Writing for Bliss is most fundamentally about reflection, truth, and freedom. With techniques and prompts for both the seasoned and novice writer, it will lead you to tap into your creativity through storytelling and poetry, examine how life-changing experiences can inspire writing, pursue self-examination and self-discovery through the written word, and, understand how published writers have been transformed by writing.
Poet and memoirist Raab (Lust) credits her lifelong love of writing and its therapeutic effects with inspiring her to write this thoughtful and detailed primer that targets pretty much anyone interested in writing a memoir. Most compelling here is Raab’s willingness to share her intimate stories (e.g., the loss of a relative, ongoing struggles with cancer, a difficult relationship with her mother). Her revelations are encouraging to writers who feel they need “permission to take... a voyage of self-discovery.” The book’s seven-step plan includes plenty of guidance, including on learning to “read like a writer,” and on addressing readers as if “seated across the table .” She also helps readers with the important step of “finding your form.”
"Writing for Bliss is about the profound ways in which we may be transformed in and through the act of writing. I am grateful to Diana Raab for sharing it, and I trust that you will feel the same as you read on. May you savor the journey."
--from the foreword by MARK FREEMAN, PhD
"By listening to ourselves and being aware of what we are saying and feeling, the true story of our life's past experience is revealed. Diana Raab's book gives us the insights by which we can achieve this through her life-coaching wisdom and our writing."
--BERNIE SIEGEL, MD, author of The Art of Healing
"Only a talented writer who has fought hard to overcome life's many obstacles could take her readers by the hand and lead them through
the writing process with such enormous compassion, amazing insight, and kindness. Diana Raab is a powerful, wise, intelligent guide
well worth our following."
--JAMES BROWN, author of The Los Angeles Diaries and The River
"Writing for Bliss is far more than a 'how-to manual'; it enlightens the creative process with wisdom and a delightful sense of adventure.
Bravo to Bliss!"
--LINDA GRAY SEXTON, author of Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton
"Uniquely blending inspiring insights with practical advice, Diana guides you on a path to discover the story that is truly inside you and yearning to be told."
--PATRICK SWEENEY, coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Succeed on Your Own Terms
DIANA RAAB, PhD, is an award-winning memoirist, poet, blogger, workshop facilitator, thought provoker, and survivor. She's the author of nine books and over one thousand articles and poems. She lives in Southern California.
Learn more at www.DianaRaab.com
From Loving Healing Press www.LHPress.com
|Publisher:||Loving Healing Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Raab has been writing since childhood, when her mother gave her a Kahlil Gibran journal to help her cope with the loss to suicide of her beloved grandmother. Raab's MFA is in nonfiction writing from Spalding University, and her PhD is in Transpersonal Psychology from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (aka Sofia University), where she researched the healing and transformative aspects of memoir writing. She is also a registered nurse and was a medical journalist for more than twenty-five years.
For decades, Raab has been a motivating force, inspiring others to write the stories and narratives of their lives. She has worked with those from all walks of life, including esteemed writers, business people, published and emerging writers, cancer survivors, and those surviving various types of trauma.
A world traveler, Raab was born in Brooklyn, New York, and has lived in Montreal and Florida. She currently resides in Southern California with her husband of four decades. She has three grown, creative, and entrepreneurial-driven children and two grandchildren. When not writing or offering workshops, she may be found meditating, hiking, nurturing her bonsais, or sitting on a cliff or by the sea crafting poems and musings in her journal.
Raab serves on a number of boards, including that for Poets & Writers, and she is a trustee at the University of Santa Barbara (UCSB). She blogs regularly for Psychology Today, PsychAlive, and The Huffington Post.
For more information, visit www.dianaraab.com.
Read an Excerpt
Preparing to Write
The job of a writer is not to judge, but to seek to understand.
— Ernest Hemingway
One rule about writing is that if you want to be a writer, you need to be a reader. If you want to write in a particular genre, such as nonfiction, it is a good idea to read more in that genre. If you want to write poetry, then crack open some poetry books. Reading helps you to examine how others write, while helping you to explore your own creative self. Reading also helps to fill up your tank with ideas, stories, images, and words that fuel your own creative writing and help to inspire you.
In many ways, I believe that we are our childhoods and whatever books we enjoyed or were exposed to as children will be what inspires us as we move forward through life. I have always been drawn to biographies. I think my mother read a lot of them, and the biography section was the first place I dashed to when she took me on my weekly visits to the library. As a child, I loved reading stories about real people doing and feeling real things. The fantasy world never fascinated me and still doesn't, but this does not mean that I don't admire those who can bring that world to us. While I occasionally read fiction (especially if written by a colleague), biographies and memoirs continue to be my genre of choice.
When you read only like a reader, then you pay more attention to what is being said, but when you read like a writer, then you should be more attentive to the way the author is expressing him- or herself. I think that the best writers read as both readers and writers, striking a balance between the two.
When learning how to read like a writer, it is a good idea to read the works of those writers whom you admire and want to emulate. Sometimes the mere act of reading their works serves as a form of osmosis to their style. When you read like a writer, you are observing how the author pulls you into his or her story and holds your interest. While reading, consider the authors' writing techniques. Examine the style and sentence structure. If it is their voices that you like, think about what is compelling about them. Did they use first or third person? Was their voice playful, authoritative, inquisitive, or telling? Do you like how the writers share visuals or images? Can you visualize what they are saying? Do you like the settings they created? Another helpful tip while reading is to highlight your favorite passages for future reference. This practice will inspire you and give you a style to emulate.
If you are studying to be a writer, I suggest reading your favorite books at least twice. The first time, read for information and content, and then reread for style or to learn how the writer said what he or she said.
In my writing workshops, when students are working on an essay or a full-length book I suggest that they choose a writer they want to emulate and read that book over and over again. When I was working on my first memoir, Regina's Closet: Finding My Grandmother's Secret Journal, I was inspired by Tobias Wolff's classic memoir, This Boy's Life (2000). I just loved Wolff's voice in that book. In a sense, he became my writing mentor, and I was so delighted to have once had the chance to sit next to him on a plane across the country. Our conversation changed my life and inspired my writing even more. Basically, it was hearing about his process and his interest in my own work that inspired me.
Many people ask me whether I think the ability to write is innate or if it can be taught. I think that some people are born with the talent and others have to work harder at it. While taking writing classes and reading numerous "how to" books on writing can help, the best way to learn how to write is by example — by reading the books of writers you enjoy. Becoming a writer and a better writer is like anything else: it involves practice, which always involves failures and successes.
Being a published writer presents even more challenges, because rejection is a huge part of the profession. Many writers, myself included, have made comments about decorating our walls with rejection letters. It is just a part of the game and something you get used to. You need just to believe in yourself and continue to send your work out. More on publishing will be discussed in step 7.
Becoming a Seeker
Spiritual seekers are those who follow the path of self-discovery. One way to navigate self-discovery is through the process of writing. Being a seeker might be a lifelong path or one sought as a result of a life-changing event, such as trauma. I have been a seeker my entire life, and when I stop to think about it, it was probably initiated during my childhood when my voice was silenced and I had to seek peace and answers from within, from my readings and from the jottings in my journal. My seeking might also be traced to my fascination as a young girl with reading biographies and magazines that featured true stories about real people. Real-life stories provide a deep connection to the kinds of experiences that offer answers for seekers posing questions. We want to learn how to navigate our paths and often do so by reading and hearing about how others have found their own way. Those lessons are consciously or subconsciously incorporated into our own lives.
Some years ago, I facilitated a workshop called "Writing with Lust" at The Open Center in New York City. Regardless of the specific reasons why people enrolled in the workshop, there was one common thread — each person in the room said they were a seeker. They had questions for which they sought answers. They were on a journey of self-discovery, and writing is a great way to take that journey.
Spiritual seekers are not necessarily religious. Most often, they have little interest in organized religious practice. In fact, studies have shown that 33 percent of Americans are spiritual and not religious in the more traditional sense of organized religion.
Christina Grof, a psychotherapist and co-creator of Holotrophic Breathwork (see step 2), was often called a spiritual seeker, pioneer, teacher, and humanitarian. Like many spiritual seekers, Grof came from a dysfunctional family in which she had been abused by her stepfather. She also had medical issues such as lupus, chronic back pain, and a painful autoimmune disease that severely interfered with her everyday life. Trauma often leads people to become seekers as a way to come to an understanding about themselves and the world in which they live. During the process of helping themselves, they are often compelled to share their findings, thus helping others. Christina's journey led her and her husband, Stan Grof, to create Holotrophic Breathwork in addition to the Spiritual Emergence Network, two powerful modalities to encourage transformation.
Many writers, especially poets, are seekers of transformation. While a poet might write a poem to look for answers to a question or to tap into a deeper sense of knowing, sometimes the poet's specific intention is unclear at the outset. However, during the process of writing the poet might find him- or herself transformed. In fact, poems often contain underlying meanings or messages that can move or change us and/or offer hope to our situation. I wrote one of my first poems as an adult just after an elderly gentleman sitting on a bench near my parking spot watched me parallel park. It was one of those moments about which I was compelled to write, which is one good reason always to have writing material available. What compelled me to reflect on in my poem was how often men mock female drivers. The expression on the old man's face told me that he was sure I would smash my car into the car parked in the space behind — which of course I did not do. The poem ends with my saying that I'm a great parallel parker. When I started to write the poem, I had no idea where I was going with it, but by the time I reached the end I knew exactly why I was writing it, and that was to crush men's stereotypes about women's driving skills.
In Letters to a Young Poet, Rilke summarizes the essence and importance of being a seeker as it pertains to writing poetry:
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer (p. 35).
To some degree, we are all seekers, and if we care to share our learnings with others, then we also offer them the opportunity to learn from our experiences while examining their own.
In preparing to write, consider having an open mind to new experiences and thoughts and ways of doing and being. Opening your mind means that you examine who you are, where you have come from, and what your belief systems are. Opening your mind also means pushing yourself to go places and do things that you might not ordinarily do. It is about letting go of fear. As Eleanor Roosevelt suggested, "Do one thing every day that scares you." This means facing your fears head on. Sometimes writing your deepest feelings can be scary, but the results are often worth the risk. No risk, no reward. Writing from your deep, authentic self leads to healing, growth, and transformation.
Rituals for Writing
When writers talk about their writing process, they often refer to details about where they write, the time of day they write, what they wear when they write, the music they listen to, their inspiration, their attitude, the tools of the trade, and how they go about revision. All such factors are ritualistic elements that can enhance the writing experience.
Creating a Sacred Space
Writers need privacy and solitude to tap into their creative selves. Writing is not easy, but it can be even more difficult if is done in an uninspiring environment or surrounded by unwanted people and noise. Before you begin your writing practice, find a time and place when you can be by yourself uninterrupted for at least half an hour, keeping in mind that where you write can influence your writing. Virginia Woolf stated the importance of having "a room of one's own" in her book by that title. She was referring to a figurative room, which can be a deeper concept than what might be an actual physical space. She believed that women (and all writers) should have a place where they can go to write and feel safe and comfortable — a place that offers a blanket of support, while also being inspiring.
Your writing area can be a room in your home or even a part of a room there; it can also be in a public place where you feel comfortable. If you choose to make it a sacred space in your home, you may want to consider including special items that inspire you and make you smile. Perhaps they are artifacts from memorable travels or family heirlooms that jog your memory about certain times in your life.
My writing space has candles, essential oils, prayer beads, and photos of my family. I am also surrounded by my collection of typewriters, as a reminder that my first book written in the 1980s, Getting Pregnant and Staying Pregnant: Overcoming Infertility and Managing your High-Risk Pregnancy, was written on a Smith Corona. In the corner of my desk sits a Buddha holding a stone that says "serenity." Seeing his face grounds me. Years ago, I read that some major corporations placed coffee-scented candles in their offices as a way to increase productivity. So now I have one of those burning on my desk. I find that it alerts my senses and keeps me motivated, perhaps in the same way as drinking a cup of coffee would. Behind my desk is a bookcase holding all my favorite reference books, and nearby is my altar and a chair for my daily meditation practice. My room also has a reading chair and an ottoman facing my garden.
There have been times when I was not blessed with such a special sacred place, because either I was traveling or my living quarters weren't amenable to one. Nevertheless, I was able to create a special space wherever I was. Here's a good way to do it:
Make yourself comfortable.
Close your eyes, uncross your legs, and take some deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Listen to your breath and concentrate on it.
Imagine visiting a room of great importance in your life. If you don't have one or want to create an imaginary one, that's okay.
Use your third eye (the space between your eyes) as a movie camera, and try to visualize the room. Capture all its details. When you are ready, open your eyes.
Now pick up your pen and write about the space, describing it in great detail. Stay in the moment and write without lifting your pen off the page. What do you see in your space? What are you feeling in your body when you are in your space? What is your heart feeling while in your space?
Campbell (1988) also spoke about the importance of having a sacred space as being necessary for everyone — a place without human or world contact, a place where you can simply be with yourself and be with who you are and who you might want to be. He viewed this place as a place of creative incubation. He said that, even though creativity might not happen right away when you are in this special space, just having it tends to ignite the muse in each of us.
Sometimes it is a good idea to vary your writing location. Working or writing in a different place brings an altered perspective to your creativity. When there was an abundance of chain bookstores, I spent a lot of time in their coffee shops. I did some of my best writing there — perhaps as a combined result of the ambient noise, the smell of coffee, and being surrounded by books. At home, sometimes classical or spiritual music helps me concentrate. However, listening to music with lyrics can be difficult while writing, although the lyrics of some musicians, such as Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan, are very inspiring for some people.
During my teens, my grandfather introduced me to the fine art of people watching in Parisian cafes. We'd sit for hours observing people and talking about them. I am still inspired by the white noise of cafes. After my grandfather passed away, I continued the practice and then expanded to bookstore coffee shops. When not working on my projects, I would write in my journal about what I saw. I wrote about the people passing by, wondering what they were doing when not in the book store. I also sometimes documented conversations. It was a fun exercise that I sometimes suggest to my workshop participants. For another change of venue, on a nice day I like to write sitting in a park — another great place to people watch.
Grounding is a useful tool that creates a solid foundation of support between you and your surroundings. It puts your mind, body, and spirit in the present moment. It is best done first thing in the morning or right before writing. You can also practice grounding during the course of your day while you are sitting, walking, or driving. It is a way to check in with yourself. Grounding serves as a container for your thoughts and creativity, but it is also a way to find relaxation during tough times. Grounding yourself is a way of bringing yourself literally back to earth.
Perhaps you've heard someone suggest that you ground yourself, but you are unsure what that means and how to do it. One of the easiest ways to ground yourself is to bring attention to your breath as it enters and leaves your body.
How to Ground Yourself
Begin by placing your feet comfortably on the ground.
Take three deep breaths, and with each breath release any negative energy.
Put your attention on the soles of your feet, and imagine big roots from them planted going down about six or eight feet into the earth.
Place your awareness in the base of your spine, sometimes called the first chakra, or "energy point," in the body.
Imagine your spine going deep into the earth.
Feel the magnetic pull of gravity coming from the earth's core.
Breathe in for three counts. Hold your breath. Now exhale for four counts.
By the end of this exercise, you will probably feel much more connected to your physical self. You might then bring awareness to the sensations in your body, moving from your head down to your feet, exploring and inquiring as you move along. Just a few minutes of this practice may bring you home to your body and to the earth. This is what it means to ground yourself.
We receive powerful energy from the earth just as we do from the forms of energy we associate with the sky, and our body is a tool that brings these two energies together in a sacred union.
Excerpted from "Writing for Bliss"
Copyright © 2017 Diana Raab, PhD..
Excerpted by permission of Loving Healing Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Table of Writing Prompts iv
Foreword by Mark Freeman, PhD ix
Introduction Writing for Change 9
Writing and Bliss 12
Writing as Therapy 16
Writing for Healing 20
Writing for Transformation 23
How to Use This Book 25
Step One: Preparing to Write 29
Becoming a Seeker 31
Rituals for Writing 33
Creating a Sacred Space 33
How to Ground Yourself 36
Feeling Gratitude 37
The Mind, Body, Spirit Connection and Writing 38
Calming Your Mind 41
Being Fearless and Courageous 43
Nurturing Creativity, Inspiration, and Flow 46
Step Two: Cultivating Self-Awareness 49
Transpersonal Psychology 49
Transpersonal Techniques 50
Setting Intentions 51
Mindfulness Meditation 55
A Simple Meditation Exercise 58
Lovingkindness Meditation 58
Guided Creative Visualization 60
Breath Work 64
Recalling Your Dreams 65
Knowing Your Shadow and Your Anima/Animus 69
Muses for Inspiration 73
Step Three: Speaking Your Truth 75
The Art and Power of Storytelling 75
Writing Your Emotional Truth 79
Finding Your Authentic Voice 81
Writing Techniques 84
Embodied Writing 84
Reflective Writing 85
The Challenges of Remembering and Not Remembering 89
Memory and Imagination 91
Step Four: Examining Your Life 95
Life Purposes and Themes 95
The Meaning of Experiences 99
The Patterns in Our Lives 100
Writing about Difficult Times 101
Wounded Healers and Storytellers 102
Sharing Stories to Heal 106
Mortality as a Great Teacher 107
Inner-Child Healing 109
Step Five: Finding Your Form 113
Journal Writing 113
Tools for Journaling 120
Writing Instruments 121
Stream-of-Consciousness Writing 122
Types of Journals 123
Dream Journals 123
Gratitude Journals 124
Travel Journals 125
Organizing Your Journal 125
Letter Writing 125
Essay Writing 126
Memoirs, Biographies, and Autobiographical Writing 129
How to Make a Memoir Compelling 133
Some Essential, Personal Writing Tips 134
Writing Fiction 137
Step Six: Unleashing with Poetry 139
What is Poetry? 140
Types of Poems 141