell your grandkids that you had a front row seat for what will surely go down in history as one of the most infamous elections ever. Since every person must tell the story from their own point of view, there will be hundreds of millions of versions of the 2016 presidential race, and they’ll only have one thing in common: each story will have a beginning, middle, and an end.

Eventually, you’ll have the perspective to understand when and how the story started (it probably wasn’t the day the winner announced his candidacy).

You’ll figure out the turning point (surprisingly, it wasn’t the day the Access Hollywood tape was released).

Already, some Americans can tell you the last line of the story: a 3 AM victory speech.

Others are still waiting to figure out how their story ends.

[tweetthis]If you have post-election writer's block it's because you're still living your story[/tweetthis]

How to be sure your 2016 election story isn’t finished yet

It's important to note that having an unfinished election story does not imply that you refuse to accept the results of the American democratic process or that you're into the whole #notmypresident thing. You could say it's more about the state of your heart than it is about making plans to move to Canada.

Here's a quick self-test to see if you're in the camp that's still waiting for an ending:

  • If you have a love/hate relationship with the social media feeds and recognize that all these reactions are wrecking your health, but you still can’t look away, your story probably isn’t finished yet.
  • If you’re someone who is trying to avoid all political material (except Joe Biden memes) and is focusing purely on videos of cats and puppies, then there's a decent chance your story isn’t finished yet. (And I’m really flattered you broke your own rules to read this!)
  • And, if you’re someone who can’t turn journal entries or scattered notes into a complete article or blog post, your story definitely isn’t finished yet.

(Oh, and should you fit the unfinished story profile you probably appreciate pantsuits and the color blue, but that’s sort of a side issue at this point.)

Ultimately, you see the 2016 presidential race as something that’s about a lot more than the person who sits in the Oval Office. You understand that many of the the people you care about and work with can’t get back to life as usual in our post November 8th world.

You’re in touch with all of the feelings of shock, outrage, confusion, and emptiness that make you fantasize about taking to the streets or hiding under the bed. (And you probably vacillate between the two options in the space of a minute.)

But what about the persistent inner voice that says “you must write” (or podcast or try Facebook Live)?

A wise friend, a therapist and writer, who has been writing boldly into the most troublesome issues of the day kindly advised me to "give yourself a chance to wait until you regroup and heal."

My response? "Well, I guess I will be doing a lot of writing from the other side of the grave."

As a writing and storytelling coach for therapists, healers, and people in the transformation business, it’s my job to be two steps ahead. I’m here to support people who write to deepen self knowledge and publish content to support their practices. I show up online in order to model that process, but how on earth can I do that when I have no idea what I really think and I feel unqualified to offer guidance?

That sort of extra pressure only makes the writer’s block even more painful, of course.

But then, I remind myself that every honest person who has shared any insights over the last week owns the fact that they’re stumbling along unmarked paths with everyone else. Many have found a way to say… something. Few of these pieces feel complete or definitive, but that’s ok. Certainty is a lie when you don’t know the story’s real ending.

It’s enough to hold space like Dani Shapiro did, to own our disbelief and disorientation like Rob Bell did, or to apply timeless principles like Susan Piver did.

If it’s not a time for storytelling, it’s a time for story holding

What eases us through this time of confusion?

Stillness. Being aware of the mess. Feeling all the feelings. Kindness. Compassionate conversation.

We actually heal confusion by admitting that we’re mired in it and, as much as we hate to admit it, when we realize that confusion has a measure of power over us.

We collectively achieve clarity when we refuse to rush a story to a neat little ending before its time.

The good news? The wonderful news for therapists, healers, and transformation professionals? It’s your job to hold and keep safe the stories of others. Even if you’re a teacher and it often feels like you're called to perform and convey information, you’re also someone who witnesses and supports others’ growth.

The kind of work you do is about listening. It is the kind of work that asks you to respond to one person’s needs. It does not require you to fully articulate the new left wing agenda or how to reverse this new racism and misogyny sweeping America or how to decide if it's better to protest or pray.

Your work requires you to be articulate in long moments of silence and to hold space for clients going through their own dark nights, through their own stumbling confusion.

Your clients don't need to be guided to the end of their own election story. Your clients need you to help guide them back to themselves.

[tweetthis]In the #election aftermath, it might be better to be a story holder than a storyteller[/tweetthis]


And yet, it is always time for writing and self expression

Even as your work may call you to be fluent in the language of silence, please don’t silence yourself if the words are aching to come through.

I invite you to rely on your writing practice (as well as your meditation practice and other healing modalities that calm and unbind your soul) to find your way through your own confusion. And I invite you to heed the call to share those ideas when you trust the moment is right, when you trust that you must be heard.

3 Ways to Write What's True During Times of Uncertainty | by Marisa Goudy, writing & storytelling coach for therapists, healers, and transformation professionalsHere are 3 things I know as I write beside you through this time of uncertainty:

(And, yes, it's based on the Story Triangle that I use to help writers connect with their readers and their own truth. Click here to learn more. )

1. Self-focused first drafts are essential. Anne Lamott gave us permission to write “shitty first drafts.” By all means, feel free to write utter crap as long as it means you’re getting words on a page.

But please, please, please don’t allow yourself to write lousy versions of what someone else told you to think or what you assume the people want to hear from you. Write for yourself first in order to discover the truths within you.

2. Keep your audience in mind. What does your reader need from you? Why are you writing in this particular public forum? The territory you cover on a Medium post will likely be very different that the ideas you share on your business blog.

Know your platform and know its audience. When you get that SFD into the final draft, it needs to be re-crafted according to the needs of your reader. Do they need reassurance, do they need resources, do they need you to raise a ruckus, or do they need respite from all that election talk?

3. Remember that complete, compelling stories are everywhere, just waiting to be told. The great big election story is still being written as we see what a You Know Who presidency looks like, but there are countless little stories to be told along the way.

Even though many kids have taken the election results pretty hard (who else loves an elementary school kid who is still heart broken because we don't have a “girl president?), children are resilient. What stories are they living in the present moment?

Look for the ways that hope is being wrapped in a beginning, middle, and end. How are people uniting and taking positive action, despite the heavy November clouds?

Do you have stories that are begging to come through you? I can help hold space for you to tell them, support you as you clarify your ideas, and help you craft your words.

Set up a free 15 minute consultation to learn about how writing and story coaching can help you build your writing practice and your professional practice.

So you want to write about politics (or whatever issue is troubling you & the world)

So you want to write about politics | Writing and Storytelling Coach Marisa Goudy

So you want to write about politics | Writing and Storytelling Coach Marisa Goudy

Right now, America is made up of two kinds of people. No, I don’t mean Democrats and Republicans.

As a citizen of the interwebs, you’ve made a choice: you’re either someone who posts about the election or you’ve decided to keep your personal and professional feed free of that political stuff.

Maybe you stay silent because just don’t really care about who ends up being president. If you’re in the transformation business , however, I bet that you care deeply about how America’s leadership affects the individual and the collective.

You either add to the conversation or watch from the sidelines based on your personal tolerance for controversy. And, you likely decide to speak up or shut up based on how you think publicly picking the blue team or the red will impact your professional online presence.

How is it working for you? Is it tough to stay quiet or are you regretting the last time you hit “share”?

But 2016 is different and the stakes seem higher (for real this time)

Oh, but wait a minute. You might be part of the third camp.

You might not be broadcasting the latest video from your preferred candidate’s campaign, but you might be taking a stand on hot topics from the latest rally.

In 2016, issues like sexual assault and the treatment of disabled citizens are shot with political nuance. Addressing them at all seems to say a lot about whether you lean left or right.

Suddenly, if you’re a therapist and you’re talking about something you’ve been trained to detect and heal, like the repressed memory of sexual trauma, it means you’re “getting political.” And while you may have a vast community of colleagues and allies who will support your statements - and share what you write - you also open yourself to a whole tide of partisan fervor that you just don’t have the bandwidth or the stomach to handle.

[tweetthis]As a healer, speaking up about the #election is about the personal, political & professional[/tweetthis]

But it’s not political, it’s personal

Just this week two clients - who both tell me they generally prefer to ignore all things political - have sent me pieces about Trump’s comments and how they opened past wounds and how the election is hurting their clients, especially the kids.

These women and I have built a great deal of trust. They sent me raw drafts that dove deep into the pain and the confusion that so many experience every time they look at the news.

This year, it's not political, it's personal. Writer and Storytelling coach Marisa Goudy

This year, it's not political, it's personal. Writer and Storytelling coach Marisa Goudy

Clearly, they needed to explore this territory. And, because the issues were so timely and so painful, it wasn’t enough for these therapist-bloggers to keep these thoughts tucked away on a private page.

Let’s be clear: we all need to explore this territory. Divisions run terribly deep in the US these days, but at the end of it all, we all share a country. We need to do that with greater grace and decency after November 8.

All of us who dare talk about taking a “holistic approach” understand that when one of us bleeds, we all bleed.

Telling and sharing tough stories helps more people understand what that really means.

[tweetthis]We need to tell & share tough stories to show people what #holistic really means.[/tweetthis]

You needed to write it. Does that mean you have to publish it?

My first task as a writing and storytelling coach is to simply take in what’s being said and then reflect it back to the writer. Sometimes, that’s enough.

Typing it out and sharing it with a trusted audience of one may take the charge out of the idea so the writer can let it rest. It may also reveal that the topic is too intimate, unprocessed, and unhealed to go any further.

But, if the writer still feels like she has an enduring passion for the topic and trusts that the words come from "scars, not from gaping open wounds," we begin the editing process that leads to publication - somewhere.

To be sure about whether it’s worth taking the time to really untangle the ideas and perfect the rough draft, I ask a few questions:

  • Is this something that belongs on your blog? If your professional website’s main job is to attract parents seeking play therapy for their elementary school kids, a post about how adults can deal with old memories of assault that get triggered by watching CNN is going to be out of place.

  • Is this something that belongs on your Facebook wall or elsewhere on social media? If the post is relatively short and would require minimal editing, you might want to use the social media soapbox. After all, it seems like everyone else is, right?Just be prepared for anything… a longish post about a controversial topic could either go unnoticed or become a lightning rod for friends and trolls you never imagined would find you.

  • Is it something you want to see on HuffPo or another big site? The decision to seek publication depends on whether you have the time and whether it will help you reach other goals… Would you be able to leverage that new exposure into building your business or growing your community? Your website would need to be ready for the traffic and you’d need to greet them with a relevant email opt-in offer to make it a list builder.Keep in mind that time is not on your side when it comes to writing about issues that are making headlines right now.

Writing about the issues “everyone is talking about” is mostly about timing

Let’s dive into the question of timing for a moment. Ultimately, your decision to invest yourself in a piece of writing that relates to the shock of the moment is largely reliant on the clock.

The election season will end soon - thank goodness! The release of Trump’s Access Hollywood tape is now considered the turning point in the election, but the headlines have moved on to Wikileaks and talk of rigged elections.

This is what always happens. As devastated and incensed as people were about the death of a Syrian toddler, the Brock Turner case, the shooting of unarmed black men and police officers, the mainstream media and the majority of the population have moved on.

Like it or not, the collective attention was soon invested in the next outrage and, occasionally, the nice warm fuzzy (yes, little bird who landed on Bernie’s podium, I am looking at you.)

In the moment when these big stories take over, however, the multitudes are hungry for news, for fresh angles, for provocative opinions. But still, attention is a rare, fleeting commodity.

There’s such a narrow window of time to vie with so many other content producers - including many professional writers whose lives are built to accommodate staying up all night to be among the first to comment on the latest scandal.

Writing about the latest controversy is also about your "why"

Oh dear…

Have I negated everything I said about passion for a topic and the writer’s natural and healthy desire to  explore an idea and be seen?

I don’t mean to. It’s just that I value your time and your precious writing gift so much that I want you to be sure you’re lavishing it on the topics and ideas that feed you - spiritually, creatively, philosophically, and professionally. And I want you to be aware of the trade offs.

I want you to be sure of why you’re writing the piece.

Do you need to say it publicly in order to sleep at night? Will raising your voice about this particular topic improve your bottom line or bring you some online visibility that helps you build a platform over time?

In that case, yes. Stay up late and turn those jagged paragraphs into powerful prose.

[tweetthis]Writing about the latest #election controversy is also about why you're in the transformation biz[/tweetthis]

The case for writing into your passions and daring to be heard

Robert Cox is a therapist, podcaster, and writer who sees the headline, feels the feelings, and starts writing. I got to know him and his writing through the Practice of Being Seen community. It was June when I had a chance to edit the first column he posted over at the Huffington Post, but his response to the Stamford rape trial still sticks with me.

And all of the brave work he’s done since, standing in his power as a trauma therapist and a dad who needs to speak his truth and address the toughest issues of the day continues to impress - and reach an increasing readership. When I decided to write about whether it’s worth writing about the election, I knew I needed to get his perspective:

Much of the reason I do it is grounded in my belief.  I was inspired by Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "The Cost of Discipleship" written just prior to his going back to Nazi Germany - even though [American theologian and ethicist] Reinhold Niebuhr was begging him not to. Bonhoeffer’s point was that I cannot claim to follow Christ if I am not willing to risk everything.

So every time I start to think about the risk, how it might be seen by licensure boards, will it cost me professionally, blah, blah, blah....I hear his voice.

I think about what the world would be had it not been for men like him.  Then writing seems small, but something I can do.

Remember who you are when you start to write about that next incendiary topic

You’re human.

That means the news is going to bum you out and piss you off. It’s going to make you want to hide under a rock and raise hell. It’s going to make you despair the state of the world.

You’re also a healer and a visionary. You’re able to take the news that broke your heart and, through the alchemy of your writing process, turn it into the golden insight that mends the hearts of your readers and clients.

Sit with your rage and your sorrow. Pour them into a selfish first draft that dwells on your pain and your personal reactions. Then, if you’re called to dive deeper and write further, ask yourself how you can move beyond exposing the madness and speak up for your values and also offer solutions.

We need bright white lights in the swirling mess of red and blue. If you’re feeling called to write and publish your response to the latest jaw dropping revelation, we need your shining voice to show us the way through.