Write like nobody’s watching

Photo by Peter Kleinau

It’s been less than two weeks since I stopped blogging daily. Prior to then, I’d been hitting ‘publish’ daily for almost three years.

I have to say, this whole not-blogging thing has been a bizarre experience. For a few days, I was in a haze. My family and friends were concerned.

What?! You stopped daily blogging?! Are you okay? Can we help?

And they were serious.

I miss posting daily. I really do. And I may be back to it at some point.

But I’m also enjoying this season of kicking back with my journal and being mindful about where I take this writing life of mine in the new year. I want to be intentional about it. And I’m glad I pumped the brakes a bit.

Which takes me to you…

Are you shipping, shipping, shipping these days?

Because yes, there’s value in getting work out to the world on a regular basis. I get it. But what I’ve learned through experience is this…

Too much shipping can easily lead to deadness in creativity.

You have to replenish the well. I mean, think about it…

Bodybuilders have ample gym time between competitions. Actors and musicians have rehearsal between shows. Martial artists have their dojo practice between matches.

Yes, there’s a time to ship. No, there’s nothing wrong with shipping every day. But if all you do is ship, you will get depleted. I promise.

When our work is always public, our ideas are constantly censored. Every word comes out under the scrutiny of the internal editor.

Some of us dance better with the internal editor than others. I got pretty good at it. But I’m fortunate.

These last few weeks, having gone back to the private pages of my journal, I’ve already experienced a massive recharge of creative juice. I’m in contact with my muse again.

Yes, this is totally magical thinking — unabashedly so (more on this coming soon). Because it IS magical. When we sit with our inner narrative and shamelessly express the words that live in the depths of our being, we find our truth in the moment. And that sh*t is powerful.

This is where strong writing comes from: a deep connection with self.

No ‘marketing hacks’ ebook or ‘growth blueprint’ can teach you that.

Take some time away from shipping. 

Write for you, uncensored.

Give yourself to proverbially scream into your pillow through your journal. 
Write badly. Horribly. Boldly.

Create in a place of raw, untethered humanity before one of forced perfection.

No, you can’t fake this. You can’t go into a journaling session with the idea that you’re going to turn your private work into public work. It has to genuinely be for you, only.

This passage from one of my favorite humans in history has long been a favorite of mine and is my guiding light now (too bad I abandoned it when I started blogging daily)…

We must reserve a back shop all of our own, entirely free, in which to establish our real liberty and our principal retreat and solitude. Here our ordinary conversation must be between us and ourselves, and so private that no outside association or communication can find a place...

Michel De Montaigne

Have you reserved your ‘back shop’ yet?

Write like nobody’s watching. 
Even if you’re not shipping, I promise you, it’ll be worth it.


If they burned all the books

Photo by Calum MacAulay on Unsplash

What if they (whoever ‘they’ are…) were able to get ahold of and burn every single spiritual text on the planet (and delete the digital ones)?

Sounds ominous, right? Maybe even downright terrifying, even if you don’t consider yourself religious or spiritual, to no longer be able to read the words of so many luminaries (yep, no more Shel Silverstein).

However, for reasons I’ll soon explain, although that notion is horrific, there’s one thing that excites me at the same time.

And that is the fact that we’d just write new ones.

If they burned and deleted all the sacred scriptures on the planet, we humans have the innate capacity to write new ones from the same inexhaustible source out of which the old ones emerged.

Which leads me down the rabbit hole of inquiry. Ready?…

What would humanity write if we all gave each other the agency to do this? How closely would our new spiritual texts resemble the old ones? Would we start anew and totally innovate? Or would it be a little bit of both where the ancient tenets still held, but new notions were written around them?

The point is this…

The resources of the human spirit are ecstatically vast and self-replenishing. They can burn and delete the sacred books, but no one can destroy the enduring depths out of which they came out of.

What would your sacred text look like if you could author it?

Would it be simple? 
Or complex?

Would it be a manifesto? 
Or a trilogy?

Would we recognize it? 
Or would it be totally new to us?

If all the sacred texts were burned and they knocked on your door to write a new one, would you?

If not, why?

And if so, why aren’t you writing it? There’s really nothing stopping you.


The writing season

What’s great about an extended body of written work is that you get to look back and see your seasons.

I go in and out of seasons all the time. And it‘s uncanny how often they go along with the four seasons of the year.

Sometimes, I find myself in a very spiritual season where everything that comes out of my fingertips is ephemeral (though I always try to keep it real).

Other times, I find myself in an irreverent season. It’s here that I’m more radical and I throw around a few swear words here and there. I might even pick a fight or two (all in good spirits, of course).

I find myself listening to different kinds of music, eating certain foods, and picking up the same books all according to what season it is.

But my favorite season is the writing season. The storytelling season. I love this craft. I feel alive when I can sit and do this, right here. Without any agenda. Just sitting and telling you a story about the seasons and what they mean to me.

I’m in that season now. As you may have read, I’ve gone deep into journaling again, both in the personal sense as well as working with others to help them deepen creatively through intentional journaling. I’ve taken my spiritual counseling and writing coaching programs and have married them into a guided journaling experience (something that I think will be more perennial than seasonal).

The words we use are important. When they’re unconscious, they direct us from the shadows. But when we shine the light on them and get them out on the page, we see them for what they are. Unthreateningly inert objects.

We can do all sorts of fun things with our words in a journal. We can cross them out, erase them, flush them down the toilet (careful — only one page at a time), or even burn them.

And, most importantly, we can re-write them.

I love this season — figuratively and literally. Fall is in the air. It is THE writing season.

Here’s to you grabbing a pumpkin spice something or other, hunkering down with that journal, and embracing it.


Why I’m going to start journaling (again)

In the days before I started this here online publication, I was a hard-core journaler (is that a word? — now it is…).

I did morning pages every day. I obsessed over the work of a couple well-known journaling therapists and explored the depths of my soul with pen in hand. And I worked with people one-on-one to share this transformative medium with anyone I could.

I even embarked on a mission to get my male friends to journal (I wrote about it at length here). I thought I’d be ignored, but somehow I ended up with a half dozen grown-ass men around my dining room table one night with their dusty old journals (maybe it was the whiskey that lured them, but I can pretend they were drawn to the idea).

Gentleman’s Journaling became a thing. I since lost the url, but the Facebook Page is still intact (look forward to a revival of that soon, btw). I hosted several journaling workshops, all of which I’ve enjoyed thoroughly.

But when I started blogging every day, I put my journal away. After all, there’s only so many hours in the day.

I don’t regret it. I consider this publication my life’s work. It has changed my life. (I’ve written about this in depth many times, I won’t belabor that here.)

But now, the journal is calling me back.

There’s nothing like buying a new journal. 
Just picked one up the other day.

And I intend to use it. I’ve restructured my life so as to make room for this kind of work. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to jot out that first entry.

Because writing in public is a giving act. Even though it’s incredible, you’re feeding others. After some time, the storehouse becomes empty.

Writing for yourself — in private — is a requirement for any writer who puts her words out to the world regularly.

Journaling fills up the creative storehouse. It’s from You to you (capital Y intended). You can be free there. Even though I’ve experienced a newfound freedom with my poetry of late (which I hope you’ve enjoyed — it’s been terrifying sharing it with you), with my journal, I can say whatever the hell I want.

Where else in life can we really do that (without getting punched, kneed, slapped, laughed at, spit on, or arrested)?

There’s something human about that. 
We need to process. 
To express.

Who knows — maybe I’ll share an entry or two with you. 
But then, it wouldn’t really be a journal.
Would it?


The no-fix zone

Facilitating a journaling workshop at Camp Out Yonder, a mindful tech-free retreat for adults.

When I host workshops (especially journaling workshops like the one above), right away, I have to firmly establish what I call a ‘no-fix zone’…

The kind of journaling workshops I lead have a lot to do with people sitting around in a big circle, writing stuff they may not be so comfortable writing, and then (if they feel so compelled to) reading their entries out loud in front of everyone.

As you can imagine, sometimes people read entries that are… difficult to speak of. And difficult to listen to.

When we hear someone speak of any experienced pain, the first thing we often do is jump into repair mode. We want to fix them. Because anyone in our midst who may seem hurt or broken is just too much for our delicate ego to handle.

The ego sees that pain and identifies with it. It brings to light all the ramifications of its antics. And it makes it very uncomfortable.

About the worst thing you can do to someone when they’re sharing a vulnerable thought, is try to fix them.

Because as good as your intentions are in that moment, all you do is anchor in the false belief that they’re broken and need fixing.

When sitting in this space with someone, we must let it be. We must respect their space. We must soothe them with our listening. And we must hold a higher presence for them to drift up into when and if they’re ready.

Fixing almost always has the opposite effect we intend it to have.

So if you are one who creates this kind of space for people, keep this in mind. Whether it’s a workshop in the woods or just your living room with friends, establish that no-fix zone and make way for healing and catharsis to take place.

Jonas Ellison is a spiritual counselor and blogging coach who writes shortish preachments in Higher Thoughts on the daily. To jump on his mailing list and get his free email course as a gift of his undying gratitude, do your thing below…